Grupo Fantasma and family’s delirious groove

photo by Scott Newton

Few bands on Earth bring the party like Grupo Fantasma. The Austin-based Latin funk orchestra throws down its irresistibly danceable grooves like no other, as evidenced by a lively global fanbase that included the late genius Prince, who often jammed with the band. The music icon wasn’t Grupo’s only famous friend, however, as evidenced by this second taping for our hometown heroes. Jam-packed to the tune of twenty-two musicians with special guests, family and alter egos, the show, which we livestreamed around the world, never let up on delirious groove.

Taking the stage to enthusiastic applause, the nine-piece Grupo Fantasma kicked things off with a surprise – a cleverly salsafied take on Led Zeppelin’s groover “Immigrant Song,” with the horns subbing for Robert Plant’s iconic wail. The band then hopped into its own catalog for “Nada,” an acid-dipped cumbia that’s a highlight of its latest acclaimed album Problemas. The first of the group’s guests, Los Texmaniacs accordionist Josh Baca and former Grupo founding member Adrian Quesada arrived to add rippling squeezebox and crackling guitar to the conjunto-flavored “Esa Negra.” “Ausencia” put the rhythm back in salsa time, the groove augmented by Beto Martinez’ psychedelic guitar solo. The rubbery cumbia “Otoño” followed, as did the roiling salsa “Descarga Pura Y Dura,” with dueling trombone licks and ringmaster Jose Galeano’s skittering timbales.

Jazz/funk guru Karl Denson joined the band on stage, adding his flute to the infamous Grupo Fantasma horns for the slinky funk rock of“L.T.” With Denson still onstage, a barrage of polyrhythmic handclaps from band and crowd signaled the beginning of the ambitious, multi-faceted “Solo un Sueño,” which added Afrobeat and a Sweet Lou conga solo to the groovy stew. After that triumph, Galeano and fellow singer Kino Esparza left the stage and Quesada rejoined, allowing Grupo Fantasma to transform into its funk alter ego Brownout. In that configuration, the band laid down some serious jams. Bassist Greg Gonzalez powered the soul-inflected “Aguilas and Cobras,” as Sweet Lou rocked the congas and Martinez and Quesada their guitars. Percussionist Alex Marrero took the mic for a new song, the hard rocking “The Blade,” an outgrowth of Brownout’s well-received covers of Black Sabbath.  “You didn’t expect me to stay back there all night,” joked Marrero as he came to the front of the stage for another new Brownout tune, the free-flowing “ThingsYou Say (Denver Funk).”

Galeano and Esparza returned and the band transmuted back into Grupo Fantasma. Joined by Austin’s preeminent mariachi ensemble Mariachi Estrella, the group essayed the gorgeous “Porque,” a Spanish cover of the Beatles’ “Because.” As Estrella exited, Denson and Los Lobos saxist Steve Berlin, who produced Problemas, came on for the flute-enhanced “Cayuco.” Berlin remained, manning the keyboard for the Esparza-crooned cumbia “Roto.” Grupo then launched into the title track of Problemas, with Galeano giving dance instructions to the front row and Mark “Speedy” Gonzales laying down a powerhouse trombone solo. The high-energy salsa of “Montañozo” got hips swaying hard before running directly into the hyperspeed of “Caña Brava,” a song going all the way back to the band’s first album in 2002.

Berlin, Denson, Baca and Quesada came back for the final song, a tribute to the band’s friend and champion Prince. Galeano was at a loss for words – “There’s not much we can say. We’re just gonna play.” And so they did, 15-strong across the stage, with Denson joining in on vocals for the Purple One’s discofied early hit “Controversy.” Solos were traded all around, with the guitars going to the accordion going to the saxophone and the groove burning a hole in the stage. The crowd went appropriately nuts, yelling for more. Grupo answered the call, returning with Baca in tow for “Salsa Caliente,” a  favorite that had the audience dancing and singing along. After bringing the house down and the show to a close, Grupo Fantasma quit the stage and the lights came up. It was a marvelous show by one of Austin’s best bands, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on PBS.

New tapings: Band of Horses, Margo Price and Foals

photo by Andrew Stuart

Austin City Limits is pleased to announce three new tapings from artists featured at this year’s ACL Music Festival: indie rock staples Band of Horses on Oct. 2, rising country queen Margo Price on Oct. 3 and British alt.rock sensations Foals on Oct. 6.

