No matter if it’s presented quiet and acoustic or electric and ear-piercing, Alejandro Escovedo’s music is visceral.
A poet from Texas and punk rocker from San Francisco, Escovedo appeared before a seated Crystal Bay Casino crowd Oct. 11, in a stripped-down performance. He played his old acoustic guitars, and was accompanied by cello player Matt Fish.
When he introduced himself to a small but appreciative audience, Escovedo said he used to live in a songwriters’ town, Austin, Texas.
“It’s an oasis of blue in a sea of red,” said Escovedo, who is outspoken about politics. He lamented that Austin has grown so much and is now so expensive, he had to move away. “I blame myself for telling everybody how great it is.”
Escovedo is a powerful lyricist in the vein of fellow Texans Steve Earle, Stephen Bruton, Robert Earl Keen and Californian Dave Alvin.
Escovedo opened with “Bottom of the World,” which he wrote with Chuck Prophet, and toward the end of the night played “Always a Friend,” which he has performed with Bruce Springsteen. During the 90-minute, set he sang many of his emotionally charged, yet softly played tunes such as “Sally Was A Cop” and “I Was Drunk.”
When he lived in San Francisco’s North Beach, Escovedo was a guitarist in the Nuns. Later in the 1980s, he melded punk and country with the band Rank & File. Upon moving back to Texas, his band was the True Believers, which reveled in all styles of music. His solo recording career began in the early 1990s.
Escovedo nearly lost his life in 2003 because of an illness, and he had huge medical expenses. Thirty two artists covered Escovedo’s songs on a double-CD to help pay the bills.
Now healthy and on top of his game, Escovedo pulled out a black electric guitar for just one song during the Lake Tahoe performance.
“It’s a sleepy Sunday night somewhere, not here,” he smiled before tearing into a distorted, punky rendition of “Everybody Loves Me.”
Fish’s bow was frayed by the end of the song, and the audience, which had previously leaned on the edges of the seats to catch each word, sat back, ears ringing from the rhythmic power chords.
It was a musical combination to savor.