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Grupo Fantasma

Echoplex, Feb. 14

A musical question — when was the last time you saw dueling trombones? Personally, I've seen dueling pianos in Memphis, dueling trumpets in New Orleans, dueling guitars at every single God-awful metal show I've ever been to. Trombones — not so much. So when the Austin-based Latin-funk ensemble Grupo Fantasma took the Echoplex stage last night with two trombones in tow, I was intrigued. As it turns out, the actual band only has one trombonist, Leo Gauna, the other was just sitting in for a few songs. The songs he played on, though, were wonderful, with mystery trombinist and Gauna alternating and intertwining solos and providing some great exchanges — both playing with the competitiveness of musicians who really know their instrument and want to show it to the other guy.

The rest of the set may have lacked the novelty of a trombone battle, but Grupo Fantansma was as tight as one would expect from a band that routinely backs up Prince. Though eclectic, with elements or rock and soul, the majority of their set had an overwhelming pan-Latin flavor, delivered through songs with gringo-friendly titles like “Arroz con Frijoles.” The band's occasional jaunts into straight-up funk were solid, (though there moments of borderline mid-90s jamband cheeziness) with saxophonist Joshua Levy ably handling most of the solo-work. The cumbia songs were wildly sensual, and unleashed incredible self-loathing on my part at my inability to dance better than my pathetic white-boy shuffle. The songs demanded hip movement that I was unable to provide.

No matter though — still a great listen.

The evening's headliners were Very Be Careful. For more on them, I'll leave you in the of more-than-capable hands of Daniel Hernandez and his review from last May.

All photos by Matthew Fleischer