Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Mar 16th 2010 11:30AM by Joshua Ostroff
Austin may not always be quite as music crazy as it is during SXSW ("You're getting taken out on a very special date, y'know?") but the multitudinous music venues do brisk business all year long. The youthful University of Texas -- paired with the old hippie contingent that gave the city its "Keep Austin Weird" slogan -- has enabled an otherwise bureaucratic city to stake its claim as the live music capital of the world.
"It seemed like when I first got here the majority of the population was musicians. Austin is one of those places where the guy behind the bar probably plays way better than the guy on the stage. Guitars players are everywhere, songwriters are everywhere," Escovedo tells Spinner.
"The difference between Nashville, LA and New York and Austin -- especially Nashville and Austin -- is that Austin has always been more experimental. A guy like Townes Van Zandt can play there. And we had great punk rock bands like the Big Boys and the Dicks and then we had Lucinda Williams singing on the street.
"It's not the kind of place where you can be some bullsh-- rock star. You really have to play and you really have to perform and you really have to be good. They don't tolerate pretension."
Times do change, though. Just as SXSW has grown ever bigger and more corporate over the years, so has the city itself, especially after the success of Dell computers sparked a tech boom. "It was a lot punkier," Escovedo recalls. "There were a lot less people. It wasn't geared towards the upper-middle-class hipster. The Austin I knew is pretty much gone. The Continental Club is really one of the last places."
"Austin's a very special place," he reiterates. "I'm not trying to judge it on any level of whether that's good or bad. I prefer the old way, but it's a good place to be and a great place to come home to."
If SXSW visitors want to revisit those good ol' days, Spinner suggests you hang around an extra day and check out the annual Alejandro Escovedo & Friends closing party at the historic Continental up on South Congress. Escovedo and a rotating cast of performers bash out every genre of music you can imagine over the course of many sweat-soaked and beer-drenched hours.
"They started originally at La Zona Rose a long time ago, probably at the end of the very first South-by-Southwest. I remember the very first one we did, it was the REM guys and some other guys we knew. It was so informal it wasn't really like performing so much as sitting around playing. We tried to do it year after year on Sunday night and it got bigger and bigger."
Following sets by Canadian ex-pat (and ex-Big Sugar frontman) Grady, Finnish rocker (and former Hanoi Rocks singer) Michael Monroe, New York legend (and Patti Smith collaborator) Lenny Kaye and San Fran stalwart Chuck Prophet, we can expect Escovedo will let loose with some new tunes from his just finished album, recorded with famed David Bowie producer Tony Visconti and due out June 29.
"I think it's gonna be called 'Love and the Tangled Tale,' and it's a rock 'n' roll record -- no strings, just guitar bass and drums. It's a departure for me, but I love it."