One of the best things about living in the northeast is having access to multiple cities with venues that provide every possible experience to see a band. There are however, unique flavors that characterize every place, providing a distinct environment that tells you where you are and what to expect. The City Winery in NYC is without a doubt one of those magical venues where you can enjoy major bands along with great food and wine while really mingling and interacting with your favorite artists. I went there last Tuesday March 10 to enjoy, really enjoy a performance from Calexico.
Regarding this band, even though I heard them before, I truly took a dive on their music last year. Multiple trips to Arizona, Nevada and California put me in the mood to discover more of the desert way of living, which certainly displays multiple sounds that although familiar to me are used in a completely different context. Saying that Calexico is simply an alternative band that includes multi-cultural sounds from all over the world would also be an oversimplification. That is just the beginning. Bandleader Joey Burns and his longtime musical partner, drummer John Convertino, have assembled a group of very versatile musicians and vocalists from both Tucson, AZ, where they now call home, as well as from various parts of Europe, including for instance Madrid and Berlin. They are a very mature though fresh band that has aged as the best Californian Chardonnay.
When bands like Calexico perform live you feel that the palette is endless. They can blast the place like a punk band and immediately follow that with a romantic whisper to your ear, which instead of confusing you makes you believe that it all makes sense, leaving you with that feeling of wanting more. Political messages, revolutionary songs, jokes and instrumental pieces blend together, each one of them sounding close to perfection. They are indeed great musicians.
To call Calexico "laid-back" might also be an understatement. In some musicians you can actually sense the nervousness before a live performance. When Burns and his bandmates settled in for the first song, they were just as easygoing. At City Winery they decided to cover some songs of their Carried to Dust album, but they interrupted several times their program to invite artists in the crowd to perform with them without the minimal hesitation. We saw Rachel Yamagata, Keren Ann (who provided the opening act), and Darius Rucker on stage while Vic Chesnutt and Glen Hannsard remained hidden in their bar stools.
Calexico's live performance makes an emotional song even more moving. And during this concert, I remembered that this show was an unconscious consolation prize from the Radiohead concert I am missing next week. However, I came to realize that, especially in this point of my life, a large venue soccer-stadium type of concert is as appealing (if not less) as a live performance from a great band along with my wife at a "chic" place in NYC, while enjoying a bottle of Pinot Noir, two glasses of Porto and a cup of a very nice Panna Cotta.
Some cool vids on Calexico’s "Carried to Dust" from the NPR blog
Calexico’s Blackcabsessions vid
Calexico at KCRW- Morning Becomes Eclectic