Reviewed by Robert Gabriel, Fri., Jan. 21, 2005
Brownout!Copa, Jan. 14
Before samplers there was the break. The part of a song where the melodic instruments lay out, leaving the rhythm section to rip into the raw essence of funk. Nothing attracts dancers quite like the syncopated nature of a well-executed break. Latin music certainly makes itself aware of second-line science, which is why Austin's Grupo Fantasma serves as the perfect vehicle for a Soul Power sideshow called Brownout!. Led by guitarist Adrian Quesada, whose implicit washboard style matches the snare play of drummer Johnny Lopez snap for wispy snap, Brownout! kicked off Friday night's proceedings with a meat-driven cover of Mandrill's "Fencewalk." Belting his congas into a polyrhythmic frenzy, percussionist Rudy Canales accented every groove with both spice and vigor. Rolling through renditions of Freddie Hubbard's "Povo," Jimmy Castor's "It's Just Begun," and Dennis Coffey's "Scorpio," the ninepiece band assumed the role of an early-Seventies park-jam DJ as it motivated a packed house to imitate the steps of James Brown broadcast on a large screen above the dance floor. Alternating original themes between those of funk's past and Quesada's other pet project, Ocote Soul Sounds, Brownout! illustrated the social value of a tight horn section courtesy of trumpeter Gilbert Elorreaga, trombonist Leo Guana, and saxophonist Gengee Centeno. Continuing an Austin tradition formerly practiced by the likes of Bad Mutha Goose, Retarted Elf, and the Ging'breadmen, a communal vibe spread forth from the Copa stage as Brownout!'s infectious attitude beckoned all within earshot to simply "dance, sucka." As allusions to the classic J.B.'s material including "Pass the Peas" and "The Grunt" swung side by side with monster jams by the Blackbyrds and Kool & the Gang, gallivanting B-boys vied for space among a throng of party people so high on the One that a spilled drink brought laughter rather than tears.