Chester County Press /By John Chambless/July 2, 2018
When Alejandro Escovedo steps onstage with his band at the Mushroom Festival on Sept. 8, it will be much more than a concert to Andrew Miller, who runs the Kennett Flash. It will be a statement of support and unity for a community that’s been a target for division and anger.
“I’m very excited about this show, because I believe this concert helps us meet our mission,” Miller said during an interview last week, before tickets went on sale. The show, he said, “is about bringing Alejandro, a renowned performer and songwriter who is also a first-generation Mexican American, to Kennett Square to play a massive agricultural festival, in a town that is 50 percent Latino.”
Escovedo’s heartfelt, sometimes autobiographical songs have attracted high-profile admirers and collaborators, including John Cale of the Velvet Underground, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey of R.E.M., Tony Visconti, Chuck Prophet and Ryan Adams. When Escovedo was critically ill with hepatitis-C, a who’s-who of musicians – from the Jayhawks to Son Volt to Steve Earle to Lucinda Williams – were part of a tribute album to raise money for his medical bills.
“Alejandro has long stressed family in his music, and that makes sense, given the size and acclaim of his own family,” Miller said. “His brothers, Pete and Coke, both played with the original Santana band. Pete’s daughter is the percussionist Shelia E, who both played with Prince and had a long solo career. Alejandro’s brother Javier formed punk bands, just as he did in the ’70s.”
The Escovedo concert, which will take place in the Special Events tent at the Mushroom Festival, is another coup for The Flash, which scored a sold-out concert by 10,000 Maniacs last year.
‘He’s a performer, a storyteller, and surrounds himself with some of the best musicians in the world,’ says promoter Andrew Miller.
“I’ve been working on confirming an artist for the 2018 Mushroom Festival probably for the past two months, in one way or another,” Miller said. “Alejandro was on my short list for 2017. Ultimately, I did submit an offer for Alejandro last year, but he ended up not being available.
“That’s what can be tricky about booking an event like this. You either need a regional act, or you are essentially throwing darts at a board. Any artist will play a show for a price, but as a fundraiser, we need to keep expenses down as much as possible. For this year, I made a wish list of about 25 artists, and had Alejandro on that list again. I looked to see what might be possible before cold-calling agents. If an artist was in California the day before, they probably can’t do Kennett the next day. Once you inquire about one artist, however, those agents will jump to suggest others.
“The New York Times had just published an article about immigration and Kennett Square, and that impacted me,” Miller said. “I really felt the need to do something that reached beyond money for the Flash. This event is an opportunity for us to do something more important than a fundraiser. So I emailed Alejandro’s management again, and I included that article. In his announcement of the show online, he made mention of the Mushroom Festival being ‘one of the important community festivals,’ and I really think he got it, and got what we wanted to do. It wasn’t about a payday.
“Alejandro already has a foothold in this area. He has history in Philadelphia, Wilmington and Arden – shows upon shows,” Miller said. “But he reaches beyond that with this concert. He goes deeper. And I totally think he gets that, and that’s why he wanted to do this.”
Miller admires Escovedo’s music and his message. “I first saw him at The North Star Bar in Philadelphia, circa 2001,” he said. “I had not heard his music until I saw him live. That show blew me away. I ended up seeing him countless more times over the years. I’ve long been turning people on to his music, often by exposing them to it live before they hear a recording. He’s a performer, a storyteller, and surrounds himself with some of the best musicians in the world.
“When Bruce Springsteen brought him out on stage with the E Street Band, a lot of people didn’t know who he was, but Bruce and his band did,” Miller said. “Countless NPR features don’t always equal widespread awareness. But I get emails from key people – phone calls and texts from people who can’t believe Alejandro is playing Kennett, with a full band. Other Philadelphia area concert producers and promoters are congratulating me on the ‘get’ and what it will mean for Kennett and the Mushroom Festival. I reached out to WXPN to have them be a part of the show, and they couldn’t agree fast enough. It’s awesome to have them involved.
“I do think it will be a successful fundraiser for The Flash, but more importantly, I think we’ve booked an artist that is going to bring something special to Kennett Square,” Miller said. “It’s a message through music of diversity and inclusion. Kinda cool stuff.”