Then the circus came to town

Why roots-rocker Alejandro Escovedo bailed on Austin

Alejandro Escovedo remembers when South by Southwest was “innocent and cool,” back before “the circus came to town.”
  • Alejandro Escovedo remembers when South by Southwest was “innocent and cool,” back before “the circus came to town.”

Roots-rocker Alejandro Escovedo jumped ship from his longtime base of Austin, Texas, to what would be considered a less-hip locale — Dallas. So, is this the Lone Star State version of ditching San Diego for L.A.?

“Austin is more like Los Angeles now, so I would say that it was the opposite,” Escovedo explains. “Austin has gotten overpopulated and invaded by a lot of people from other places. I’m not saying it’s not a great city — it still is a great town. It’s just very expensive for artists to live there. I think that it just has a quality now that I really don’t care for.”

"Heartbeat Smile"

...by Alejandro Escovedo

...by Alejandro Escovedo

Escovedo would know, since he had lived in Austin since the ’80s. He reminisces about the early days of the South by Southwest festival, back when the events were “innocent and cool” and more geared toward the region. Back before “the circus came to town.”

“It started organically. It started in small clubs and different little venues. Wherever people could set up amps and stuff they’d play. There were a lot of backyard parties and barbecues. It was still very old-school Austin, so it was very different,” he concludes.

At 66, Escovedo is still touring full-tilt, a lifestyle made easier by ridding his body of the hepatitis C virus a couple years back. As a result, shows are easier to tackle than they have been in a decade. He has two bands at his disposal to back him for tours these days. The first is the crew that will join him at the Belly Up show on Monday, February 20, which includes the Dream Syndicate’s Jason Victor on guitar. The second is the Portland-based collective that backed him on his most recent album, Burn Something Beautiful. That band is anchored by two vets from REM and the Minus 5, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey.

Past Event

Alejandro Escovedo

  • Monday, February 20, 2017, 8 p.m.
  • Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach

“About four years ago, after the release of my previous album, Big Station, I was talking about doing a record with Los Lobos. Scheduling became a drag, so I went on tour with Peter Buck and his band, and that’s when we really just started to gel and talk about songs and writing songs together. That’s what began the process for writing the album Burn Something Beautiful. I chose them, basically, because of the way they made records and the sound that they get from those records. I wanted something that was a lot more raw in production than I had had previously,” Escovedo says.

Since he’s played somewhere in the ballpark of a gazillion shows, it was a treat to hear Escovedo giving a shout-out to the old San Diego Street Scene festivals (original Gaslamp location) as being especially joyous.

“We have a live recording that ended up on a European record from one of those shows. I’ve always had great times in San Diego,” he says.

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