Loud, brown, proud, and funky

Latin music, soul, and funk always went great together.

Ray Barreto and Joe Bataan (who was Filipino-American) did it in New York, while El Chicano (and even predominantly black acts like War) did it in Los Angeles. Tortilla Factory, Sunny Ozuna, Latin Breed, and The Royal Jesters did it here in San Antonio, and the list of Texans who at one point or another mixed black music with Latin sounds is endless.

But today, it’s hard to think of a Texas Latin funk/soul band that is bigger and better than Brownout. An offshoot or alter ego of the more salsa/cumbia/rock fusion Grupo Fantasma (the two-time Grammy nominated Austin-based band that has been backing Prince lately, in case you’ve been living in, say, Ouagadougou), Brownout will be headlining the 13th quarterly edition of Super Soul Shakedown Saturday at Sam’s Burger Joint. It’s a gig they’ve already done, and one they can’t wait to play again.

“We played `in 2008` and it was a lot of fun,” guitarist Beto Martínez told the Current on the phone from Austin. “`The SSS is` a really cool party.”

Yes, it’s cool, but there are five other reasons for readers to attend.

Reason #1: Brownout is actually better than Grupo Fantasma. OK, I’m being an ass here. The Fantasmas are great (they’ve just earned another Grammy nomination for El Existential, in the Best Latin Rock, Alternative, or Urban Album category), but they are an “outside” band, a band “for the people.” Brownout seriously rocks, and the (still) mostly instrumental format allows them to take stunning virtuoso trips, both live and on record. “In Brownout there’s more room and space to improvise, everybody gets their solos and we can stretch out,” Martínez said. “Fantasma is a little more structured. `Brownout has` a little more freedom and space for experimentation. When you do GF day in and day out, to play as Brownout is very refreshing for us.”

Reason #2: This will be like a CD release party. A handful of tracks from Águilas and Cobras (2009), Brownout’s latest album, were released as Águilas and Cobras — Remixed and Regrooved in December. Expect to hear some of these tracks Saturday. Not to pressure anyone here, but the night’s DJs (JJ López, host of The Diggin’ Deep Soul Shakedown, Saturdays at 1 p.m.; and Donnie Dee and Scuba Gooding Sr., hosts of Super Soul Saturdays at 9 p.m., both shows on KRTU 91.7 FM) should play some of it. Brownout will play songs from the original album plus some older stuff and a few new songs, which brings us to …

Reason #3: Meet the harder, louder, but just-as-brown new Brownout. “We have a whole batch of new songs for our new album,” Martínez said. “Some of them we have already played in Austin, but this is going to be the first time we play some of these in San Antonio.” If you think you know Brownout, you could be in for a surprise. “Most of the songs have some vocal aspect to them, we’re kind of moving in that direction a little bit as opposed to completely instrumental. At the same time, we’re gearing towards a harder, straight-funk sound, as opposed to a Latin sound. I mean, we still use Latin percussion, it’s part of our sound and you just can’t take it away. It’s just that the `new` songs are not overtly Latin or focused on any other style but more straight-ahead funk.”

Reason #4: It ain’t broke, so they won’t fix it. “Standard SSS format for this event,” said DJ Scuba Gooding Sr. “Three DJs play the soul and funk classics to get the dance party going and then, when the dance floor is in a frenzy, Brownout will go on and knock it outta the park.”

Reason #5: This is history, dammit. After giving me a superb lesson on the history of the black/brown collaboration (starting in the ’20s with jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton and up to the way James Brown knocked everyone’s socks off in the ’60s and ’70s), DJ JJ López hit the nail in the head. “The Black/Brown connection is much deeper and older than the funk connection, though they are one in the same.”

The evening will have a moment of tribute for Royal Jesters co-founder Oscar Lawson, who passed away in San Antonio on Saturday.

“I will drop a Royal Jesters tune in honor of him at the show and acknowledge his passing with a small dedication,” said López.

So say it loud: “I’m brown and I’m proud.” But even if you’re black, white, red, yellow, or green, come early — judging by previous SSS editions, the place is going to be packed.

Super Soul Shakedown, Feat. Brownout, DJ Donnie Dee, DJ JJ López, and DJ Scuba Gooding Sr.

Sam’s Burger Joint

330 E Grayson St

(210) 223-2830

Sat, Jan 15


All ages, $8-$10



Scroll to read more Music Stories & Interviews articles
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join SA Current Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.