Alejandro Escovedo at Antoneâ€™s 10/19/07
From my previous visit to Antoneâ€™s, at itâ€™s 32nd Anniversary Show, I was more ready for how the club would feel and change as showtime neared, how the tall dark ceiling would fade like night sky for the stars on stage, how the music downstairs in the warehouse hall would envelope the whispers and laughter and quick quips potential lovers passed to one another. The sound, when the band began, would wrap me like thick rich bubble wrap, the kind with nice sized captured air protecting a prized painting, so well wrapped all Iâ€™d have to do was listen, then let my body be moved.
When Alejandro and his band took the stage all they had to do by then was deliver.
Tight. Three guitars, including Alejandroâ€™s. Tall bassist fully into it. Lead guitar, tight interplay. Hard driving tightly connected drummer. Tight, wound smooth whipping to snap stops and pulled volumes, the sounds rising pull-snapped pulled softly out again. Very tight. Arms, heads of all three guitarists yanking their chords with one mind, the drummer seamless with them. One heart beat in this band. These were musicians playing rock and roll.
San Antonio born, musician raised, Alejandro thrust his Indian niched Mexican-American face upward into the dark club air and an aching undertone chased the clear arching voice searching for an unseen moon in the wilderness of his audience.
Alejandroâ€™s music is complex but straight forward, like a moving snapshot of a coastal cloudscape. Not the often clear rapid cloud passing of a Galveston set apart from the land, but more the built up clearing streaming banking sudden thunder-storming sky of Houston. Maybe his growing up years in California, companions of his early moods, helped shape the fluidity of his style. I was reminded of the sudden cracks of thunder from a thunderhead thatâ€™d sneak up behind the tree lines on a white-puffy day clear with distant patches of blue; reminded of the electric-light-switch turn-on of a sudden soft rain fading clearing into the high clear sky of summer. Fluid in the tight shifts of sound.
The cocktail waitress asked if I wanted another, â€œWith an extra shot of whiskey?â€ she asked with a smile. â€œYes!â€ then reluctantly I added, â€œYes, but with a touch more coke.â€ Could I still be cool, agedly so? She graciously nodded promptly without hesitation, Sheilaâ€™s eyes smiled at me from her quietly lowered expression. I was cool.
I hadnâ€™t been familiar with Alejandroâ€™s music before knowing weâ€™d be coming to see him, though both my youngest daughter and son frequently mentioned him as a favorite. So I cheat-sheeted him via a dvrâ€™d Austin City Limits session Iâ€™d spotted on the schedule plus a quick visit to his website. Much like this Fridayâ€™s performance, he had streaked through his set in that coastal sky kinda way, fluid tight formations; with strings added that at first Iâ€™d thought would be the usual â€œniceâ€ symphonic touch, but ended gliding pounding into pure rock and roll. The innovators of music hundreds of years ago, themselves stretching what violins and cellos could do back then, I bet, wouldâ€™ve smiled.
The live performance tonight though demanded, and produced, a heavier mix of strong driving beats; the clearer stronger arching voice became a mainstay; and the grand interplay between Alejandro and each of his band mates matched the best of that I saw on Austin City Limits.
Only during a haunting guitar interplay with his lead guitarist did the stronger mix shift. Recalling the opening vocals when he reached out with his voice, like a wolf questioning the moon, playing almost acoustically, plucking notes on the strings reminiscent of Pepe Romeroâ€™s classical guitar genius, the two conjured images of hot Spanish afternoons, languid, with an ache that seems to pervade the Hispanic soul at quiet times – que triste – how sad, how contemplatively sad; punctuated with passion bursts of strumming only to settle again: cloud-swirls, kicked up by passing winds and sudden overhead rains, leaving the dust to re-settle, lazily, lamentably, almost sadly, to the earth again. Beautiful.
A golden glitter caught my eye; I hadnâ€™t touched my drink for several songs. Sheila and I decide to share it and order â€œone moreâ€¦with a little more coke please.â€ We nurse the new drink through the return of the harder driving songs to the finish. The interplay and tight stops and rhythmic slow downs thatâ€™d swell back to full rushing force are tighter now, more intense, the drum sticks flashing in the dark behind the band like heat lightening.
There was no doubt theyâ€™d have to return for an encore. No one was leaving, not even kinda. No oneâ€™d even looked around to see if anyone else had left. The bandâ€™s final 3-4 songs (I donâ€™t remember how many, they melted into each other like gears in a finely tuned car) grabbed everyone listening, driving us straight to the night – all 3 guitars semi-circled the drummer, revved their sounds into one avalanche ball, and finished, spinning on a thin silver dime of time.
It was done.
Ladies leaned over the ropes as the band left the stage stealing tight quick embraces while guys stretched out a hand knowing itâ€™d be welcome.
They made their way to the back of the club and up the stairs where we and 15 or so others sat mesmerized, quiet as a sermon for one brief bleary moment, til applause and smiles bragged big across the small space as the band passed through the green room door.
A trace of the night remained in our drink on the table. Weâ€™d done well going to Antoneâ€™s. Full of sounds from Alejandro and his band. We didnâ€™t need more. Weâ€™d knew weâ€™d be back for more music, another Bulleit, another night.