Austin City Limits Hall of Fame 2016 induction ceremony a huge success

photo by Gary Miller

Last night we were thrilled to induct three giants of American music into the third annual Austin City Limits Hall of Fame: B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt and Kris Kristofferson. The evening featured one-of- a-kind music performances and tributes from Willie Nelson, Billy Gibbons, Mavis Staples, Rodney Crowell, Gary Clark Jr., Taj Mahal, B.B. King’s Blues Band and Eve Monsees. 

Bill Stotesbery, KLRU-TV, Austin PBS CEO and Terry Lickona, Executive Producer of Austin City Limits welcomed to the crowd to the special evening.

Comedy supercouple Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally hosted the celebratory evening which will air on New Year’s Eve on PBS. The entertaining duo kicked things off with a playful attempt to claim the Hall of Fame inductions for themselves, before introducing the night’s first inductee: legendary songwriter Kris Kristofferson. Singer/songwriter and Austin City Limits veteran Rodney Crowell took the stage to pay tribute to one of his heroes and greatest influences. Clad all in black, Kristofferson accepted his award saying, “This is as good as it can get!” Crowell then moved center stage to lead the house band in a rollicking rendition of Kristofferson’s “Chase the Feeling” and an expressive version of his classic ballad  “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” The man himself then arrived for another pair of ballads, specifically the hits “Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” and the oft-recorded “For the Good Times,” his voice craggy with experience. Kristofferson then welcomed fellow Austin City Limits Hall of Famer and longtime friend Willie Nelson to the stage, who plugged in Trigger and led everybody in a shuffling take on Kristofferson’s signature tune “Me and Bobby McGee,” to a huge smile from its writer.

Offerman and Mullally returned to introduce the induction of Bonnie Raitt, and gospel soul great Mavis Staples took the stage (to a standing ovation) in order to induct her longtime friend with a touching and hilarious speech. Raitt accepted her award with excitement and humility, then joined Staples onstage for a romp through the swampy Bob Dylan/Danny O’Keefe co-write “Well Well Well.” Staples then quit the stage to be replaced by eclectic bluesologist Taj Mahal for the rocking “Gnawin’ On It,” with Raitt, house band guitarist David Grissom and Mahal (on harp) trading solos around. Willie Nelson joined Raitt onstage to reprise their duet on Stephen Bruton’s (her former guitarist) lovely “Getting Over You,” recorded by the pair on Nelson’s landmark LP Across the Borderline twenty years before. One standing ovation later, Raitt thanked the hardworking Austin City Limits crew and welcomed Staples and Mahal back to the stage for “Thing Called Love.” The trio enhanced the John Hiatt song that’s become one of Raitt’s signature tunes with electric ukulele and sanctified tamborine for a kick-ass performance.

Mullally and Offerman delivered a shout-out to house bandleader Lloyd Maines, introducing the night’s ace band before intermission. The second act began with KLRU-TV CEO Bill Stotesbery returning to the stage to induct Dick Peterson, who worked for KLRU from 1984-2008. A TV veteran with decades in the business, the Austin native took over as Austin City Limits executive producer after co-creator Bill Arhos retired in 2000, and received his award for his decades-long work behind the scenes. The night’s hosts returned to introduce the evening’s final inductee: great blues titan B.B. King. Rock legend and blues scholar Billy F. Gibbons from ZZ Top took to the stage to induct one of his greatest inspirations. King’s award was accepted by Myron Johnson, the bluesman’s longtime personal assistant and tour manager. Offerman and Mullally returned to inform the audience that the trophy would reside in the B.B. King Museum and to introduce the B.B. King Blues Band – not only the band that backed King on the road for many years, but in the case of some of them, musicians who appeared with the King of the Blues on his 1983 debut ACL appearance. Fronted by guitarist/singer Jesse Robinson in King’s absence, the band rolled into a faithful take on his classic “Paying the Cost to Be the Boss.” Gibbons then came back, fronting a trio with King drummer Herman Jackson, Austin organist Mike Flanigin and, of course, himself on guitar. The threesome reached back to the 60s for the 12-bar “The Jungle,” with Gibbons and Flanigin trading blistering solos. The band segued immediately into “You Upset Me Baby,” King’s lascivious #1 R&B single from 1954.   

