Alejandro Escovedo Cancels 2014 Tour
What you're reading was supposed to be an interview with Alejandro Escovedo, but things don't always work out the way you plan. Not more than two hours before I was set to meet Escovedo, an email dropped into my box noting that both that evening's show and our interview were canceled.
This is fairly common. Artists get busy, schedules change. Sometimes shows get canceled for other reasons, too: low sales, illness, a 'Punky Brewster' marathon on TV Land.
I tried to push illness out of my mind. Back in 2003, we almost lost Escovedo to hepatitis-c. It took a couple of years to clear him of the disease, during which time the fundraiser album 'Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo' was released.
He came back strong, though, releasing 'The Boxing Mirror' in 2006. Produced by John Cale, the album is a challenging listen, dark and cathartic. The guy had been through a lot, and that came through in the music.
Listening to that cut again rather than his more recent music puts me in the mind of Escovedo's punk roots. He couldn't even play guitar when he took up with the Nuns in the mid-'70s -- but that was the point. The band wasn't really a band, but rather a film project about a band that couldn't play their instruments.
That may have been how they started, but the Nuns became one of the first American punk bands, gigging around San Francisco. They opened for the Ramones, sold out their own shows, and even opened for the Sex Pistols at their legendary last show at the Cow Palace.
Escovedo later commented that this wasn't so much a show as a spectacle, and it was his first experience with music as an industry. His back stage brushes with Pistols manager Malcolm McClaren left him so disenchanted that he stopped buying records for a while after that gig.
The Nuns soldiered on, even after Escovedo left the band in '79 when he decided to stay in New York City after an eastern tour. He moved into the Chelsea Hotel, the now legendary funky, inexpensive home to numerous artists and musicians.
From there it was back to his birthplace, Austin, Texas. There he hooked up with the Kinman brothers from the Dils and formed Rank and File, the prototype for cowpunk:
Hugely influential rarely equates to commercial successful, it seems.
Rank and File were hugely influential. By the mid-'80s, a roots revival movement was in full swing, with bands like Lone Justice, the BoDeans, the Del Fuegos, and Jason and the Scorchers leading the charge. "Hugely influential" rarely equates to commercially successful, it seems.
Next up were the True Believers, a dirty garage band with his brother, Javier, from the Zeros. One family shouldn't be blessed with so much musical talent, but bothers Mario and Pete also found their way into the family business, as did Pete's daughter, Sheila, who had quite a Top 40 run in the '80s as Sheila E.
The early '90s saw Escovedo facing down his forties, a decade that finds many musicians resting on laurels, or if they haven't made it (whatever that may mean), moving onto something else. But this is when Escovedo really hit his stride, releasing a string of solo albums that called upon his diverse musical influences: country, punk, traditional Mexican music, and garage rock.
With the one-off Buick MacKane, he explored his love of '70s rockers like T. Rex:
By the turn of the century, Escovedo was one of those guys who popped up all over the place. Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson, producer Tony Visconti -- the list of people with whom he's worked constitutes a role call of cool talent.
The hepatitis diagnosis put things on hold, but it didn't stop him. He's released six solo albums since coming back, and just a couple of months ago he released his first new music with a full-blown rock band since Buick MacKane. The Fauntleroys' 'Below the Pink Pony' is a tight five-song set, anchored by the shimmering 'I'm In Love With Everything':
So yeah, in short the guy has been around. The chance to not only have a sit down with Escovedo but then see him play with Pete Buck? That's a dream night for a guy like me. He's like a walking history of alternative music. His website bio was written by Lenny Kaye, for crying out loud.
I assumed the gig in my town was canceled due to ticket sales, or maybe a scheduling conflict. Maybe the bus broke down, who knows? Unfortunately, I later found this on his Facebook page:
Much to my dismay I have postponed the Peter Buck tour. I am undergoing tests to determine that there is nothing serious going on with my health. So far so good. But all concerned including doctors believe that rest and being at home is the best medicine for us right now.
So far so good is right. We wish you the best, Alejandro. Get better soon.