Brownout: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert
Jan. 10, 2020 | Felix Contreras -- There must be something in the water down in Austin, Texas, because as soon as Brownout started playing behind the Tiny Desk, it was pretty obvious that a deep musicality is just a fact of life for Austin bands.
The slow groove of the opening song, "Somewhere To Go," is punctuated by an old-school R&B horn section that's deceptively simple and emblematic of the power of their concept and spirit. The intricate interplay of the baritone sax, guitar, bongos and drums launch the second cut, "Nain," into another down-tempo burner, with lyrics in Spanish about being different and not fitting in and seeing that as a positive. The band closed with "You Don't Have To Fall," leaning into old-school Tower of Power horns that made quite a few heads dip and hips shake in our corner of the NPR building, highlighted by guitarist Beto Martinez's solo.
One of the things you need to know about this band is that they can change traditions or genres almost on a dime. The core members dip into soul, Latin funk, a form of Peruvian cumbia called chicha, and funk covers of both Black Sabbath and Public Enemy. What each configuration has in common is the almost telepathic bond the band has developed after 15 years of working stages across the country. As you can see on the video, it's so infectious that Prince once used them for a while as a back-up band.
Like I said, there must be something in the water in Austin. Watch the video and see for yourself.
"Somewhere To Go"
"You Don't Have To Fall"
Alex Marrero: vocals, percussion; Beto Martinez: guitar; Greg Gonzalez: bass; Matthew "Sweet Lou" Holmes: congas; John Speice: drums; Peter Stopschinski: keys; Mark "Speedy" Gonzales: trombone; Joshua Levy: saxophone; Gilbert Elorreaga: trumpet
Producers: Felix Contreras, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative director: Bob Boilen; Audio engineers: Josh Rogosin, Patrick Boyd; Editor: Jack Corbett; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kaylee Domzalski, Maia Stern, Beck Harlan; Associate producer: Bobby Carter; Executive producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Cameron Pollack/NPR
Brownout is an American latin-funk band from Austin, Texas. The band is a side project of the members of the Grammy-award winning band Grupo Fantasma.
Though the band was formed in 2003, as Grupo Fantasma took off in the early 2000s, Brownout was left "on the backburner", and the band's first album, Homenaje, wasn't released until 2008. Since then, the band has toured regularly across the United States, at events including Bonnaroo, High Sierra Music Festival, and Utopia Festival. Brownout has also served as a backing band for artists including Prince, Daniel Johnston, GZA and Bernie Worrell.
In 2014, the group released a series of covers of the British band Black Sabbath under the moniker "Brown Sabbath", which received praise from Black Sabbath lead vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, as well as critical acclaim from NPR, AllMusic and Rolling Stone.
Brownout has released five albums: Homenaje (2008), Aguilas & Cobras (2009), Oozy (2012) and Brownout presents Brown Sabbath (2015), and most recently, Fear of a Brown Planet (2018).