Saturday, July 8th, 2006
Letter To Bowie Knife
Three months after its release, it’s probably safe to say that reaction to Calexico’s latest Garden Ruin has been somewhat muted compared to their usualy lofty standards. I, for the record, am not severly disappointed nor especially overwhelmed by it. But considering that in the past, part of the magic of their legendarily excellent live shows has been how effectively the band recreates the sun-bleached desert vistas of their recorded works, I did wonder how their more pop/singer-songwriter studio turn would translate on stage.
In short, same but different. If you were to draw a line down the stylistic halfway point between Garden Ruin and Feast Of Wire, you’d have an idea of what Calexico live, 2006 is like. The older material seemed leaner and more compact while the newer material got an infusion of the mariachi soul via horns and slide guitar that was kept on the back burner on Garden Ruin. I wonder, if the recorded arrangements had been more like the live ones, if the critical response to the album would have been more positive? But that’s neither here nor there – Calexico on this night were tight and taut with their typically excellent musicianship and striking a perfect balance between fire and restraint. They used the encore to cut extra-loose, inviting openers Oakley Hall as well as local talent Dallas Good of The Sadies and Jason Collett, who had originally been slated to open, to come out and join them for a couple numbers including a rousing cover of Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody”.
It’s lucky that Calexico were so good on this night, because Oakley Hall set the bar pretty damn high with their opening set. I wrote them up earlier this week but wasn’t prepared for the sheer ass-kickingness of their set. Merging old-time country raucousness with mind-bending psychedelia and somehow coming out of it sounding timeless, Oakley Hall impressed not just me, but a goodly portion of the audience as well. If you’re going to see M Ward at the Mod Club on September 11, do yourself a favour and show up early enough to catch Oakley Hall – you won’t regret it.
Calexico favoured a very dark, projection-heavy stage show so good photos were a bit tougher to get. But hey, all in the name of ambience, right? Also, The Montreal Mirror talks to native son Joey Burns about Garden Ruin and some audio/video that I’ve linked many times before. Complain to someone else.
Will Sheff of Okkervil River posted a terrific essay to his band’s message board about his deep ambievalence about file-sharing and why you won’t hear much new material during their Fall tour. I thought it was a wonderful piece, especially the parts about the internet being like the library of Babel. There are many (many) days when I long for the time when every new album purchase was treated like a sacred event. That said, you’ll have to pry my iPod out of my cold, dead hands.
PopMatters offers some tips on how to educate those people who say they love every kind of music except country. You know, savages.
np – Early Day Miners / Offshore