‘The chemistry is lovely, so expect future shows from us," GZA told a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at the end of a set during South by Southwest in March. The "us" the Wu-Tang Clan member referred to was Austin's Grupo Fantasma, who joined the rapper at Warehouse District club Haven for full-band renditions of his hits, including songs from his 1995 solo breakthrough, "Liquid Swords."
Two weeks ago, GZA and Grupo played those shows, first at the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee, then in Philadelphia and finally back-to-back nights in Brooklyn. At all of the performances, the band played "Liquid Swords" in its entirety as well as a few other songs, including Wu-Tang hit "C.R.E.A.M." with a guest spot from fellow Wu-Tang member Raekwon on the final night.
"The shows were amazing," Grupo guitarist Beto Martinez said. "Bonnaroo was a little hectic — we didn't start until 3 a.m. — but it just got better and better."
Grupo, who famously backed Prince on several occasions, interpreted the album without much guidance. "A lot of those songs are kind of a mishmash of samples that aren't necessarily in tune or all in time, so we had to pick out what we could work with," Martinez said.
They sent some demos to GZA, who approved the sound and gave the go-ahead for the collaboration. The band rehearsed with the rapper before SXSW and again before Bonnaroo, where he made a few tweaks, mostly related to rhythm.
"The experience with GZA was a lot more laid-back," Martinez said. "In the Prince world, you have to know the music inside and out. You have to be prepared to get there and have him know the music better than you; he can play your instrument better than you."
The band even incorporated a few of the kung fu film samples (originally courtesy of Wu-Tang's RZA). "Most of them are from this series of kung fu movies called ‘Lone Wolf and Cub,' and I happened to own them on DVD," Martinez said. "I'm guessing that back when they recorded it, RZA sampled it off of VHS. I rerecorded it so that we could play it really loud at Bonnaroo."
It's not known right now whether Grupo will join GZA for future shows, but the rapper did tell the Wall Street Journal recently that he was planning to rerecord "Liquid Swords" with live bands, dubbing it "Liquid Swords 1.5."
Just announce the whole lineup already. The Head and the Heart, Lagwagon and Rakim will join Baroness, Atlas Sound, Black Moth Super Rainbow and Star(expletive) at this year's Fun Fun Fun Fest. The festival announced the acts Friday morning with another YouTube clip, this time featuring spandex-clad dancers from the 1980s.
Seattle folk band the Head and the Heart are no strangers to Austin. They played the Austin City Limits Music Festival last year and returned earlier this month for a pair of sold-out shows at Stubb's. Rapper Rakim makes up for canceling his appearance at last year's Fun Fun Fun Fest.
Benefit concerts. Austin musician and teacher Ryan Noriega, 28, is battling inoperable cancer that has metastasized to his spine. Hello Wheels, Glow in the Sun, Chinaski and Halaska will play a benefit Wednesday at the Parish. Music starts at 9 p.m.; tickets are $5.
Tom Carter of Charalambides was hospitalized with pneumonia earlier this month while on tour in Berlin and remains in intensive care with serious complications. Record label Volcanic Tongue has established a fund to help Carter and his family deal with the financial burden of his treatment. Visit volcanictongue.com/tomcarterappeal for more information.
In brief: Spoon frontman Britt Daniel's new band, Divine Fits, released a single, "My Love is Real." You have to "like" the band on Facebook if you want to listen. ... Austin's C3 Presents is producing the Starry Night Music and Arts Festival in Bowling Green, Ky. ... Jackson Browne will play Bass Concert Hall Nov. 8. ... Tallest Man on Earth plays the Paramount Aug. 28. ... Jerry Jeff Walker will perform at a fundraiser for President Barack Obama on July 17 at Austin Music Hall.
Contact Peter Mongillo at email@example.com