Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Fan Under The Influence

The Hole In Wall is a bar on Guadalupe around the University of Texas' campus that quite literally is a "hole in the wall." It's also the bar where the late, legendary musician, Townes Van Zandt, played on occasion. Everytime I pass by that bar, I think about how amazing it must have been to see a legend like Van Zandt play in such a small dive. Why didn't more people go out and see him while he was alive, you might ask? Well, the simple answer to that is that legends never truly become legendary and mythical until after they die. Johnny Cash was, of course, famous in his day, but the wheels of the Johnny Cash bandwagon are about to collapse from the weight of his new found fan base since his death.

In the current internet age, however, it's nearly impossible to keep an underground superstar from being...well, underground. Yet, here in Austin, it exists. What Townes Van Zandt was to the Hole In The Wall, Alejandro Escovedo is, currently, the underground troubadour of Austin's Continental Club. And I have seen Escovedo live more than any other band or artist in Austin for the simple fact that I am relishing the moment of seeing a living legend perform in such a small, intimate setting as the Continental Club. Of course, I wouldn't go see him at all if the music weren't great, which it is, but the possibility of Escovedo obtaining mainstream success grows more and more plausible with each release and the threat of me losing "intimate" Escovedo to "mainstream" Escovedo is always in the back of my mind.

I have secretly prayed to the music gods in hopes that the popular music website - - will either not review Escovedo's new album - Real Animal - or that they will give it a really bad review so as not to "hipsterize" my little slice of heaven that is Alejandro Escovedo's residency at the Continental Club. I know that sounds incredibly petty, but those who truly worship music the way that I do will understand. The more and more you come to love something, the more snobbish you become towards it and I'm not willing to part with Escovedo just yet. He is a legend. Period.

As a kid in California, he would regularly watch The Stooges practice. In the 70's, he formed a punk band called "The Nuns" which opened up for the Sex Pistols on their infamous last show in San Francisco. He then moved on to New York City and lived in the notorious Chelsea Hotel at the time when Sid Vicious killed his then girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. From there, he made his way to Austin and adopted a more country/roots rock sound and, musically speaking, he is creating the best work of his career, aging like a fine wine. His newest album, Real Animal(which I have yet to hear), is being hailed as his best work yet, which is all the more amazing considering that he almost died five years ago of complications from Hepatitis C.

In his 57 years on this planet, Escovedo has lived a full life and he is talented enough to create a unique brand of music that expresses it. Aside from my simple-minded, selfish outlook, if anyone deserves the mainstream success that has eluded him for so long, it's Escovedo. With his new release and a concert film in the planning stages by Silence of the Lambs director, Jonathan Demme, it very well could be right around the corner. Mainstream success, however, is of little consequence to the man himself as Escovedo has said before that he has always had a soft spot in his heart for the musician's musician - artists who have lived for the music rather than the myth. Escovedo is the quintessential musician's musician and perhaps that is why he continues to dwell in the underground. As a result, we - his fans - are the beneficiaries.

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