Concert Review: 'Calexico'

Calexico succeeded in connecting with the audience and making a powerful impression.

Calexico 88 248 (photo credit: Gerald von Foris)
Calexico 88 248
(photo credit: Gerald von Foris)
Calexico Barby Club Tel Aviv August 13 Trumpet-laden traditional Mexican folk music hasn't been this cool since… ever. But Calexico, which hails from Tucson, Arizona, brought its A-game to the Barby Club last week. The band managed to transport a packed bar full of Israelis into a world right out of a Cormac McCarthy novel - populated by today's indie rock crowd. While lead singer Joey Burns tried his hand at speaking Hebrew, confusing todah with sababa throughout the night, the band instantly connected with the Tel Aviv crowd, perhaps because of shared desert origins and diverse cultural backgrounds. In typical Israeli fashion, the concert started an hour and a half late, and the opening band didn't come onstage until as many tickets as possible were sold. The club was packed to the point where even if you wanted to escape you couldn't, and only two bartenders were available to serve cold beers to the sweaty throngs. But once the music began, it didn't let up until the end. Calexico, formed in 1996, has a unique style and has reshaped its sound over and over again. At its Tel Aviv gig, the band performed primarily from its 2008 release Carried to Dust, though it did trot out some older songs and crowd favorites. The group's sound seems like a fusion of nearly every musical style ever performed. Led by Joey Burns and John Convertino, it combines jazz, Mexican folk, old country, Americana, southern rock and psychedelic rock, but it relies mainly on a trumpet duo, traditional Mexican folk influences and twangy steel guitar. Every song sounds like an Old West narrative, but maracas replace rattlesnakes. The lighting guy deserves an award for helping the band reach the seductively sinister atmosphere it sought. Despite the fact that the crowd and I were forced to pretend that we understood the numerous songs sung completely in Spanish, Calexico succeeded in connecting with the audience and making a powerful impression on a music scene that will be sure to welcome the group back in the future.