When I was asked to describe Calexico to a co-worker before their show at The Commonwealth Room on Monday night, my answer was, “Indie-rock meets mariachi.” And despite her confused look, after leaving the venue I was more sure than ever of my synopsis.
Here’s the thing: Calexico would be a good indie-rock band. I’d go see that show, and I’d review it positively. But they are so much more. The horns, flamenco guitar, maracas, accordions, Spanish-language lyrics, all add an incredible layers to the band’s already robust sound.
Ladies and gentleman, this band is good. The southwestern-influenced horns and percussion really feel like home for the band, who seem to be able to play every instrument possible—many of whom rotating spots on the stage, seemingly endlessly. This is a group of people who are having fun on stage. They are hooting and hollering, they lead the crowd in calls and responses and clap-alongs, they are smiling from ear-to-ear. They are full of a contagious joy.
And, credit where credit is due: Frontman Joey Burns does a hell of a job at leading a 7-piece band through the changes, graciously and with good humor. My favorite part of the night was watching him interact with the others in the band, sometimes in ways meant for public consumption, like turning back to look at drummer and co-founder John Covertino, and sometimes in ways that were small, private motions, more like a third base coach subtly signaling for a steal. And in a move I’ve never seen in the many concerts I’ve been to, he thanked the venue’s lighting guy. The lighting guy. How classy is that?!
I admit, after coming out strong with many latin-flavored songs, the middle of the set did seem to lag a little. But after they got the new, more indie-style stuff out of the way and got back to their roots the show was right back on track. Horns make everything better, after all. That’s just a fact.
And even after a five-song encore (Yes. Five songs.) the crowd clearly wanted more. “Isn’t it hard to say goodbye?” Burns asked to crows cheers. “We’ll make this last song especially long then,” he quipped. But, in a continuation of the class act the band had been all night, they instead took a group curtain call, and all bowed together—a fitting and certainly well-earned moment at the front of the stage for a band who clearly excel in each other’s company.