Returning to our stage for the first time since 2010, Band of Horses is riding a wave that saw their latest album Why Are You OK hit the Billboard 200 chart at #9. The sixth album from the Seattle, WA-born/Charleston, SC-based quintet, Why Are You OK was written in leader Ben Bridwell’s garage in Charleston and recorded with producer Jason Lytle (Grandaddy). The result is a record informed by experience and at the same time retaining the vulnerability that birthed their greatest songs. Creating capsule worlds populated by the strange but true cast of characters from Bridwell’s hometown, Why Are You OK‘s songs combined universal sentiments with Bridwell’s patented knack for storytelling—all wrapped in the lush melodic textures that have long been the bedrock of Band of Horses’ signature sound. Putting a finer point on it, Record Collector calls the album “a shimmering thing of beauty; a fresh summer breeze blowing in full of character and heart,” while The Guardian calls it “beautifully moving…the place where wistfulness and euphoria collide.” Following a triumphant set at Bonnaroo, BoH is taking their intimate show back on the road, playing crowd-pleasing sets that perfectly showcase a band that, as Rolling Stone says, “always find[s] a way to make the mythic feel down to earth.”  

photo by Angelina Castillo

A staple of East Nashville’s thriving music scene, Margo Price has made one of 2016’s biggest splashes with her debut album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. Price grew up in Aledo, Illinois, and after dropping out of college, moved to Nashville in 2003. She soon met bass player/future husband Jeremy Ivey, and formed a band called Buffalo Clover. They self-released three records and built a local following, but it was personal tragedy that brought Price’s calling into even sharper focus. “I lost my firstborn son to a heart ailment,” Price says, “and I was really down and depressed. I was drinking too much. I was definitely lost. I thought, ‘I’m just going to write music that I want to hear.’ It was a big turning point.” Recorded at Memphis’ legendary Sun Studios and funded by Price pawning her wedding ring and selling her car, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (released on Jack White’s Third Man label on his personal invitation) adds fresh twists to classic Nashville country, with a sound that could’ve made hits in any decade. From the honky tonk comeuppance of “About To Find Out” and the rockabilly-charged “This Town Gets Around” to the weekend twang of “Hurtin’ (On The Bottle)” and the hard-hitting blues grooves of “Four Years of Chances,” “Price’s sensibility is modern, turning these old-fashioned tales of heartbreak, love, loss, and perseverance into something fresh and affecting,” says All Music. “Price’s excellent debut wastes absolutely no energy trying to address her place in the country-music ecosystem,” says Exclaim, “and gets right to telling us who she is, rather than who she ain’t.” “I hope that the record helps people get through hard times or depression,” explains the artist herself. “That’s ultimately what music did for me in my childhood, and especially in my early adult years. It’s about being able to connect personally with a song, and hopefully, it makes you feel not so lonely.”

Foals have become one of the U.K’s most acclaimed rock acts. Hailing from Oxford, England, also home to Radiohead and Ride, the band formed in 2005, and released their first single the following year. Enlisting Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio as producer, Foals released its full-length debut Antidotes in 2008. The band’s widescreen alternative rock sound reached full flower on the follow-ups Total Life Forever (2009) and Holy Fire (2013), both nominated for the Britain’s prestigious Mercury Prize. All of the band’s success and experience has led up to its biggest and best LP to date, last year’s What Went Down, featuring the hit “Mountain At My Gates.” Uncut called it “their most fully realized yet,” while Exclaim marked it as “a varied and textured offering that will add depth to their high-energy live shows.” “Foals consolidate their position here by continuing to do what they do best,” noted Mojo,”namely expressing big emotions loudly through fizzing rock anger or unbridled, danceable joy.” “It’s unfettered communication,” says singer and songwriter Yannis Philipakkis. “Before, there’s always been that gap between the imagination, the romance and fantasy about what we wanted to create, and the actual reality, and that disparity has been difficult. But on this record, we’re the closest we’ve ever been to the vision in our heads. One thing that we really take pride in is that, through a series of beautiful accidents, we’ve got to the position where there’s no tethering to any preconceived idea of what we should do. So it feels like we can do anything.”

Want to be part of our audience? We will post information on how to get free passes about a week before the taping. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for notice of postings.

Ralph Stanley R.I.P.

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits mourns the loss at 89 of a true musical giant: Ralph Stanley. The Virginia native was not only a bluegrass titan as a performer, but as an innovator. Along with Flatt & Scruggs, his brother Carter and Bill Monroe, Stanley could lay claim to helping create one of America’s most distinctive musical forms. His high, lonesome singing, virtuoso clawhammer banjo picking and vast repertoire had a tremendous influence on bluegrass, folk, country, gospel and Americana. Though he didn’t write them, Stanley’s renditions of old-timey tunes “Little Maggie,” “Pretty Polly,” “O Death,” “Angel Band” and “Man of Constant Sorrow” (re-popularized by the film O Brother Where Are Thou) made them standards in the American songbook.

