For the past two years, Lil Uzi Vert has stood out as one of rap's brightest stars. The ascension from Soundcloud sensation to self-proclaimed "rock star" has been fast-tracked, powered by multiple mixtapes, two top ten Billboard singles ("XO TOUR Llif3" and "Bad and Boujee"), and a #1 debut album in Luv Is Rage 2 released in late August. The Philadelphia native took advantage of his momentum this year by kicking off his holiday tour A Very Uzi Christmas with 6,000 fans in attendance for the Anthem's first hip-hop concert.
Yes, NPR Music is only ten years old. Although All Songs Considered is going on 18 years strong, the coalition of NPR member stations from across the country was founded in 2007 to centralize the regional tastemakers that bring us shows like World Cafe or Jazz Night in America. It's hard to overstate its cultural influence on music in that short time, most notably with the Tiny Desk Concert video series, where up-and-comers like Diane Coffee and established arena acts like Adele come to perform. In the spirit of the brevity-focused music series, seven bands and musicians took to the stage to play three or four songs each. The event quickly sold out the day it went on sale. But the plot twist? NPR kept the lineup a secret until the moment they came on stage. Of course, when you're NPR Music, it's not hard to ask the public to place your trust in them.
Calexico has been making their brand of Latin American-inflected indie rock for 20 years now. The Tuscon, AZ-based group, consisting of core the duo of Joey Burns and John Convertino along with a rotating cast of contributors, released their eighth studio album, Edge of the Sun, earlier this year. On Friday last week they came to the 9:30 Club, filling the stage as a seven-piece band.
As a songwriter, Burns is an expert at evoking the sense of another time and place, whether it be the otherworldly desertscapes of “Miles From the Sea” or the street party atmosphere of “Cumbia de Donde” and “Guero Canelo.” And so for an hour and a half, the audience was transported, from the deserts of Arizona to the streets of Mexico and everywhere in between. On “Esparanza,” one of the bonus tracks from the deluxe edition of the new album, Burns ceded the vocals to trumpet-player Jacob Valenzuea, and on several other songs including “Moon Never Rises” and “Beneath the City of Dreams” he was joined by Guatemalan-born singer Gaby Moreno (who also served as the opening act for the show).