Despite the fact that Latin funk is a far cry from New Orleans jazz, the live DVD and album taping Grupo Fantasma recorded last night at Beauty Bar Ballroom was befitting Mardi Gras events this weekend. The Grammy-winning artists pulled out all the stops for their DVD recording including lasers, balloons, beach balls and even an inflatable cactus that made its way into the crowd of gyrating fans that filled the venue to near capacity.
There was a giddy, pervasive, party atmosphere from the moment fans began entering the venue to the Latin-infused beats of DJ Chorizo Funk for the performance. The show began with a short acoustic set that featured a new song, “Rojo Corazon” and a fantastic percussion solo by conga player, Matthew “Sweet Lou” Holmes and Jose Galeano on bongos (see photo in slide show at left). Galeano is the timbale player, vocalist and natural on-stage spokesman for the band. Standing at front and center behind his drums, Galeano periodically exhorted the crowd to sing or clap along. The smiling audience enthusiastically followed his cues.
We spoke to vocalist, Kino Esparza during the set break and he assured us the second set was going to be even better than the first. He was right. The band rolled out another new song, “Cuidado” early in the set. If the new songs are any indication, Grupo Fantasma is certainly continuing on their award winning path. The new material sounds even more impressive than the material on El Existencial, the self-produced album that won Best Latin Rock, Alternative or Urban Album at the Grammy Awards last year.
Other highlights included a Spanish rendition of The Talking Heads classic, “Burning Down the House” and a three-song encore. There are hundreds of exceptional musicians that reside in Austin but not many can claim to be able to deliver a live show that rivals Grupo Fantasma. The band is so tight, Prince has named them his house band at his club in Las Vegas and asked the group to back him at several high profile gigs like the CBS Super Bowl Bash and the Golden Globe Awards. The band’s appeal goes well beyond the Latin and world music genres attracting a wide variety of fans and musicians. Grupo Fantasma has played or recorded with artists as diverse as Sheila-E, Kirk Kirkwood (The Meat Puppets and lo-fi, cult hero, Daniel Johnston.
Esparza also told Examiner the band is aiming for an early Summer release of the DVD and album prior to their planned tour (dates yet to be announced). We are eagerly anticipating the live album and video’s release.
If you missed the show last night, there is one more opportunity to see Grupo this weekend. A second, 6 p.m. “family show” is planned for tonight. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here. The set is scheduled to begin at 7pm.
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