Editor’s Note: It is with great pleasure that we welcome Ross Scarano back to the Three Rivers Arts Festival blog to introduce you to this year’s music headliners. A Pittsburgh native and recent Pitt grad, Ross has been exploring Austin, Texas, for the past year – but you’ll find him working at the Festival come June, complete with walkie-talkie. Yes, we still use those. – Lauren
On April 9, Malcolm McLaren died. Former manager of the Sex Pistols, McLaren was one of the few remaining punk icons. With each year, the rallying cry of “punk’s not dead” becomes more sobering, a little bit sadder. Punk will never die, but many of the individuals associated with the birth of the notorious genre have gone on to explore sounds foreign to that initial burst of sneering energy. The 2010 Three Rivers Arts Festival opening night musical act, Alejandro Escovedo, former guitarist for the Nuns, a band that once upon a time opened for the Sex Pistols, exemplifies this transition.
Once a punk guitarist, now hailed as the “godfather of modern country rock,” Escovedo has the kind of winding story we seldom encounter in the Internet age of music, where bands rise to prominence in a handful of blog posts and then disappear a month later without so much as a whimper to indicate their passing.
Born in 1951 in San Antonio, TX, Escovedo came of age in a musical family. His brothers Coke and Pete both played percussion with Santana, so it came as no surprise when Alejandro, choosing the guitar over drums, jumped into the fray. Though he began his own musical career with the thoroughly punk outfit the Nuns, Escovedo embraced his birthplace by cofounding the groundbreaking cowpunk band Rank and File. For Escovedo, cowpunk evolved into alt-country, a genre whose ranks include Ryan Adams, Lucero and Steve Earle. Still, his affinity for punk continued to manifest itself in the rawness of his lyrics and in his guitar playing.
After a short-lived stint with Austin, TX band True Believers, Escovedo began his solo career in 1993, his 18th year in the music industry. Since then he has steadily accumulated acclaim while folding a variety of styles into his already crowded repertoire. His soon-to-be-released LP, Street Songs of Love, his 10th solo album, is his most stripped down effort to date. His second collaboration with renowned David Bowie producer Tony Visconti, Street Songs of Love features a guest appearance from Bruce Springsteen. Escovedo describes the album as one about “love [and] the pursuit of a feeling that is forever elusive, mysterious and addictive.” When asked about the sound, Escovedo simply called it “a rock ‘n’ roll record – no strings, just guitar, bass and drums.”
If there is one thing Alejandro Escovedo proved during his raucous closing-night performance at the 2008 Three Rivers Arts Festival, it’s that he’s no stranger to rocking hard. As Arts Festival junkies may recall, he snapped a guitar string mid-way through his first song. That sort of things happens to all guitarists during live shows–even softies like James Taylor–but with Escovedo there was the distinct impression that it was a result of sheer intensity: his fingertips sheared that string from the body of his guitar.
Simply, Alejandro Escovedo is a titan. Ask yourself: can you really justify not seeing a living legend?
7:30pm, Friday, June 4
Dollar Bank Stage at Point State Park