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.

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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.

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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.

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All photos by Matthew Fleischer

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