True Believers at Warehouse Live, 5/25/2013
"We were a gang," espoused the True Believers' Alejandro Escovedo in a recent interview about the band's heyday in the mid 1980s. The band's home turf was the hotly contested streets of the former Cosmic Cowboy utopia of Austin, but their range extended to the washed-out bayous and sprawling metropolis of the mostly forgotten blues/folk haven that was Houston.
They were denim/leather-clad miscreants, who crawled out of the punk-rock rubble to help define the up-and-coming cowpunk movement with a bare-knuckled three-guitar assault. The band was set to be the "next big thing" to come out of Texas, and then it all came down... or so the legend goes.
Before Saturday, the True Believers had not set foot in Houston with Javier Escovedo since 2002, when they briefly reunited for Austin music merchant Waterloo Records' 20th anniversary and a one-off show here at the Continental Club. This weekend's Warehouse Live Studio gig would mark the first time all five original members had played together here since their much-lauded shows at old haunts like the Ale House, legendary gigs where one spectator noted, "You didn't hear the music -- you felt it through your bones and skull."
I once read that legend is "a lie that has obtained the dignity of age" Luckily for all in attendance this past Saturday, that would not be the case.
The hard-charging Troobs wasted little time, opening with a buzzsaw version of "The Rebel Kind," an adopted biographical anthem about taking the long road filled with heartache and hardship to be able to "make it" on your own terms. Not a surprising narrative considering the punk-rock pedigree that each member shares, but there was seemingly something different about this version of that song and this band.
It was something that would become even more evident in Jon Dee Graham's gravelly-throated growl in songs like "Lucky Moon" and "One Moment to Another"; this was no longer a band struggling to make their way. They've been through it all and have etched their place into the musical lexicon. These days, when Alejandro Escovedo croons "I know one day we're gonna leave this all behind/ We'll be free to run with the rebel kind" it's with a knowing gleam in his eye and a satisfied mind.