Grupo Fantasma found their way back to Houston last night to "rock the green" for the third installation of the Capital One Bank Thursday concert series at Discovery Green. Billed as "hip-shaking, horn-blaring, Grammy-nominated Latin funk at its best," Grupo didn't fail to live up to their reputation.
Even the weather was cooperating. The cool breeze made it feel like an authentic autumn evening giving Houstonians the opportunity to appreciate the outdoors. Good news for the fans ready to shake it on the huge dance floor - a welcome change from the almost non-existent dance floor of the Continental Club where Grupo has played most of their Houston shows. And anyone will tell you, it's next to impossible to sit down when these guys are playing - and not just the regulars.
"We were having a meeting at The Grove and we were all distracted by the music," said Machelle Brewster, who had to come find out who was playing. "They're great. They sound sort of like Tower of Power, a funk band from the 80s."
The 10-member Austin-based band is best known for their fusion of salsa/ merengue/ cumbia/ funk music that includes lively horns and percussion in every song. Their last album, Sonidos Gold, was released June 2008 and was nominated for a Grammy. Their energetic 2-hour set, with only a 10-minute intermission, was a shining example of why they've been described as the hardest working band in the world.
They played songs from all four of their CDs but "Mentiras," an Austin City Limits song, really got the crowd off their feet and jumping. Calor gave the spotlight to the horn section: Gilbert Elorreaga (trumpet), Josh Levy (sax) and Mark "Speedy" Gonzales (Trombone.) Aftermath was especially impressed with Johnny Lopez's drum solo towards the end of the show.
Grupo went back to Austin right after Thursday's performance to get ready for an Austin show on Friday. They are actually continuing their tour for their new Brownout album, Aguilas and Cobras, just released September 15th.
Brownout is "Grupo Fantasma's pyschedelic funk alter-ego" and includes all the Grupo members except Jose Galeano (Timbales, Vocals) and Rodolfo "Kino" Rodriguez (Vocals, Hand Percussion.) However, Galeano and Rodriguez can't relax because the band is performing as Grupo Fantasma in between their gigs as Brownout.