Friday, March 7, 2008

Alejandro Escovedo - March 2nd, 2008 - Aquarelle Restaurant Francais

Alejandro Escovedo's youngest daughter and upscale Austin French eatery Aquarelle owner's daughter have something in common - both children attend Escuelita Del Alma, one of the most highly regarded daycare facilities in Austin or the surrounding area. Maybe in the country. When the beloved teacher of these two children was diagnosed with cervical cancer Alejandro and Aquarelle joined forces and did one of the things Austin does best - threw her a benefit.

At $50.00 a seat the contributor received a five star French dinner (even if it was served buffet style), an unbelievable dessert spread, and limitless free wine courtesy of a local winery. Not to mention a stellar performance from Alejandro and a back-up band that included Stephen Bruton on mandolin and guitar, Hector Munoz on percussion, and a fantastic bass player who's name I didn't catch (I've seen him play and even met him once or twice, but can't remember his name - getting old is hell).

I felt compelled to write about this because it seems like its something becoming all too rare, and perhaps dying out. Not benefits in general, which will continue to be organized for friends in need as long as there are music scenes, but benefits like this one. Rather than 8 - 10 bands in a bar or nightclub, you had a single performance by a critically acclaimed and much beloved local songwriter and performer held at a nice restaurant for a price that almost anybody could afford and was worth every penny. Alejandro can easily sell out any mid-size venue in town. You would likely spend more than $50.00 dining at Aquarelle on any given night. These people donated time, money and resources to help not a fellow uninsured musician in need, as is usually the case, but for a daycare teacher.

Obviously such an event wouldn't be economically feasible for every sick person in a city. It doesn't, however, seem outside the realm of the realistic to have similar events more frequently benefitting, say, charitable organizations or medical research groups. There are certainly enough A-list musicians in Austin, and I'm sure many other metropolitan areas, to make this possible. Maybe the tattered remains of my idealism is showing through, but as our inhumanity toward other humans continues to rise it seems one of the easier and more obvious ways to fight back. There's no reason to stop having the small benefits for ailing fellow musicians or the big ones for such things as relief for victims of natural disaster - just a way to provide a consistent, unsensationalized middle ground. I think the benefits would ultimately far outweigh the effort not only for the recipients of this largesse, but for our society as a whole. Subtle, or not so subtle, reminders of our responsibilites to one another as human beings capable of empathy and compassion not only seem like a good idea to me, but an almost urgent necessity. Bear in mind this is coming from probably the most misanthropic person you've ever come into contact with. If I can muster passion for something like this I'm willing to bet you can too.

If you're so passionate about this then why aren't you doing anything? you'd be justified in asking. Well, I think I'll probably get started on it. Having the privelege to attend the benefit I'm talking about provided some powerful inspiration.

Alejandro's performance? Outstanding. He drew heavily from his first solo release, the Stephen Bruton produced Gravity. The generally melancholic tone of his songs was complemented perfectly by roiling black clouds threatening a storm (which thankfully didn't materialize) and wind gusts that sent dead leaves spiraling around the band. He also managed to work in his two arguably biggest hits, both from A Man Under the Influence, "Rosalie" about half way through the set and an energetic rendition of "Castanets" to close things out. After a couple of minor rough moments early on the band Alejandro had assembled fell in together and shone like the professionals they are.

I think I found this all so moving because it managed to restore a tiny amount of my long faded hope that there is good to be found in people. That by itself made it worth the price of admission.


leigh said...


you're just a big softy after all. ;)

MiseryCreek said...

Yeah, just a bitter, sickly, nostalgic, misanthropic one.