Brown Sabbath: Brownout’s Latin Funk Interpretations of Black Sabbath
February 22, 2014
It’s a little bit of strange timing that I’m writing about an Austin, TX-based band during the week of the SXSW Festival but it kind of worked out that way, thanks to several other work-related obligations and a repeated and very annoying technical issue uploading photos on Flickr. But I think it’s been resolved – at least for now. And with that in mind, let’s get to business …
The Austin, TX-based Grupo Fantasma has developed a reputation as being one of the preeminent, independent Latin bands over the past decade, and they are (quite sadly) among a group of unheralded funk bands, despite the fact that the band has been a multiple Grammy-nominated band, and won a Grammy for their 2011 effort, El Existential. I first learned of them when they backed the GZA as he performed his classic album, Liquid Swords adding a fearsome sense of menace to the live set.
Interestingly enough, perhaps because of the finances behind being a large band – the band has at least 10 full-time members – the members of the band occasionally split off into a variety of side projects, including reportedly a Turkish pop act (or so a big fan of the band told me), and Brownout, a funk and rock-based act that has kind of become, for all intents and purposes, an independent unit of it’s own. And as Brownout, the band has recently been touring with a unique concept – they play a set of their original jam-based Latin funk compositions, followed by a set of Black Sabbath tunes, re-arranged and re-imagined with Latin funk in mind. So imagine some of your favorite Black Sabbath tunes with horns, congas and the like. Yeah, seriously. And it’s honestly pretty fucking awesome, as it adds an unexpected nuance to songs like “War Pigs,” a song so familiar to most music fans that they can probably hear it backwards and still remember it. (I should note that’s not a bad thing – Black Sabbath is so ridiculously legendary that their songs should be that memorable.) Their rendition of “Planet Caravan,” reminds you of the song’s gorgeous, sublime and trippy beauty – and it’s probably the more straightforward Sabbath rendition of their entire set. Additionally, it shows how a really talented band can play with muscular insistence one song and an incredibly tight restraint the next.
Although I enjoyed the Latin funk set – hell, it reminded me of the sounds coming out of open windows of apartments in Jackson Heights, Corona, East Elmhurst and Flushing but i think that the Black Sabbath set really got everyone going. Everyone started headbanging hard and shouting along to every song. So fucking awesome, y’all.
For these photos and more, check out the Flickr set here: