The tribute show has been an unavoidable phenomenon in Kansas City in 2011. Among the individuals most responsible for this trend is Cody Wyoming. In February, he organized a tribute to Exile on Main St. A sold-out Crosstown Station crowd watched as a revolving door of more than two dozen local musicians celebrated the classic Rolling Stones album. Wyoming was also heavily involved in a live theatrical production of Pink Floyd's The Wall, held in late April at the Living Room.
For such occasions, Wyoming has assembled what is more or less a core band — he calls it the Cody Wyoming Deal. They play the songs of Texas roots-rocker Alejandro Escovedo November 10, but this isn't a tribute show. Rather, Escovedo will be at the venue, onstage, singing, front and center; the Cody Wyoming Deal will serve as his backing band. The Pitch recently spoke to Wyoming about this pretty special evening.
The Pitch: How did it happen that Alejandro Escovedo tapped you to play with him?
Wyoming: Matt Kesler, who owns Midwestern Musical Co., which is the guitar store where I am actually working as I talk to you, has been friends with Alejandro for years. And it's Matt's birthday the night after the show at 1911 Main, and he's having a party and invited Alejandro to come in for it. Anyway, Matt wanted him to play a show while he's here and told him he'd put together a band for him here. He asked Alejandro if he remembered me, and he did, so I just put together the band, which is basically the band I did The Wall and Exile on Main St. with.
How did Escovedo know you from before?
Back in the '90s, it seems like he'd play at Davey's three or four times a year. I think a lot of us here in Kansas City, and most everybody in the band, got to know him that way.
Who's in the band?
Chris Meck on guitar. I'm playing guitar. Erik Voeks is bass. Mike Stover will do steel guitar and mandolin. Paul Andrews on drums. And then we'll have some backup singers: Katie Gilchrist, Abigail Henderson, Lauren Krum.
So is everyone a fan of Escovedo's work?
Yeah, absolutely, and it's really nice that it happened to turn out that way. Pretty much everyone involved has been going to see him for years and years. So most of the stuff we're learning to play we're already pretty familiar with. We started rehearsing informally in the middle of September and have been going fairly heavy the last month preparing for it.
How did you determine what songs to play?
I basically sent Alejandro a wish list of songs that we wanted to play. And he said he was cool with all those songs but that he wanted to add eight more. So we got everything we wanted and more. The songs he wanted are mostly his newer material, which I wasn't quite as familiar with, but man, it's some good stuff.
Escovedo is one of those guys with kind of a quiet but fervent following. What do you think it is about him that inspires that?
Yeah, I know what you mean, and it's a little hard to describe. I mean, first off, he's a great writer. A good song is a good song is a good song. And the guy has just written a ton of really great songs. But he also has this indefinable quality as a performer, this ability to connect with an audience that's unlike anybody else I know. In addition to his voice and his guitar playing and his lyrics — I've always really liked his lyrics — there's just something fantastic about his delivery and presence.
He's also inspirational to me as a person. I had some health problems a few years back that took me out of the game for a while. And it happened around the same time he was battling health problems. [Escovedo contracted a severe case of hepatitis C in the middle '00s.] But he continued to write and play when he could, and then when he got better, he came back even better. He didn't let it beat him. He got back up and hit back harder than he'd hit before.