The southwestern United States is a sun-baked desert landscape with a long history of cowboys, pioneers, outlaws, Central American immigrants, artists, loners, and other assorted and colorful American characters, and the Tucson-based band Calexico has been singing songs about their part of the country since the mid-1990s.
Don’t call them a Tex-Mex band, not only because they don’t hail from Texas, but because they have more of an indie Americana sound, but just spiced up by the mariachi, norteno, and conjunto music that the core band members Joey Burns and John Convertino have always loved.
Whether the underlying beat is straightahead indie rock, a polka, or Latin jazz, Calexico makes it all sound part of one large unified stew. And except for a few lonely sounding songs and a tender love ballad or two, what this band likes to do is party. Invite them over to your next pig roast and as long as the cervezas stay cold, your guests won’t be leaving anytime soon.
At the Bowery Ballroom, one of New York City’s finest venues for live music, with an unparalleled sound system, John and Joey and five other support musicians on baritone guitar, bass, steel strings, trumpets, organ, and accordion were kicking up a high time, with the packed house on Delancey Street finding any wiggle room they could to move their hips to those rolling rhythms.
Most of the songs were from the band’s most recent critically acclaimed album, Edge of the Sun, but throughout the night they also sprinkled in old songs stretching back to the early 2000s to satisfy their long-time fans.
This was the last gig in the States before heading to Europe for the rest of June with a number of dates in Germany, then it’s back to the US in July, then back to Europe in August, including a stop at the Green Man Festival in Brecon on August 20.
Leading off the show each night was the engaging Guatemalen singer Gaby Moreno. Guatemala is not exactly known as an international hotbed of musicians, but Moreno was charming, shy, playful, and confident throughout her set, mixing songs sung in both Spanish and English. Sometimes she growled a blues song like Memphis Minnie, sometimes she crooned a love song like Lena Horne, sometimes she sang a jazz song like Nina Simone. She was voted Best New Artist at the 2013 Latin Grammys, and it is easy to see why. This young singer has a world of talent.