“Ralph Stanley was the last of the living bluegrass legends, after Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs,” remarked ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “Like the others, he invented his own sound, his clawhammer banjo style came straight out of the hills, and his voice sounded like it had been around since the beginning of time itself. He was a gracious gentleman, with a gentle spirit. His appearance on ACL with Bill Monroe in 1986 was historic, a rare performance by the two bluegrass giants. Another important part of America’s musical past is gone.”

Here is Stanley with his Clinch Mountain Boys in 1980 with his signature song “Little Maggie.”

Freddy Powers 1931-2016

photo by Scott Newton

Austin City Limits was saddened to learn of yesterday’s passing of the great Freddy Powers at the age of 84. His name may not be immediately familiar, but his songs are. The Oklahoma-born/Texas-raised “country jazz singer” wrote or co-wrote hits for George Jones (“I Always Get Lucky With You”), Willie Nelson and Janie Fricke (“A Place to Fall Apart”) and, most prolifically, Merle Haggard (“Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star,” “Natural High,” “Amber Waves of Grain,” “Let’s Chase Each Other Around the Room”). He also co-produced Nelson’s platinum album Somewhere Over the Rainbow, hosted the CableACE nominated talk show Rogers and Hammerhead and appeared with Haggard frequently as opening act and special guest, as well as releasing his own albums. On top of all that, he served a stint in the Marines, was a staple in 1970s Las Vegas and appeared on both The Tonight Show and The Today Show. Having already accomplished more than most in one lifetime, Powers was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2004, which slowed down his productivity. But he continued to write and perform as long as he was able to sit in front of an audience and entertain. Along with his buddies Nelson and Haggard and co-author Jake Brown, Powers completed his memoirs, entitled The Spree of 83 and due to be published in February 2017.

“Freddy might not have been a household name, but most of his musical buddies were,” says ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona. “Willie & Merle were two of his closest friends, and they were kindred spirits, musically and personally. He had an infectious passion for what can best be called country jazz, and he had a direct hand in bringing Willie and Merle together for one of the most memorable songwriters shows we ever did, in Season 9. He was also a remarkable songwriter; my favorite was ‘I Always Get Lucky With You,’ which became part of Merle’s repertoire for many years. Freddy’s spirit lives on!”

Powers appeared on Austin City Limits four times: in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1996. Here he is in 1984 with his pals Willie ‘n’ Merle with “After You’re Gone.”

Grupo Fantasma to livestream 6/28 ACL taping

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Austin’s own Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma returns to ACL this June, and the performance will be livestreamed across the globe.  Fans everywhere can watch the concert on June 28 at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel as it happens.  

Although Austin’s music scene changes constantly and rapidly, one band that endures and continues to evolve is the Grammy-winning Grupo Fantasma, who first appeared on ACL in Season 33 in 2007 and returned for 2015’s Hall of Fame Ceremony.  Last year marked the 15th anniversary of the powerhouse Latin funk outfit’s first show and the release of their widely-acclaimed sixth album Problemas. Longtime favorites of music icon Prince, the band served as his on-call backing band for many years, appearing with the superstar on stages from Coachella to the Golden Globes. Praised as one of the most important independent acts in the Latin genre, they are widely known for their energetic live shows, which NPR describes as “seamless…whenever and wherever they’re on stage.” For Problemas, the nine-piece band decided to break from their DIY tradition of self produced albums. The band approached Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, someone they knew would be a well-seasoned and sympathetic producer and, as a fan, eager to work with them. Berlin states,”I see Grupo Fantasma as a bar-setter, not just for Latin music but in popular culture. Their effortless ability to shift from being one of the finest Latin bands around to one of the baddest funk bands alive and back is a rare and beautiful thing. The record we set out to make was our effort to codify that idea, and I think we succeeded. These guys are the absolute best at what they do.” This special taping will also include performances from the band’s all-funk alter ego Brownout and founding former member Adrian Quesada.

Please join us June 28th on our ACLTV YouTube channel as we welcome back Grupo Fantasma. The broadcast version will air as part of our upcoming Season 42 which premieres this fall on PBS.

Grupo Fantasma 6/28

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UPDATE: Giveaway is now over.

Austin City Limits will be taping a performance by GRUPO FANTASMA on Tuesday, June 28th, at 8 pm at ACL Live at The Moody Theater (310 W. 2nd Street, Willie Nelson Blvd). We will be giving away a limited number of space available passes to this taping. Enter your name and email address on the below form by 9 am on Thursday, June 23rd. Winners will be chosen at random and notified by email. A photo ID with the winner’s name will be required to pickup tickets. Passes are not transferable and cannot be sold. Standing may be required.  No photography, recording or cell phone use in the studio. No cameras or recording devices allowed in venue.

