Alejandro Escovedo's SXSW Closing
Alejandro Escovedo, Penetration, Cheetah Chrome, Rosie Flores, Bobby Bare, Barfield, Peter Buck, and True Believers
Reviewed by Tim Stegall, Fri., March 22, 2013
Alejandro Escovedo's SXSW ClosingContinental Club, March 17
South by Southwest tradition dictates a closing extravaganza by Alejandro Escovedo at the Continental Club. Begun at 1pm, this outing may have been the granddaddy of them all. Your humble correspondent showed four hours later, personally greeted by Escovedo in a snakeskin jacket only he could pull off. "I don't mess around," he chuckled. Less than an hour later he fronted Penetration, his solo band, with Dead Boys legend Cheetah Chrome on lead guitar crunching out five sloppy-but-tough Stooges covers. The frontman shouted through a Green Bullet harmonica mic, while Chris Searles inhabited Scott Asheton's tribal groove drumming, and Cheetah Chrome proved that only he could stand in for James Williamson. Fun, rather than "No Fun." Afterward, Rosie Flores showed everyone how to play guitar, and Willie Nile offered a taut fusion of tough bar band rock with literate songwriting and a cover of Jim Carroll's "People Who Died." Classic country legend Bobby Bare Sr. offered a bridge to a better era of country music by mixing fine renderings of his classics "Detroit City" and "Marie Laveau" with folk classics, including "Tom Dooley" from his new Darker Than Life: "All them old folk songs are like that," he joked. "Some guy stabs some old gal, buries her in the woods, then they hang him." Barfield's mix of a cowboy (straw Stetson, gingham pearl snap shirt, sideburns) fronting a James Brown unit is mind-blowing. Austin has truly birthed the new Wayne Cochran! R.E.M.'s Peter Buck reassembled the Young Fresh Fellows for his new Peter Buck Group, offering self-described "garage rock meets free jazz"; Mike Mills added bass and vocals on "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville." Zero Dark Thirty: the classic True Believers lineup, reunited for good and ferocious, breathing fire better than in their heyday. You couldn't ask for a better ending.