TUNE IN: Success is a tricky beast no matter what line of work you pursue, but in the music biz, the road to fame and fortune is even harder to navigate. Just look at Alejandro Escovedo. The San Antonio rocker has been playing professionally since the mid ’70s, first in San Francisco punk-rock act The Nuns, and then in roots-rock act the True Believers. He’s also released 14 solo records, stretching back to 1992 and ranging in styles from alt-country to Americana to the big, swingin’ guitar rock of his most recent effort, this summer’s Big Station. Over the years, Escovedo has teamed up with high-profile musicians like Ryan Adams, Chuck Prophet, and Bruce Springsteen and drawn comparisons to everyone from Tom Petty and Neil Young to Springsteen and Iggy Pop, all the while existing just under the mainstream radar.
In a lot of ways, Big Station feels like Escovedo’s triumphant return to his brazen punk-rock roots. Opening track “Man of the World” starts off with a snarling electric-guitar line and a collection of voices shouting “oh yeah” in unison. Later, “Common Mistake” mashes up a David Byrne–conjuring bass and sax combo with Escovedo’s big, low-registered bellows. And its follow-up, “Never Stood a Chance,” is a vivid mix of moody guitars and brushed drums that nicely bridges the gap between alt-country balladry and good ole-fashioned rock ’n’ roll. The result is an album that’s both a welcome evolution for longtime Escovedo fans and an inviting introduction for those who have yet to get to know him. No matter which category you fall into, though, I recommend you take the opportunity to catch Escovedo live this week. He plays Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Sunday, August 19, at 7 p.m. Call 965-8676 or visit newnoisesb.org for tickets and info.
NEWSWORTHY: If you’ve yet to hit the Santa Barbara Bowl this summer, this may be your weekend. On Friday, August 17, Cali-born songstress Colbie Caillat teams up with pop crooner Gavin DeGraw for a night of easy, breezy summertime tunes. Caillat’s sun-soaked SoCal roots and infectious songs (see hit single “Bubbly” and Jason Mraz collab “Lucky”) feel primed for a night-under-the-stars listen. Added bonus: Santa Barbara’s own Glen Phillips will open the show. And come Sunday, the Bowl plays host to blues-rock legend Joe Cocker and rock, pop, and soul dynamos Huey Lewis and the News. Cocker, a man of many “dance moves,” is touring in support of his 22nd studio album, 2010’s Hard Knocks. For more on both shows, or for tickets, call 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com.
ALSO THIS WEEK: For those of you looking for something new, I recommend swinging by SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on Sunday, August 19. There you can find cutie-pie Seattleites Ivan & Alyosha doing their musical thing. Since forming in 2007, Tim Wilson and Ryan Carbary’s duo-turned-four-piece project has been dishing up some seriously dreamy folk pop. They’ve also garnered the thumbs-up from in-the-know tastemakers like the folks at NPR. Stylistically, the band falls somewhere between fellow northwestern indie rockers The Shins and PDX folkies Blind Pilot. The songs are poignant, sometimes pained, but undeniably listenable, complete with toe-tapping percussion, catchy guitar hooks, sweetly lilting vocal harmonies, and lyrics that cheer unabashedly for love above all else. And, from a band named after Dostoevsky characters, that is one welcome surprise. Ivan & Alyosha play SOhO at 8 p.m. Call 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets and info.
And on Saturday, August 18, San Fran experimentalists Tartufi play Muddy Waters Café (508 E. Haley St.) alongside S.B. outfits The Wools and Islay Street. The all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. Call 966-9328 for info.