Calexico with the Frames at Lee's Palace, October 3. Tickets: $16. Attendance: 425. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
There's just something about Calexico . Maybe it's the awesome talent of the band from Tucson, Arizona, multi-instrumentalists and crafty songwriters who combine elements of jazz, surf, country, Latin and spaghetti western themes into a singular exotic mix. Maybe it's their uncanny ability to create atmosphere in a club or maybe it's the atmosphere itself. There's something totally hot about watching this sort of show, all low lights and moodiness. It's like visiting the set of an old western movie. At times, if you closed your eyes at Lee's Palace on Friday night, you could imagine being in an old ghost town, feeling the sand in your throat and the rattlesnake slithering around your ankles. And if you listened hard enough, you could hear the tumbleweeds a-rollin' by. Yep, very Ennio Morricone.
And don't forget those dramatic twangy guitar moments that accompany the silent hero riding his horse through the desert when everything looks totally bleak, just before the real action starts.
Things got more upbeat with Latin, blues and jazzy interludes when Calexico showcased tunes from their latest disc, Feast Of Wire.
It was very impressive and also a little disconcerting to watch Martin Wenk switch from guitar to trumpet and then to xylophone and accordion. The guy can play anything, but it's really the horn sound of Wenk and Jacob Valenzuela together that gives Calexico its little extra something. They successfully tie together the songs' upbeat and melancholy aspects and help set the tone with a lone wail or joyful blare.
Calexico have so well captured the vibe of southwestern Americana that they bring it with them wherever they go. And you can take that trip with them without ever having to leave the bar.