The King band re-took the stage, joined by previous inductee Raitt and guitar great and Austin native Gary Clark Jr. The pair launched into “The Thrill is Gone,” probably King’s most famous song, filling it with scintillating singing and sizzling solos. Raitt exited and Clark took the spotlight for a faithful “Three O’Clock Blues,” the Lowell Fulsom song that was King’s first hit in 1952. Clark then brought on his friend and Austin blues standout Eve Monsees.  The pair, who learned the blues together while still in high school, romped through King’s 1953 single “Woke Up This Morning.”Willie Nelson returned to the stage to join Clark Jr. for a relaxed but blues-soaked version of “Night Life,” the Nelson original that became a staple of King’s setlist. Nelson’s distinctive picking proved itself as adept at the blues as the country for which he’s known.

Offerman and Mullally came back and brought the entire cast with them for a memorable grand finale- the inductees, the guests and both the house band and the King band. The all-star line-up went into “Everyday I Have the Blues,” another indelible King hit that helped define not only his career, but the genre itself. Both band and audience had a great time, the latter on its feet for the entire song. The celebratory evening came to a close with the entire cast singing a serendipitous version of “Auld Lang Syne” to mark the event’s New Year’s Eve broadcast, with a take so bluesy King’s spirit was surely smiling. For the crowd it might as well have been the real thing, considering the kissing, hugging and celebration going on. Mullally and Offerman thanked everyone for coming and it was over. It was quite a night, the best Hall of Fame ceremony yet, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this Dec. 31 on your local PBS station.

Foals brings epic sound to ACL

photo by Scott Newton

Already huge stars in their native England, and one of the UK’s most-acclaimed live acts, headlining festival stages from Reading to Glastonbury to Coachella, and a rapturously received set at this year’s namesake Austin City Limits Music Festival, Foals brought their epic sound to our stage for their debut Austin City Limits taping.

Following taped intro music, the band started the show with “Snake Oil,” a galloping rocker from the Oxford quintet’s latest album What Went Down. Foals then reached back to its 2008 debut Antidotes for “Olympic Airways,” which rode a basstastic postpunk groove to glory. That tune segued directly into the similarly rhythm-heavy “My Number,” from the fivesome’s third LP Holy Fire. “Providence,” from the same record, flowed from a lush synth bed to a skittering funk rocker before erupting in guitar fury. “Give It All” followed, its brooding atmosphere bringing the energy to a simmer rather than boil. Then it was time for the song that introduced them to American audiences, the radio smash “Mountain At My Gates,” and it didn’t disappoint: the hit soared into the stratosphere and had the crowd jumping.

Taking a breather from WWD, Foals dug further back into its catalog for the dreamy “Spanish Sahara” and the jangly “Red Sox Pugie.” The band then went into the atmospheric “Late Night,” before diving into the ether with the psychedelic anthem “A Knife in the Ocean.” Foals finished the main set with the widescreen “Inhaler,” which ranged from a sort of ethereal disco to grinding guitar grunge and featured a surprise visit to the crowd from charismatic singer Yannis Philippakis. That wasn’t the end, of course; the band returned for a grand finale. The hugely anthemic title track of What Went Down killed as Philippakis once again mingled, and the audience showed their appreciation loud and long. This was one well-oiled, passionate rock machine, and we can’t wait for you see then when this show airs early next year as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.  

Margo Price’s rising star

photo by Scott Newton

Country music has a new rising star, and her name is Margo Price. The Nashville-based singer has taken the Americana world by storm with her debut album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. We were pleased to welcome her for her first Austin City Limits taping, which encompassed most of Daughter, some well-chosen covers and even some as-yet unrecorded songs.

Her six-piece band kicked the evening off with a brief rip through Jerry Reed’s “Swarmin,” before introducing the woman of the hour. She and the band immediately jumped into “About to Find Out,” a rocking honky-tonker from Daughter. Her powerhouse wail – somewhere between Tanya Tucker’s earthiness and Dolly Parton’s ethereality – introduced “Tennessee Song,” a relative epic that featured a swirling duet between Luke Schneider’s pedal steel and Micah Hulscher’s synthesizer – the latter an instrument not usually heard in country this traditionalist. She then played new song “Learning to Lose,” as yet unrecorded – but the power of this self-deprecating ballad means it won’t stay in that state for long. Visiting the songbook of Texas songwriting great Billy Joe Shaver, she romped through “Black Rose,” most famously recorded by the great Waylon Jennings. Back to back killers followed via the drunk-in-jail tale “Weekender” and the defiant ballad “Since You Put Me Down.”

