On the Fais Do Do Stage during the 2014 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Alejandro Escovedo — in an ink-black suit tailored razor-sharp — was like a lean slice of nighttime that had found its way into a sunny afternoon.
That set was rumbling roots-punk guitar gunslinging at its most fierce and hip, and the follow-up, in the House of Blues’ Parish room later the same night, was more of the same.
After a long afternoon sweating on a festival stage, the 60-something Escovedo still bristled with energy.
Escovedo performs at 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, at Chickie Wah Wah.
Cool cats get nine lives. Ticking it off on your fingers, it seems as if the Texas songwriter must have cycled through all of those and then some.
Growing up in a large family in 1950s San Antonio, he soaked in multiple sounds: Cuban jazz and Mexican ballads, blues and R&B and country and, of course, the dawn of rock ’n’ roll.
His family moved West while Escovedo was still very young, and it was there that he tuned into soul music, surf, Chicano rock ’n’ roll from California bands like Thee Midnighters, and rough-edged garage rock.
In the early days of punk rock, three Escovedo brothers each formed bands.
Alejandro’s was the Nuns, an early mainstay of the scene at the Mabuhay Gardens, a San Francisco analog to CBGB’s.
The Nuns were formed, Escovedo has said, as part of a film project about “the worst band in the world”; in 1978, the band wound up on the bill at the Winterland Ballroom for what would be the Sex Pistols’ final gig.
Escovedo wound up back in Texas in the 1980s.
It was a fertile time and place for independent music, and his next bands were at the forefront of a wave of acts melding country, in various combinations and permutations, with the raw buzz and bluster of punk rock.
Since the ’90s, though he’s been a frequent collaborator and side-project tinkerer, he’s remained mostly a solo artist in that Americana vein — an umbrella big enough to hold his sharp, articulate and often intimate songwriting, with all its Texas-sized swagger and bite.
And always, whether his act is in its full gang incarnation — unleashing guitar squall and stomp — or in a quieter mode, Escovedo is effortlessly, exceptionally cool.