MathGames: 9.22.11

Bell’s Eccentric Café
Kalamazoo, MI

Words & Photos By Greg Molitor
(ReMIND Photography)

Michigan’s surely enjoyed quite the summer of roots music in 2011. From the inaugural Electric Forest to the countless smaller, family oriented festivals, there have been an incredibly diverse slew of opportunities for the concert savvy. Even current kings of the improv rock world Phish graced the state with a rare appearance. Many unforgettable experiences were had by the handful, but like the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Summer’s last hurrah arrived with the dawn of September 22nd, and for those who journeyed to Bell’s Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo later that evening, one final chance to cap the passing season remained. On the ticket was Fareed Haque’s MathGames, a collective that proved to be perfectly willing and able to groove our asses into the future, full speed ahead…

Excitement towards the evening grew as Adam and I made our way from Lansing to Kalamazoo. Adam’s a longtime friend who’s become more like a brother over the years, and since this was set to be his first encounter with Fareed’s music in the live setting, I knew the night would be more special than most. As we walked into the venue at Bell’s, I was shocked to see the lack of concertgoers. The peak attendance throughout the night was around thirty or so folks, a surprising low number considering the talent onstage, the $6 steal-of-a-ticket-price and the location, a venue which many consider for its size to be the best in the state. However, like seasoned professionals, MathGames seemed unaffected by the crowd size and also the illnesses they were rumored to have been carrying as the trio masterfully dropped two sets of jawdropping jazz fusion electronica to the crowd who stood for the majority of the night in awe of what they were witnessing.

First and foremost, if you don’t know about Fareed Haque, it’s time to do some research. He’s as prolific and talented as musicians come, and as his performance at Bell’s progressed, I struggled to think of another guitarist I’d seen that makes performing such challenging music so effortless. Despite being technically well-versed in their respective crafts, bassist Alex Austin and drummer Greg Fundis could barely keep up at times, a true testament to Fareed’s world-class abilities. As soon as the audience appeared to have a handle on MathGames, the music would spring alive and leave the crowd scratching their head with wonder and disbelief. From four-on-the-floor funk to jazz swing, bluegrass-inspired to electronically-driven, MathGames time after time transformed us into dancing chameleons that eventually began to expect the unexpected from the trio’s output. Characterizing the absolutely off-the-wall zaniness of the evening, the band after set break came out sporting hazmat suits instead of the street clothes they had worn during the first set. It was odd, out-of-order and completely fitting for summer’s last stand at Bell’s.

The show finished around 1:00 AM and because the show had finished after curfew, we were quickly booted from the venue. The staff wanted us out, yet Fareed who admitted he was indeed under the weather, took the time to greet anyone who was willing. This gesture is rarely seen these days and speaks volumes for the man’s character. You’re a class act, Mr. Haque! At such a low ticket price, I’ll never see a show of this caliber again… or at least very least, until Fareed and company return to Mitten for another crazy night of music.

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