The coolest band in Houston this weekend couldn't find a club or venue to play. Not at night, anyway - San Antonio's the Krayolas did manage to play Dan Electro's during Saturday afternoon's live broadcast of KPFT's Joe's Roadhouse, and Cactus Music an hour or two thereafter. If you have any idea who Joe "King" Carrasco is - the Dumas-born rocker who fooled MTV and Stiff Records into thinking his Tex-Mex party music was New Wave in the early '80s - you would have loved the Krayolas. Born on the West side of San Antonio, the band's congenial melding of rock and roll, norteno and honky-tonk is still muy popular from Matagorda County to Monterrey. In the Krayolas' playbook, the three most important songwriters in Texas are still Alejandro Escovedo, Doug Sahm and Bob Dylan.
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That's why a band that hadn't played Houston since the mid-'80s - for reasons known only to them and, it sounds like, the Harris County Sheriff's Department - reintroduced itself by opening with a simmering snipped of Escovedo's "Always a Friend," and seasoned its already savory set with Sahm's textbook example of Westside country soul, "It's Gonna Be Easy," and a free 'n' easy verson of Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," heavy on the jazz trumpet and sweet sax of the West Side Horns. Krayolas originals such as zippy breakout late-'70s single "All I Can Do Is Try" and the Little Steven-endorsed "Catherine" were just as energetic, the product of San Antonio boys listening to, alongside all that Sir Doug, an awful lot of British power-pop and pub-rock (Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe) in their formative years. The song that's gotten them noticed lately, "Corrido (Twelve Heads in a Bag)" is a border-cantina waltz whose lively rhythms masks its unsettling subject matter.
To Cactus owner Quinn Bishop, the Krayolas are a South Texas spin on well-regarded New Wave acts like the Plimsouls. Bishop had a point - singer and guitarist Hector Saldana and Plimsouls frontman Peter Case could be musical twins - but Bishop wasn't buying The Basement Tapes Saturday afternoon, either. Like that oft-bootlegged but only recently released Dylan/The Band double album, the Krayolas are an artifact of an earlier, perhaps simpler time period whose songs and spirit remain as potent and promising today. Hopefully, when the band comes back in the fall, that will be enough for somebody to book them a show that starts when it's actually dark outside.