red lights


Organic soundscapes

Pabst Theatre
Milwaukee, WI
Sept. 27, 2006
Calexico  Calexico

Story and photos Matt Schwenke

The Pabst Theatre felt a bit closer to the equator with the southwestern and very much world-influenced sounds of Calexico. Touring in support of Garden Ruin, the band from Tucson, AZ mixed the straight-ahead rock of new songs "Letter to Bowie Knife" and "Cruel" into their performance with the dusty, tequila-tinged groves and power of Mariachi horns in "Stray," from the band's '98 release The Black Light, as well as the Latin classic guitar work of "Service and Repair," from 2000's Hot Rail. Some of the stripped-down guitar riffs and lo-fi sensibilities bring to mind Cake, but the overall sound is more organic as in the instrumental "Close Behind" off of Feast of Wire, which creates vast soundscapes dotted with the Tex-Mex accordion of Martin Wenk with the lucid pedal steel of Paul Niehaus. Adding yet another dimension to the band's sound,

"Sonic Wind" stirred up eerie guitar and vibes that gave way to a trumpet solo by Jacob Valenzuela that screamed with tone, a la Miles Davis, and led the band into the stormiest segment of the song. Drummer John Convertino and bassist Volker Zander added plenty of rhythmic subtleties while the oft-reserved voice, but unbridled guitar, of frontman Joey Burns lead the way. Other notables of the evening included a call and response section between Valenzuela and Wenk on trumpet and an encore performance that included the opening band Oakley Hall. Strung together at the end of the show, the diversity of sounds were like snapshots of a journey across many a land with Tucson being home.

Cursive Cursive
Calexico Calexico

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