15 years Later: Top Grupo Fantasma Shows

Grupo Fantasma is back with their fifth studio album, "Problemas," which was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. The Grammy award-winning band celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.

Do you have a favorite Grupo Fantasma show? It’s been 15 years since the Grammy award-winning band launched, and the Latin funk kings are celebrating with an album release party and anniversary shindig at 7 p.m. tonight (Nov. 12) at the Mohawk. Their originally scheduled pachanga last month was postponed because of severe Austin weather, but previously purchased tickets will be accepted.

In honor of their quinceañera, I recently chatted with Grupo Fantasma founding members Beto Martínez and Greg González about the evolution of the band and their fifth studio album, “Problemas,” which was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.

As we went down memory lane, Martínez and González also recalled their personal favorite Grupo Fantasma shows — the ones where they each felt like they had arrived. These memorable moments didn’t make it into our previous Austin360 article, so we’re sharing them now as the band celebrates 15 years together.

Grupo Fantasma founding members Beto Martínez (left) and Greg González. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman
Grupo Fantasma founding members Beto Martínez (left) and Greg González. Photo by Nancy Flores/American-Statesman

Here’s what the guys had to say:

“There have been a lot of great shows, but probably the most memorable for me has been playing the Golden Globes party with Prince. Of all the shows we’ve played, that one had pure celebrities in the audience jamming with Prince and all these stellar artists like Mary J. Blige and Talib Kweli. All these great artists, like Marc Anthony, came and sat in. It was an audience of A-listers, and it really felt like we had arrived at that moment. It was the most glitzy, glamorous show we had ever had playing in Beverly Hills for the illuminati of Hollywood fame.”

— Greg González

While the Golden Globes party was definitely memorable for Martínez as well, he recalls another show in 2008 that was particularly special to him.

“Shortly after (the Golden Globes party) we did Bonnaroo for the first time. Bonnaroo was our first really big festival. And we played at one of the big tents for probably 5,000 people. It was one of the first biggest shows we’d played that (featured) just us. It wasn’t us with Prince. It was us. And those fans were there freaking out for us.”

— Beto Martínez

What’s your favorite Grupo Fantasma moment? Share it with us in the comments below, and check out the playlist we’ve created for your hip-shaking pleasure.

 

Singing competition crowns Monica Saldivar new Tejano Idol

Photo contributed by Monica Saldivar.
Photo contributed by Monica Saldivar.

Aspiring singer Monica Saldivar, of Grand Prairie, was recently named Tejano music’s next star. Saldivar recently won the fifth edition of the singing competition “Canta Tejano Idol,” which is presented by the Austin Tejano Music Coalition.

Loosely modeled after “American Idol,” the Austin-based nationwide singing contest is hosted by Tejano music veteran Shelly Lares. Saldivar received a $500 cash prize along with the opportunity to record with Tejano music record label Freddie Records in Corpus Christi.

“I see so many opportunities around the corner, and I’m hopeful about the future,” says Saldivar, 21, who is a music business major at Dallas Baptist University and is also minoring in Spanish.

“Canta Tejano Idol” launched five years ago to help infuse new talent into the Tejano music scene, which has struggled over the years to reach the popularity it once enjoyed decades ago. For Saldivar, winning the competition means a chance to keep Tejano music alive among a new generation of listeners.

“I see so much potential from the younger artists who are trying to keep the genre going,” she says. Creating a network of support among the up-and-coming artists, she says, might help Tejano music reach new heights.

Saldivar grew up listening to Tejano music and began singing at charity events and talent shows when she was 13. She auditioned for Canta Tejano Idol two years ago, reached the finale, but earned a runner-up spot. “I was fearful, and had a problem owning the stage,” she admits. But after working on the critiques that the contest’s celebrity judges gave her, she returned to the competition this year with more performance experience and confidence.

“It was a fierce competition,” says Aggie Sanchez, chairwoman for the Canta Tejano Idol contest and Austin Tejano Music Coalition board member. “I believe what gave her the edge was the experience of last time and she didn’t hold back…”

Saldivar hopes to start writing her own music one day and offer audiences original bilingual music. For now, though, she especially loves singing traditional Mexican ranchera songs. “I love the emotion and true feelings of the music,” she says. “It’s the kind of music that brings my family to tears, and it just speaks to me.”

 

 

 

 

 

Austin rock band Vitera releases new ‘Tequila Rock’ EP

Haydn Vitera fronts the rock band "Vitera," which plays American rock music with Latin influences. Photo by Gilbert Villaseñor, Jr.
Haydn Vitera fronts the rock band “Vitera,” which plays American rock music with Latin influences.
Photos by Gilbert Villaseñor, Jr.

There was a time when all Austin-based musician Haydn Vitera wanted to do was be in Nashville and perform country music. But when he started listening to his inner rocker, he discovered that fusing rock music with the Latin influences that he grew up with gave him the opportunity to follow a more fulfilling musical path.

Vitera calls it American Latino rock because it’s not like rock en español from Latin America. “It’s rock music that’s American influenced made by Latinos who are here in the U.S., ” he says. The band Vitera will celebrate the local release of its latest EP “Tequila Rock” with a show at 10 p.m. on Nov. 12 at the Strange Brew. A wider digital release is planned for January 2016.

“Tequila Rock” comes five years after the band’s debut album “Súbete.” While the first album was mostly sung in Spanish,  this latest EP has a more bilingual feel with songs sung in English, Spanish and Spanglish. Vitera, who got his big break in 1997 when he joined country artist Rick Treviño’s band as a fiddle player and later went on to tour with Asleep at the Wheel, now also rocks the electric violin. Listeners will hear more of the signature electric violin sound in this latest EP.

An especially poignant track on the EP is “Que Pasará,” which was co-written by Vitera’s brother, David Vitera, and Rafael Franco. The song asks what would happen if all the immigrant workers in our nation were gone. “It’s a very timely theme,” Vitera says. “I felt like it needed to be out there…and that we had a responsibility to put out there.”

At the Strange Brew show, the band promises to bring several special guests including Latin rock star Rick Del Castillo, singer-songwriter Ady Hernandez and Vanessa Del Fierro of the all-female mariachi group Las Coronelas. The show’s $10 cover includes a hard copy of “Tequila Rock.” Doors open at 9:30 p.m.

 

 

Spoken word series explores Day of the Dead stories

Isabella Vail, 5, looks at the art at the 31st annual Viva la Vida Festival in downtown Austin on Saturday October 18, 2014.   JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Isabella Vail, 5, looks at the art at the 31st annual Viva la Vida Festival in downtown Austin on Saturday October 18, 2014. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

For the past five years, multidisciplinary artist Amparo Garcia-Crow has gathered Austinites for an intimate evening of storytelling. As host of the monthly spoken word series “The Living Room: Storytime for Grownups,” she’s constantly opening people’s hearts and minds to the personal tales that make us uniquely human.

Every first Saturday of the month, people from all walks of life sign up a month ahead of time to share stories around a specific theme. On Nov. 7 at  7:30 p.m., the series will honor Día de los Muertos with stories at the Mexican American Cultural Center’s Black Box Theater.

“The Living Room,” in collaboration with the Latino Visibility Project, will present stories from three Latinas and three Latinos whose tales will shed light on their diverse identity experiences. For more information, visit facebook.com/the-living-room. Guests are asked to reserve their $15 seat online because there will be no admission taken at the door.