Last-minute shows can go one of two ways, usually not for the better. But after scheduling an appearance at a San Antonio festival on October 6, Paco Estrada decided to make a stop in Austin on the 5th to play a relatively rare show in the Live Music Capital.
So...Paco Estrada at Darwin's Pub? Darwin's is more of a cover-band fueled party bar on 6th Street than than a quality listening room. So as Paco took the stage with just his acoustic guitar and a drummer playing a scaled-down kit, you couldn't help but notice the distractions: a full table in front of stage right watching the Rangers/Orioles play-in wildcard game, the wide-open floor-to-ceiling windows letting in 6th Street's Friday night cacophony, and the club's own sound system still playing Lit's "My Own Worst Enemy." Darwin's Pub won't be mistaken for the Cactus Cafe anytime soon.
But those who know Paco know that his voice conquers all, despite most any odds. His mid-range vocal brightness cut through a fire engine siren passing by the bar's open windows—twice. And Paco's fans found their way to the club, the crowd growing steadily throughout his hour-and-half show.
Mostly because of the vibe of the crowd and venue, Estrada mixed-up the set with a combination of covers, originals, and then some originals with covers deftly incorporated within their melodies. It was during a slow-tempoed original that the audience slowly picked up on the lyrics of, what? Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun"? Yeah, that was it. Later in the set was another mellow interpretation, this time Paco brilliantly transformed of Prince's "Kiss" into a performance all his own.
Paco played songs from throughout his career—from his days fronting the DFW powerhouse, South FM, to several from his most recent solo release, the definite and indefinite... integrals of logarithmic and exponential functions.
The jaw dropping moment of the night came from an audience request. Paco transformed the piano-driven single from South FM's Swallowing the Pill, "Blue & Grey," into a magnificent, sparse guitar/vocal/percussion arrangement. As he sang, the sounds from the street ceased. The hits of the 90's stopped flowing from the house's iPod. And those who hadn't yet been drawn from baseball collectively dropped their jaws at what was transpiring onstage.
and I've spent all this life, I'll carry the burden of a beaten wife
raped and bruised and battered by the hurt not seen
you've got to be strong and proud
don't let the loss of dignity get you down
you're more then just the flower in the field he found
silence can't overcome with a truth so loud
Paco silenced Sixth Street's roar with "Blue & Grey." During the last half of his set, in particular, he transformed a raucous party bar into an intimate listening room. Estrada is brilliant—the type of singer who can please a crowd by singing the phone book.
Even as he and his drummer began their set Friday night, they seemed understandably skeptical that they would be a hit that evening. But by night's end, Paco had left another indelible mark in the musical conscience of his long-time fans, along with a handful of West Virginia Mountaineers fans who were innocently just looking for a place to party.