As a steady arm of the Texas muscial family dynasty, singer/songwriter Alejandro Escovedo has defined the native sound of the musically rich Southern state. Amid a body of work that is dense and rich, Escovedo mines a western style steeped in bar hall spirit. Now 63, he stands as a true musical American treasure with an astute storyteller-like voice.
Comparable to Midwestern cowpunk roots music we all know and love in these parts, Escovedo has long made the Twin Cities a tour stop since early in his career with Rank and File, the New Wave-y post-rockers he rolled with in the late '80s. Returning to town this weekend, Escovedo plays for the first time at the Dakota. He told Gimme Noise about assembling a Lou Reed tribute at South By Southwest this year in his hometown of Austin, and acknowledged the tragedy that shook the festival.
Gimme Noise: So I've heard great things about the Lou Reed tribute. Sounds like it was really special. I imagine it was great for you.
Alejandro Escovedo: It really was great. All the performers were amazing. The Baseball Project, Bobby Bare Jr., Suzanne Vega, Rosie Flores, the Black Lips. So many. Spandau Ballet!
Oh man, I love the Black Lips. I saw you did "Sweet Jane." Did you ever get to meet Lou Reed?
No, I never did. My only encounter with Lou Reed was when I was in Rank and File. We were on this tour and in New York and we stopped at this stop sign and there was Lou Reed standing on the corner. We learned out and asked him for directions. He helped us out, but didn't seem too happy about it. He was kind of grumpy.
How did the accident at South by Southwest affect you?
It was real tragic and just sad. I wasn't anywhere close but my brother was in that area and I know so many people here. Of course I was really worried. I was talking to a friend the other day about this, even before that happened. To me, South By Southwest has outgrown the city in a way. It's created an atmosphere that's different than what the point of it was in the first place. Lady Gaga? Shit!
It just feels like a lot of bands all over the country making nothing. Basically paying to play. No one is surprised it went the way it did. I was really lucky. I played four different shows. It was crowded and people were great at my show. There were people all day long that played everyday. Sunday at the Continental Club for me was a lot of fun.
Do you think what it does for Austin financially is good, does having SXSW benefit the music scene in Austin?
Austin has never suffered. There were ups and downs just like the rest of the country. But you can leave for a week and come back and there there's a new building. The heart of Austin is still there. But it's lost something. Austin hasn't really gained anything from it. It hasn't really helped the arts in Austin. It's always been a place for the arts and music. You can drive on a Monday after SXSW and see who's playing that next week in town and it's amazing. There's so many great acts here. All of that is here all the time. What was here when I got here is still here.
I think folks are stoked about seeing you at a more intimate kind of space like the Dakota. Will it be some of your mellower stuff? You playing solo at all?
Oh, it's a rock show. Definitely. I got a real good band going out with me. We're definitely a guitars band. A real good one.
Do you have another record coming down the pipeline?
Yeah, I think I'll make an album in 6-7 months. I think I'll do a record with Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey. I think I'll use that band. We'll produce it together. We did a tour together for about a week. Peter would do a set and then they'd back me up.
Stoked to play Minneapolis again?
I always have good memories of Minneapolis. Rank and File played some of our first shows there. First Avenue, the Fine Line is great. I even played the Zoo out there.
Alejandro Escovedo performs at the Dakota Sunday night, March 30. 7pm. Tickets available from the Dakota.