Andra Day’s magnificent, soulful performance

photo by Scott Newton

Once again Austin City Limits is thrilled to host a rising star: Andra Day. The jazzy soul singer and songwriter gained a ton of attention for her inspirational, Grammy-nominated single “Rise Up” from her debut Cheers To the Fall, and hasn’t looked back since. The Spokane-born/San Diego-raised vocalist and her five-piece band gave us a magnificent performance of soulful originals and some choice covers, which we streamed live around the world.

After a taped intro of the Flamingos classic “I Only Have Eyes For You,” Day came out and the band eased into “Forever Mine,” a show-stopping ballad from Cheers To the Fall that really takes advantage of her range. Without pause, she launched into “Gold,” a peppier, defiant R&B tune that packed a powerful vocal punch and a jazz-soaked piano solo from Sir Charles Jones. Love then took a backseat to social commentary, as Day took on Nina Simone’s chillingly angry “Mississippi Goddamn,” recasting it in a more contemporary but no less incendiary style with a furious guitar solo from Dave Wood. Day introduced the next number as a song about two loves, “one of them true.” Jones gave the dramatic “Honey on Fire” a classically-influenced intro, with Day falling to one knee to let her pipes fly, and the tune segued directly into “Gin & Juice (Let Go My Hand),” a gospel-inflected ballad offering contrast to its immediate predecessor.

Before going into Kendrick Lamar’s “No Makeup,” Day explained the significance of the song to her and turned the hip-hop tune into a groovy soul number. After that groovefest, the band stripped down to Day and Jones, letting piano and voice carry a medley of “Rear View” and “Red Flags.” The band returned to pay tribute to another key Day influence on a medley of Bob Marley’s songs “Is This Love” and “Could You Be Loved,” highlighted by crazy falsetto from Jones (a R&B/gospel singer in his own right). Day then took a moment to acknowledge the terrible shooting in Orlando, Florida, which happened that very morning, and dedicated the next song to the victims. That song was “Rise Up,” her anthem about pulling power from tragedy and finding – and spreading – hope in the worst of times. The audience joined her for several choruses, turning the song from performance to communion.

The set shifted back into upbeat mode for “Mistakes,” a funky celebration of where the titular happenings can take one’s life. Day introduced her band, maestros all, and took them into “City Burns,” a soul/jazz tune that’s as consummate an example of her remarkable talents as anything she’s done. The band kept the groove going as she left the stage to wild applause, but the show wasn’t over yet. Day and her band came back with a surprise: a cover of Queen’s aggressively confident “I Want It All,” altered from its original hard rock arrangement into a slinky, pleading blues ballad – a bravura performance that made the song her own. Day left the stage blowing kisses as Wood took the band out with a burning solo. It was a fitting cap to a great show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.

ACL to livestream Andra Day’s 6/12 taping

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Soul sensation Andra Day makes her highly-anticipated Austin City Limits debut this June, and the performance will be livestreamed across the globe, powered by Dell.  Fans everywhere can watch the concert on June 12 at 8pm CT/9 pm ET on ACLTV’s YouTube channel as it happens.  

It’s been a banner year for singer and songwriter Andra Day since the release of her first album Cheers to the Fall: the debut earned two Grammy nominations including Best R&B Album, and she turned heads on this year’s Grammy broadcast with her inspirational song “Rise Up,” which she also performed at the White House.  Known for her standout live performances, Day was handpicked to open for ACL alum Leon Bridges on his global headlining tour, and she’ll be playing 2016’s biggest festivals with her own high-profile slots at Bonnaroo, Essence Festival and ACL Fest this fall.  With a vintage flair and a voice for the ages, Day proves she’s ready to take her place in the pantheon of soulful vocalists and deliver her truth to the world. Her acclaimed debut, Cheers to the Fall, produced by heavyweight soul man Raphael Saadiq, is self-described as “a biography told in the form of music,” with themes centered on truth, fearlessness, vulnerability, forgiveness and love. The Boston Globe says, “This confident, stylish pop R&B record ushers in a sophisticated vocalist who faithfully reflects past influences while remaining contemporary and relevant,” and Vibe raves, “The beauty in Andra’s art is that the message applies to all. All we need to do is listen.”

Please join us June 12th on our ACLTV YouTube channel as we welcome rising star Andra Day. The broadcast version will air as part of our upcoming Season 42 which premieres this fall on PBS.