The Best of iFest's Second Weekend: Aaron Neville, Sergent Garcia, Grupo Fantasma, etc.
Grupo Fantasma was the final group to take the Houston Press Rocks Off Texas Stage at iFest, it became quickly apparent why the 11-piece Austin Latin/funk orchestra was chosen to close out the day. From the infectious buzz of the horn-heavy ensemble to the high energy of the cumbia-salsa-reggae-funk amalgam, the band exploded with a buzz that had the audience on their feet and dancing within a couple of notes.
Grupo is known for their energetic live shows, a reputation is definitely street-cred worthy. Those guys were crammed onstage amidst a wide array of instruments, and despite the lack of breathing room, they made the entire performance look effortless.
They danced along with the crowd while flawlessly performing their vibrant mix of seamless Latin fusion. There weren't many folks sitting around during that set; the front of the stage an impromptu dance-floor for cumbias and any other form of dancing that one could conjure up. ANGELICA LEICHT
Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic
I'm glad I got to see Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic. Before their Sunday-afternoon performance on the Houston Press Rocks Off Texas Stage, I wasn't too keen on zydeco music, thinking it an incessant jumble of accordion and drum sounds crashing into each other over and over again, all facilitated by a group of old guys in Easter-pink fedoras and matching suits.
However, I'm willing to admit when I'm wrong, and Sunday afternoon served me a big slice of humble pie. With Thierry, dressed casually in a blue shirt and matching baseball cap, and his Grammy-nominated Richmond, Calif.-based band, I learned that zydeco is, in fact, a varied and quite enjoyable genre with pleasant harmonies and meaningful songs about women and the blues, two topics that can be interchangeable, depending on your feeling about the former at the time. Or maybe...
"They're a good band. A real good band," said a gray-haired man seated beside me. A relaxed two-steppin' tune that caused a mass Electric Slide to take place. ALTAMESE OSBORNE