Alejandro Escovedo, who had the unenviable task of playing before Jeff Tweedy, is cooler than all of us. That's a simple, unassailable fact - and not just because he sported a long-sleeved jacket, as if to spite the humid late-afternoon air. He and his backing band (known as "the Sensitive Boys") kicked out the jams for an hour, for one of LouFest's unquestionable highlights.
The set opened with "Always a Friend" - a Springsteen-caliber bar-rock tune from 2008's Real Animal - and followed it up with a howling, gang-vocal-strewn new song, "This Bed Is Getting Crowded." Escovedo's honky-tonk, roadhouse blues, Spanish and twang-rock influences are well-known, but he's also held on fiercely to his punk roots. At LouFest, he often came across like Iggy Pop -- if the latter cut his teeth in Texas instead of Michigan. "Tender Heart" in particular screamed Stooges - from the flailing riffs down to the scabrous exhortation, "Do you want to be in my dream?"
The latter two songs hail from Escovedo's latest (excellent) LP, Street Songs of Love, an album few 59-year-olds would have the desire - or ability - to make. And as much as Escovedo flips the bird at old age, his wise perspective makes his art that much denser. He introduced a new ballad written for his son, who's eighteen, loves hip-hop and graffiti and has a synth/drum band where he screams about "how bad of a father" Escovedo has been. A few years ago, the musician said he asked his kid's opinion of his music, and the response was: "It's old man's music." So cue "Down in the Bowery," an acoustic-driven tune where Escovedo spells out what he hopes for his son in the future.
The affecting mood continued as the set veered into mellower, quieter territory for "Rosalie" - an epistolary romance brimming with Spanish-music influence and lovely sentiments. Escovedo plucked out evocative melodies on his guitar in the golden afternoon sun; the moment was blissful and perfect.
His crack band, which hailed from all over the South -- from Birmingham, Alabama, to Houston, Texas -- aided and abetted Escovedo's cause when he stirred up the hornet's nest again for the remainder of his time on stage. "Chelsea Hotel '78" began with a noise breakdown and decayed into bended guitar booms and Escovedo throwing his entire body into rocking out, while the groove-laden "Castanets" spurned the crowd into a sing-along of the money lyrics: "I like her better when she walks away."