Inspired by an experience on a bad tour, “Desperate and Depressed” – the B-side of her hit single “Hurtin’ On the Bottle” – found humor in the situation and put it to a country beat. Price then turned to the catalog of her songwriter friend Steve Knutson for another tale of alcohol consumption gone bad – “It Ain’t Drunk Driving If You’re Riding a Horse” was funny and poignant all at once. She described the stirring “Hands of Time” as inspired by a particularly hard time in her life, but leavened the pain with the self-described “country funk” of “Four Years of Chances,” which found particular favor with the crowd. As did “This Town Gets Around,” a middle finger to the music business that rules her Nashville base, set to a beat that should send couples spinning ‘round the dance floor.

Price then plucked a little-known gem from the catalog of Austin hero Doug Sahm: “I Wanna Be Your Mama Again” sounded a long-lost country hit in her hands. “Paper Cowboy” began as a honky-tonk ballad but quickly morphed into a stretched-out, frisky two-stepper that gave her an opportunity to introduce her crack band. She brought the audience to its feet by ending the main set with “Hurtin’ On the Bottle,” the radio hit on its way to becoming her signature song, even joining the crowd on the floor for the last chorus.

But that wasn’t the last of it. Price and the band retook the stage for a rollicking 70s-style take on “Gotta Travel On,” the 1959 hit for Billy Grammer. She then took on Neil Young, but not any of the obvious tunes – instead she visited the Canadian iconoclast’s trad-country LP Old Ways for a take on the title track that let the band stretch out again. Price and company ended the night with a ripping charge through Gram Parsons’ “Ooh Las Vegas,” a song fast enough to let everyone show off and still come in under five minutes. It earned her a standing ovation, and the band took a well-deserved bow. It was a great show, and we can’t wait for you see it when it airs early next year as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.

Band of Horses rocks ACL for the second time

photo by Scott Newton

Following their triumphant ACL Festival set, Band of Horses joined us to tape their second Austin City Limits show, returning to the stage they first played six years ago.  Celebrating the release of their fifth album Why Are You OK, the South Carolina quintet brought their A-game for an easygoing but rocking set.

To the crowd’s delight, the band began strong right out of the gate with “Is There a Ghost,” the powerhouse that kicks off their second record Cease to Begin. BOH reached even further back to their debut LP Everything All the Time for “The Great Salt Lake,” a less soaring but no less compelling anthem. Ringmastered by perennially upbeat frontman Benjamin Bridwell, the group then jumped forward to their latest record, rocking their way through the radio hit “Casual Party” and “Solemn Oath.” Bridwell and company next romped through “Laredo,” the hit from their bestselling LP Infinite Arms, before going back to the new LP for the country rockin’ “Throw My Mess,” featuring Tyler Ramsey’s slide guitar.

A quick set change later, Bridwell and Ramsey commanded the stage by themselves, the latter fingerpicking an acoustic guitar while the former put his heart and soul into singing “No One’s Gonna Love You,” one of the band’s loveliest ballads. Bridwell donned an acoustic guitar and welcomed keyboardist Ryan Monroe back to the stage wielding a mandolin. The trio circled a single microphone to capture both acoustic instruments and three-part harmonies for “Part One,” a new folk classic from the debut LP. Ramsey and Monroe left the stage while bassist Bill Reynolds and drummer Creighton Barrett came back, as Bridwell took a chair and a second bass for the low-end pop song “Our Swords.” Full band once again assembled, the Horses essayed the organ-heavy ballad “Detlef Schrempf,” dedicated to the German basketball player of the same name.

After four tunes in a row from the first two albums, Band of Horses  rejoined OK with a pair of striking songs: the synth-frosted pop tune “Hag” and the anthemic “In a Drawer,” which started slow and pretty before exploding into lighter-waving rock & roll. “Now that we’re all happy, here’s a song about death,” quipped Bridwell before fan favorite “The Funeral,” a song from that debut that also starts graceful and breaks into thunder. The latter’s big rock finish brought the audience to their feet, but the Horses weren’t finished. Banging a tambourine with a drumstick, Bridwell led the group through the rollicking “The General Specific,” to wild applause. It was a fine rock & roll show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year as part of our Season 42 on your local PBS station.

The spectacular and entertaining Cyndi Lauper

photo by Scott Newton

Icon, pop trailblazer, Tony Award-winning Broadway composer, Emmy-winning actress and prolific hitmaker, Cyndi Lauper has made a career of defying expectations. A musical omnivore with a thirst that’s led her to drink deeply of genres like blues, standards and country music in recent years, she brought all this and a series of lively anecdotes from throughout her three decade-career to her first-ever performance on the Austin City Limits stage, and it was as spectacular and entertaining as one could imagine.

