Indoor Fireworks

Black Joe and Grupo Fantasma bang on into 2011

Black Joe, blurry before midnight
Black Joe, blurry before midnight (by Jim Caligiuri)

There were fireworks all over Austin on New Year's Eve, but the musical explosions provided by Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears and Grupo Fantasma at a sold-out La Zona Rosa were likely the most rewarding.

Lewis opened with a set heavy on songs from his heavily anticipated new disc, Scandalous (Lost Highway), due mid-March. While not a dramatic jump from his previous work, it’s even rawer in spots, owing to its gritty Otis Redding influences and the occasional lifting of Sly Stone’s horn charts. The new, flashy blues of “You Been Lyin’” was particularly electric mid-set, but the closing trio of older songs (“Bitch, I Love You,” “I’m Broke,” and “Sugarfoot”) sent the crowd into overdrive, especially when every member of Grupo Fantasma joined in for the finale, the mega horn section hard boppin’ while Lewis traded guitar sparks with Adrian Quesada.

At the stroke of midnight, Grupo took the stage and immediately showed their versatility with a Spanglish version of the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House.” From there it was nearly two hours of swirling horns, psychedelic guitar fuzz, and bubbling rhythms from the big band's entire catalog. Highlights included the experimental funk of “Telarana,” as well as the cumbia “Rebotar,” which featured an especially volatile percussion break. The crowd thinned by set’s end, but that was probably due more to being worn out by the energy of the evening and the fact that it was a hard partying New Year’s Eve, rather than a reflection on the music. For me, it was a heavenly paring of two of Austin’s most dynamic bands, the kind that should happen more often, making every night a holiday.

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Black Joe Lewis, Grupo Fantasma

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