Grupo Fantasma, Fayuca, Crescent Ballroom, 4/8/12

Grupo Fantasma and Fayuca Crescent Ballroom Sunday, April 8

There can't be too many places in the world where you can spend the first half of your day observing a certain notorious motorcycle club's barbecue shindig with a bunch of tattooed, leather-clad pistoleros and the second half at some swingin' Latin dance night. Thank God for Arizona.

By the time I got to the Crescent last night, Latin reggae rockers Fayuca were already blasting through their hit tune, "Dirty Girl," but the lounge section of the venue was devoid of many patrons. I suppose Easter Sunday has that kind of an affect on a bar.

The concert hall however, while not fully-packed, had plenty of bobbing heads.

When we spoke to Fayuca frontman Gabriel last week, he recounted playing through rain and ganja-filled air pockets during last month's SxSW tour. They're the kind of things that you can never predict, but work through when it happens. Gabo had to put that road experience to use when his string snapped midway through the song. Drummer Raf and bassist Cisco cooly extended the track while their guitarist switched out instruments, barely missing a beat.

They used the hour-long window to whip out a tight set that included "Shoot It Up" and my personal favorite, a cover of Caifanes' "La Negra Tomasa," where Raf really shined while rocking his signature lucha libre mascara. Cisco played through a headache, no doubt the product of driving through the night from El Paso the night before, but kept the energy high regardless.

After a brief intermission, the 11-members of the Austin, Texas-based Latin-fusion funk band, Grupo Fantasma, quickly incited a dance party with their cross-cultural beats.

The Grammy-winning orchestra utilized a sharp ear-piercing horn trio and grooving rhythm section to create rich melodies that had the crowd twirling on the floor, and shoulder-shaking in the bleachers. The funked-up twist on traditional cumbias, salsa, and Latin-soul went over well with the hundred or so concertgoers.

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Vocalist/hand percussionist Kino Esparza only had to beckon the audience once saying, "come on up, we don't bite," before the floor was full of dancers. Tracks like "Soltero" and "Pachuco" made it easy for everyone to swing to. "Side to side, easy shit," Esparza says.

Other standouts included the trombone highlight during the new track, "Problemas" as well as a funktified cover of Talking Heads' "Burning Down The House."

The band's unique sound and fiery performance showed why the artist once again known as Prince tagged them for backing duties.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Grupo Fantasma and Fayuca

The Crowd: Dressed-up folk. The kind that could dance.

Random Notebook Dump: I need to take dance lessons.

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