A cold Monday and a late start time didn’t stop a crowd of 500 strong from spending a crisp hour or so with the Scottish trio, who combine hip-hop and rap, tribal percussion, anthemic vocals, and warm synths for an intriguing, utterly danceable mix.
Tuscon’s Calexico visited our fair city last Thursday with a performance that traded as much on reflecting genuine human emotion as on musical talent - and given the talent of this band, that's saying something. The evening swayed from tense, throbbing numbers to mariachi-seeped dance songs, and showcased the multinational influences at work throughout the band’s long history. Known primarily for their Tejano/mariachi/Latin folk flavor, Calexico’s live show highlighted the way the band places components from multiple genres into one big stockpot and then alternates the heat from slow burn to boil.
Opening with “Epic” from the newly-minted Algiers, Calexico reminded audience members that music need not be a bombastic, screeching affair to still be able to place a firm hand on the back of your neck and make you pay attention. The song starts with a gentle yet driving guitar line and single-beat snare strike, then lead singer Joey Burns comes in and wraps his smoky voice around your shoulders with pleading, grasping lyrics. While traditional mariachi focuses on layered, tight instrumentation, Calexico unravels that construct and tucks a layer of tension under every thread, while managing to keep the framework of Mexicali music in place.
In keeping with the blueprint for the evening, the trumpet section moved to the forefront of the stage like lead singers for “Across the Wire.” While the horns were crisp and the upright bass on that track were in perfect synch with one another, the accordion was lost in the depth - fortunately, that was corrected in the songs that followed and the accordion was given its rightful place at the helm.
Are your brain, ears, and eyes still recovering from the 9:30 Club’s Matt & Kim double freak-out on Tuesday and Wednesday? Or does tension from your shitty job and the odd guy sitting too close to you on the Metro have you on edge and feeling like you need a vacation south of the border? Then slide on down to the 9:30 Club tonight for the lush desert sounds of Tuscon’s Calexico and give your body a much needed mini-break. Formed almost 20 years ago from a collection of ridiculously talented musicians, Calexico combines textured melodies with Latin instrumentation and flair, and what results is a smooth, smoky sort of cool floating on top of raw tension building underneath. The band plays a mixture of alt-country and Tejano-twinged folk, with a raucous horn section, accordions, occasional bells, and a bunch of other stuff you probably haven’t seen on stage before. D.C. is privy to only the second night of their latest tour, so don’t miss out.
Calexico’s new album Algiers is multi-layered, multi-instrumented, and multi-awesome, and tickets for tonight are still available HERE.
It’s going to be a swaying, grooving, let’s-go-sit-in-the-desert-and-look-at-stars kind of night.