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MUSIC: Calexico Charms At The Met

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

 

Blending Mexican folk, country tang, Cuban jazz and alt-rock--Calexico, which hit The Met this weekend.

A warm Saturday night in June saw the return of Calexico to The Met. Under the ever watchful eyes of Elvis, Jimi, Janis and Hank, the band delighted the crowd with a rousing set of music, featuring several songs from their latest CD, Algiers

Calexico

The Tucson, Arizona band sounds like a Tex-Mex meal - you don’t always know exactly what’s in it, but it tastes delicious. Blending Mexican folk, Country twang, Cuban Jazz and Alt-Rock, they are difficult to label. The Mariachi trumpet work of Jacob Valenzuela and Martin Wenk is outstanding, especially when switching mid-song to accordion. Horns and rock and roll don’t always mix, but Calexico makes it work. 

Founded in the early 90’s by guitar/vocalist Joey Burns and drummer John Convertino, the band has built a loyal following playing to audiences worldwide. They brought a lot of energy to the Met – a preview of festival shows including Bonnaroo and Glastonbury scheduled for later this summer. Seeing Calexico is a bi-lingual experience; without missing a beat, they shift from English to Spanish, rocking out on tunes like “Guero Canelo.”

New Orleans influences

At The Met, they featured several tunes from Algiers, recorded in 2011 in New Orleans. As Burns noted, they went to the well known NOLA neighborhood to make a Calexico record – the lyrics and sounds of the city influenced the album, but not to the point of overwhelming the Calexico sound. The city’s recent past is hauntingly referenced in the brilliant “Para”:

Take it down

Take it all the way down

Take it down

Take it all the way down below the waterline

Their layered lyrics match their layered sound. An upbeat rhythm carries “Splitter,” a song that explores the uncertainty that grips the city:

One hand on the hammer, one foot by the door,

Pushed by the wind, fed by the need for moving on,

Moving on to nowhere…

In this age of media overload, music fans frequently arrive at artists indirectly. I discovered Calexico several years ago after seeing them cover “Alone Again Or” in a YouTube video. The original version, by 60’s group Love, is an FM lost classic; it was a real treat to hear it live Saturday night. 

A good band satisfies the listener, but a great band leaves you wanting more. When you get home and head straight to iTunes (or better yet, www.casadecalexico.com), you know you have seen a great band. Let’s hope we get a chance to see them more often!

 

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