Primed by Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” on the sound system, the crowd welcomed the band as they kicked into the rollicking “Funnel of Love,” the Wanda Jackson tune on Lauper’s latest album Detour. The singer herself strutted onstage in a black hat over hot pink hair, carrying a small suitcase and belting the song. Star and band jumped right into her bucket of hits, lighting into “She Bop,” Lauper doing call-and-response with the audience and contributing a recorder solo. She returned to Detour, explaining the genesis of this LP of country covers with a hilarious monologue that covered Nashville, Seymour Stein, Dolly Parton, Ethel Merman and a very large cockroach. A faithful cover of Ray Price’s “Heartaches By the Number” followed, with fiddle provided by Andy Burton’s synthesizer and pedal steel player Jon Graboff contributing a traditionalist solo. Then it was into “I Drove All Night,” the propulsive late 80s hit from A Night to Remember.

Lauper then stepped onto a platform on stage right shaped like a vinyl LP. Sure enough, it began to spin, serving as the perfect setting for Skeeter Davis’ show-stopping ballad “The End of the World.” She revisited her rockabilly roots with the band Blue Angel by swaggering confidently through Patsy Cline’s immortal classic “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Using a stick pony as a prop, Lauper talked about seeing both Cline and serial Westerns on TV as a child, and how it inspired her to be a singer and to discover country music. It was a lead-up to her faithful cover of Patsy Montana’s Western Swing hit “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” featuring frisky solos from Burton and guitarist Alex Nolan, harmony yodeling from Lauper and backup singer Elaine Caswell and the stick pony (which remained silent). She then went back to her own catalog for “You Don’t Know,” an anthemic shoulda-been-hit from her overlooked LP Sisters of Avalon.

Lauper revisited her breakout debut She’s So Unusual for “When You Were Mine,” Prince’s heartbreaking pop tune that she’s made her own. As drummer Sammy Merendino provided a backbeat, Lauper introduced the band, before said backbeat led into the rockin’ “Money Changes Everything,” the Brains song she took into the top 30 in 1984. That was the end of the main set, but not the end of the night. After giving the audience plenty of time to work themselves into a frenzy, the band retook the stage and started “Misty Blue,” the Bob Montgomery ballad recorded by Eddy Arnold, Ella  Fitzgerald and others. Using the handset of a prop payphone as a mic, Lauper added her name to the list of luminaries who put their stamp on the song.

As Lauper talked about watching ACL while on the road, the crew brought up a mountain dulcimer on a stand. Strumming the familiar chords of “Time After Time,” Lauper invited the audience to sing along, letting them have the song’s final note to themselves. That earned a standing ovation. The big hit followed – you know the one. Lauper started the song accompanied only by Graboff’s steel, and that first verse was all it took to make the crowd go wild. Then that familiar guitar riff kicked in, and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” brought the audience to their feet and Lauper into their midst. One massive call-and-response singalong later, the house came down and the band quit the stage. Lauper came back alone for a stunning closer: an a cappella take on her inspirational ballad “True Colors,” once again with the crowd as her backup. It was a moving performance, with a lot of tears in the audience. We can’t wait for you to see it when Cyndi Lauper’s episode airs early next year on your local PBS station.  

Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals’ run the musical gamut

photo by Scott Newton

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals staged their triumphant return to Austin City Limits supporting the brand new album Call It What It Is. Thirteen years after their first appearance in Season 29 (and seven since Harper’s last visits in Season 35 with Relentless7 and as a guest of Pearl Jam),  Harper and the six piece Criminals showcased the new LP with a diverse performance.

The band opened with the rocking “When Sex Was Dirty,” a sardonically nostalgic look back at a more repressive time. The Les Paul-wielding Harper then jumped back to the Criminals classic Burn to Shine for the blues-rocking title track. The group stuck with the same album as percussionist Leon Mobley brought out a cajon for the percolating groove of “Steal My Kisses,” augmented by crowd clapping and bassist Juan Nelson’s baritone asides. Harper took a moment to thank ACL – “it’s the most incredible music institution I know” – before moving into “Finding Our Way,” a tribute to music in a reggae style from the new album.

Settling onto a chair with his lap steel, the instrument for which he’s best known, Harper then launched into the soulful, upbeat “Shine,” adding some liquid solos. He introduced the band, including Austin’s own Jason Mozersky on guitar, before moving into the slow burning “Call It What It Is,” an explicitly political kick against the darkness. Strapping on an acoustic guitar, Harper brought on violinist Rebecca Schlappich and guitarist Kyle Crusham for a brand new, unrecorded song: the honky-tonkin’ “Bottle Wins Again.” Another reconfiguration found drummer Oliver Charles coming from behind his kit to man a set of congas, keyboardist Jason Yates on acoustic guitar and Harper himself shaking a maraca for the Latin-styled “How Dark is Gone,” enlivened an organ/guitar duel by Yates and Mozersky that drove the crowd wild.

Harper then went all the way back to There Will Be a Light, his 2004 collaboration with the Blind Boys of Alabama. Mining deep soul and gospel roots, he pulled out all the vocal stops for “Where Could I Go,” even singing part of it off- mic with little loss of power or passion. It was a show-stopping moment, and the audience loved it. Harper strapped a Telecaster on for the set-ending “Goodbye to You,” the gently melancholic closer of Call It What It Is. But the band didn’t leave it like that, returning for the title track of Harper’s 1995 second album. The funky “Fight For Your Mind” blended its defiant stance with an excerpt of Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes” and extended call-and-response solos from Nelson’s bass and Harper’s lap steel. “It really is the greatest stage in the world,” Harper said as the crowd applauded wildly. It was a fitting closer for a show that ran the gamut of Harper’s musical expression, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this coming winter on your local PBS station.

Hayes Carll charms crowd during second ACL appearance

photo by Scott Newton

Hayes Carll charmed the crowd last night at Austin City Limits with a strong set featuring songs from his critically acclaimed new album Lovers and Leavers. The leading candidate for inheritor of the Texas singer-songwriter tradition, Carll last graced the Austin City Limits stage in 2010. Since that time he earned a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Country Song and walked away with top honors at multiple Americana Music Awards.

Carll took the stage joined by steel guitarist Geoff Queen and drummer Mike Meadows on a treated drum kit for the sardonic “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart,” from his 2008 breakthrough Trouble in Mind. He stayed with the trio format for the “you and me, baby” love song “Love is So Easy,” a cut from the new record which really got the crowd going. He dedicated the self-explanatory “Sake of the Song” to the “lion of the songwriting world,” the late, great Guy Clark, about whom he told an amusing story concerning an attempt at co-writing. Carll returned to the subject of Lovers and Leavers for “Good While It Lasted,” as good a song about the dissolution of a relationship as any written in the past decade. The unrecorded, melancholy “Jesus and Elvis” had a local flavor, as it was inspired by the owner of the Austin bar Lala’s. He then returned to Trouble for the jaunty, good-humored “Girl Downtown,” a clear audience favorite. Carll closed the trio set with the gentle “The Magic Kid,” dedicated to his twelve-year-old son Eli who is indeed a magician.

Queen and Meadows left the stage for Carll to play “Beaumont,” another audience fave, by himself. He talked about how ACL inspired him as an aspiring songwriter as the musicians returned with bassist John Michael Schoepf and pianist Emily Gimble (last seen on our stage with Asleep at the Wheel). Gimble joined the bandleader in a duet on the country ballad “Love Don’t Let Me Down,” another tune from the latest record. Mood and tempo rose sharply on the roadhouse country of “The Lovin’ Cup,” highlighted by Queen and Gimble trading solos. Carll and co. followed with “The Love That We Need,” a catchy bit of folk rock philosophy that asserted “We got the life that we wanted, not the love that we need.” Carll and Queen picked up electric guitars for “KMAG YOYO” (“Kiss my ass, guys, you’re on your own”), a frisky country rocker that tells a fanciful tale of a young man’s tour of duty in Afghanistan gone awry. “This song has a lot of words,” he noted when he fumbled some of the lyrics, bringing the song to a premature close. Two tries later, he laughingly gave up, promising to return to the song after playing something else. That turned out to be the salutatory waltz “My Friends,” followed by the lovely “Long Way Home,” a tribute to one of those friends, since passed on. Carll closed the main set with “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long,” an old favorite from his second LP Little Rock.

The band came back for a well-deserved encore and, as promised, tried again with “KMAG YOYO.” After reciting the vexing lyric he kept stumbling over earlier, Carll romped through the song like he’d never forgotten it, to the cheers of the audience. He kept the vibe going by with the equally rough ‘n’ ready “Stomp and Holler,” bring the show to a rollicking close. It was a great way to close an excellent show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year on your local PBS station.

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.