Texas Music

Brownout Brings Out Black Sabbath's Funky Side

This Saturday’s Yes, Indeed! festival on Mid-Main runs two or three dozen deep with Houston acts either just now getting off the ground or who have been that way for quite some time. But to cap off the evening, organizers reached out to Brownout, the long-running offshoot of Grammy-winning Austin Prince favorites and cumbia masters Grupo Fantasma. Brownout has been a choice commodity within Latin-funk circles for several years thanks to albums like Oozy (2012), Aguilas and Cobras (2009, plus a 2010 remix album) and Homenaje (2007). Except Yes, Indeed! is not getting Brownout per se but Brown Sabbath, their shaggier alter ego of sorts exclusively devoted to the music of the boys from Birmingham (England).

Brown Sabbath has seen a lot of mileage for something that was once supposed to be a one-night stand in late 2013. They appeared on the main stage of the Bonarroo festival earlier this summer, and last year released a seven-song EP on soul-jazz great Roy Ayers' label Ubiquity Records. (Houston-area native Alex Maas, front man for Austin psych-rock bigwigs the Black Angels, sings lead on "Iron Man," "N.I.B." and "Hand of Doom"; the band says a second volume is due out soon.) As Brownout co-founder and guitarist Beto Martinez explains it, the original idea was to do a different theme at each of the last four nights of the group's residency at Frank, the since-closed Austin hot-dog cafe/music venue; the others were James Brown (“Brown Caesar”), hip-hop (“Fear of a Brown Planet”) and Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo (“Brownout 2”). Sabbath’s monolithic riffs and plodding tempos may not strike all that many people as funky, but Martinez explains that's only because they're not thinking deeply enough.

“Thing is, Sabbath is inherently funky and things came together smoothly and much better than we anticipated,” he says. “We love the music and are huge fans, so we love going out there and rocking it out.”

So much so, he adds, that it’s somewhat difficult for Brown Sabbath to choose their favorite songs to play live; “they all rock and are a blast to play,” Martinez admits. But we asked him anyway.

One of the heaviest riffs ever written. We do it as an instrumental so the band gets to go full-bore and rock out on this one. It's also epic with all the different sections.

Also archetypal riffage, defining "heavy" for all who came after. The vocal melody is killer and the slow death march riff in the middle with the crowd chanting hey is a highlight.

Who doesn't love yelling "Oh Yeah!”?

Stoner anthem and we throw in a nod to the Beastie Boys on the verse that is fun as hell.

Another drug anthem, we really break it down on the slow riff before the solo; when it finally hits you feel like you’re in a cartoon space-plane blasting off to psychedelic galaxies in Heavy Metal.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray