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Luminaria rocks with Ashlee Rose Band, Krayolas, Young Generation and Mojoe

Greg M. Schwartz
gschwartz@sacurrent.com

Hats off to the Luminaria organizers for coming through with a musical lineup that matched the rest of the arts fare going on downtown on Saturday night. There was quite a variety of high quality, homegrown musical entertainment on display, and at some scenic stage locales as well. Some of the music came from a teenage demographic, demonstrating that the San Antonio music scene could well indeed be poised for that often talked of yet still overdue resurgence.

The Ashlee Rose Band hit the Convention Center Stage at 7:25 p.m. and rocked out with a classic rock vibe powered by the voice of the19-year-old Rose. With a voice somewhat reminiscent of a young Sheryl Crow, Rose also rocks out on rhythm guitar and brings a presence to the stage that belies her true age. She and bassist Katherine Dawn rocked with a visible chemistry, revealing influences from Led Zep and the Beatles to Courtney Love and Ryan Adams.

The high-octane “Ride With Me” was an early highlight, as Rose captivated with her soulful voice and hard rocking guitar work. A variety of melodic rock tunes followed, with Rose commanding the stage like a seasoned pro. A cover of Hole’s “Celebrity Skin” revealed some impressive alt-rock influence, while the bluesy “Save My Soul” had a gritty, old school flavor with Dawn laying down a heavy low end.  “Live it Up” brought the energy back up with another electrifying rocker, as Rose continued to demonstrate her wide range.

The only drawback in the set was the trio’s lack of a keyboardist or lead guitarist to help push the music to the next level. But Rose’s songwriting and vocals are clearly ready for prime time. Local club owners are apparently throwing away money by not booking this gal just because of her under-21 age. What’s up with that? Derek Trucks was jamming with the Allman Brothers Band when he was 12, so it’s not like there’s no precedent  for younger musicians in rock 'n' roll.

I wandered over to the Ticket Sports Pub on Houston Street to catch some of the Spurs-Rockets game, as well as the Big East Championship game. A full house cheered on the Spurs as they pulled out a tight game against the rival Rockets. National pundits have all but handed the Western Conference title to the Lakers, but the Spurs certainly won’t give up without a fight, which should make for some interesting playoffs. If the Spurs can hang onto the second seed in the West, anything can happen.

Louisville seemed to be pulling ahead of Syracuse and I then decided that it was time to get back out and see some more music (condolences to the UTSA Roadrunners, who looked like they might join March Madness today, only to fall to Stephen F. Austin in the Southland Conference title game.)

I had heard good things about the Krayolas and figured I better check 'em out, and was glad I did. Right in the center of downtown, the Torch of Friendship Stage offered a spectacular setting with lasers shining off the Hilton and lights shining all over the torch sculpture. The Krayolas were rocking out with a highly groovy and swinging sound, and it seemed a mystery as to why 90 percent of the crowd was just standing there when such tasty tunes were being played. The band’s upbeat vibe made it easy to see why they were once dubbed “the Tex-Mex Beatles.”

Lead vocalist/guitarist Hector Saldana and his mates appeared to be having a great time, with the whole band in high spirits. The saxophone of Louis Bustos and trumpet of Al Gomez added an extra air of festivity to the proceedings, and it was only a shame that the band didn’t get to play a little longer.

The laser show that followed seemed a bit underwhelming, but thank goodness for that in retrospect or I might not have wandered down to the HemisFair Stage to check out what was happening there. Little did I realize that I was about to witness not just the performance of the night, but a dazzling display of such stunning depth and power that it’s caused me to significantly upgrade my assessment of the entire local music scene.

Behold San Antonio, for I have seen the future of rock and it is the Young Generation. Led by 15-year-old vocalist/lead guitarist John Trevino and his 16-year-old brother Joe Trevino on drums, the quartet threw down one hard-hitting rocker after another with face-melting guitar solos on every tune from John and a percussion fury from Joe that recalled no less than masters such as John Bonham and Lars Ulrich.

But unlike so many dime-a-dozen hard rock groups, Young Generation has an extra dose of charisma coming from the other half of the band in the form of 16-year-old Jordan Gutierrez on rhythm guitar and 13-year-old Nayeli Lopez on bass. Gutierrez has got rock star written all over her, oozing coolness at all times almost like a female Keith Richards, as she maintains her parts on some fairly complex arrangements. Lopez blows your mind by holding down a rock solid low end despite appearing at first glance like someone more likely to be playing with dolls than playing bass for one of San Antonio’s hardest rocking bands.

With a young group like this, you might expect that the songwriting would lag a bit behind the chops, but you would be dead wrong. The tight arrangements and soulful vocal melodies put to shame much of what passes for modern rock from musicians who are 10-15 years older. Someone should call MTV, because a show about these kids pursuing their rock ‘n’ roll dreams would seem to be a surefire winner.

The band’s overall sound is based in hard rock and metal, with influences from groups such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, Deep Purple, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Queensryche and more. The way these kids pull off one tight, progressive arrangement after another is simply stunning, considering their age. But there’s also a bluesy classic rock influence underneath which demonstrates that, unlike most of their peers, Young Generation have an appreciation for where hard rock grew from in the first place.

The band threw down a smoking rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” in the middle of their set, and then closed the show with Jimi’s “Little Wing,” as well as seguing into a cosmic jam on “Third Stone From the Sun.” John Trevino even played his Stratocaster behind his neck, not that he needed to resort to showy antics to blow your mind with his amazing chops. But as impressive as the Hendrix covers were, the band's original material is even more so.

The term “old soul” would seem to have been coined for John Trevino, with both his soulful vocals and dazzling guitar skills suggesting the talent and persona of someone far beyond his years. He must surely thank the Music Gods every day for giving him such an amazing drummer to play with in brother Joe, because having that that kind of tight percussion to work off of is every guitarist’s dream. The chemistry provided by Gutierrez and Lopez is surely another blessing, as there are way too few women in rock who actually really rock. These gals on the other hand are no mere pretty faces, but are rather bringing some serious musical heat.

If the band is this good now, it’s mind boggling to think of where they might be a few years down the road. San Antonio hard rockers had better beware, because seeing this band might make you feel like hanging it up. The Young Generation is setting an extremely high bar.

The Washington Times recently wrote an article suggesting five ways that jam rock kings Phish could help boost the economy now that they’ve returned from a five-year retirement. One of the items suggested was becoming a publicly traded entity. I’d love to buy some stock in Phish, but I’d also love to buy some stock in the Young Generation, because my crystal ball tells me these kids could well be one of the biggest bands on the planet in about five years or so. Stay tuned for more from the Current on these young phenoms soon…

Luminaria had it really going on because the fun still wasn’t over yet, as Mojoe were rocking it back at the Convention Center Stage in the 11 p.m. hour. No mere rappers with just two turntables and a microphone, Mojoe brings a whole band to the party, taking their music to a higher level than most of their instrumentally challenged peers in the hip hop scene can imagine.

The band was playing a highly funky number that had the crowd dancing, before wrapping it up with a softer R&B flavored number they said was the first they’d written. I wished I had caught some more of the set.

I only caught the last couple minutes of the Henry Brun Orchestra, but they seemed to have a jazzy flair going on that suited the downtown festival vibe well. The Luminaria-closing fireworks show put a stylish end on the evening, with a barrage set to the tune of numbers like “Get Down Tonight” and “Play That Funky Music.”

It’s clear now that the San Antonio music scene has got more talent than just what we’re seeing in the clubs, so let’s hope there’s some more opportunities coming up for the under-21 crowd to strut their stuff.

Posted by Gschwartz on 3/15/2009 11:14:08 PM
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