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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Calexico, Annuals ride success wave to Tucson”

    Calexico, Annuals ride success wave to Tucson


    It’s homecoming weekend for one of Tucson’s most successful and world-renowned musical collectives.

    Since Calexico’s 1996 inception, the band has gained worldwide attention and praise for its distinctive sound. A common theme among Calexico’s music is an eclectic mix of musical influences ranging from the Southwestern U.S. to Eastern Europe.

    While a variety of influences go into the band’s songs, the use of mariachi musicians often gets the most attention. The terms “”southwestern rock”” and “”mariachi rock”” are often thrown around when discussing Calexico.

    Recently, the band has seen the release of two important records: a 2005 collaboration with indie favorite Iron and Wine and a new 2006 full-length album, Garden Ruin.

    Throughout Garden Ruin, the band explores

    The band prides itself on having a lot of dynamics. We’re very experimental, and we will always be so.

    Joey Burns
    Calexico guitarist and vocalistits

    subtler and quieter side with songs like “”Bisbee Blue.”” The name pays homage to a type of turquoise found in the town of Bisbee, where the band chose to write and record the album. While indie rock and folk influences can be heard throughout the record, it is still undoubtedly a Calexico record.

    In a recent phone conversation, Calexico guitarist and vocalist Joey Burns described what he calls the “”heart and soul”” of the band: the connection with drummer John Convertino.

    “”His drumming style is so unique and inventive,”” said Burns. “”He’s so much fun to watch.””

    As for future music from Calexico, Burns said the band has recently spent some time in Montreal collaborating with Willie Nelson, Sam Beam of Iron and Wine, Jim James of My Morning Jacket and others. The collaborations are due to appear on the soundtrack for the upcoming film “”I’m Not There,”” directed by Todd Haynes. The film revolves around several interpretations of Bob Dylan’s life with many actors set to portray the venerable songwriter.

    Over the years, Calexico’s live show has become another one of its hallmarks. Many of the band’s songs have evolved over a long period of time experimenting on the road. Some have turned into more straightforward rock songs, while some have grown into something new.

    “”The band prides itself on having a lot of dynamics,”” explained Burns. “”We’re very experimental, and we will always be so.””

    Calexico will bring its dynamic live show back home to Tucson this weekend in the 2006 edition of the annual show dedicated to the local community. In addition to a night of music, the show will serve as a benefit for Tucson’s Humane Borders organization, KXCI community radio station and Solar Culture art gallery.

    Humane Borders is a local faith-based organization known for its water stations in the desert area along the Arizona-Mexico border.

    KXCI is a community radio station featuring local music, national programs such as “”Democracy Now!”” and more.

    Solar Culture is a downtown art gallery and live music venue that hosts local and national acts. According to Burns, KXCI and Solar Culture were chosen for the benefit because they are the local groups that the band feels most connected to.

    “”We want to show appreciation to those who give back to the community,”” Burns said. “”We draw inspiration from this locale and its history.””

    At this year’s benefit show, attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about border-related humanitarian issues. All dates of Calexico’s December tour of Arizona, New Mexico and California will feature representatives from Humane Borders and the national organization Music for America.

    It is no coincidence that the weekend’s show falls around the end of the UA semester. The date was chosen so that members of the university community could attend before leaving for the winter break.

    “”Music is a great vehicle for bridging people from different backgrounds together,”” said Burns, referring to the diverse makeup of the UA population.

    While the band hopes to attract many new faces to the show, longtime Calexico fans should not fret. The band still plans to play many of the old songs that have defined its southwestern rock sound over the past decade.

    Calexico’s benefit show will take place Saturday at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $16. More information can be found at


    While many will attend Calexico’s benefit concert this weekend to see a performance by the hometown headliner, the show’s opener is likely to leave the collective jaws of the audience wide open.

    The North Carolina-based Annuals are currently riding a wave of buzz and success. After a favorable review from the highly influential online publication Pitchfork Media over the summer, the young band has since received positive attention from Rolling Stone, Spin and other media outlets. Despite all of this recent recognition, the band’s members have been playing together for nearly eight years.

    Be He Me, the band’s debut full-length record, has drawn comparisons to indie rockers like the Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene and Sufjan Stevens, but the band did not set out to become underground superstars.

    “”We never really gave any thought into the genre of music we were making,”” said bassist Mike Robinson. “”We just make music that we like.””

    Band members cite Brian Wilson, Mike Patton, Rufus Wainwright, Aphex Twin and others as key influences.

    The songs on Be He Me were selected from a large collection of songs that the band has written and revised over the years. The song “”Brother”” has become the most popular song from the record with its slow, churning introduction followed by an outburst of grandiose sound.

    While not completely obvious from the songs of Be He Me, the band’s singer and songwriter Adam Baker spent much time in the studio working on the electronic elements of the band’s songs.

    “”Adam has a wild way of programming electronic beats and percussion,”” Robinson said. “”He goes very hard and strong at one thing for a long time.””

    When talking to Robinson, it’s obvious the band is very excited to tour and share their music with others. He describes their live show as “”explosive”” and “”louder than you might expect.”” The band has also come to be known for its members switching instruments during concerts, something that the band itself does not find unusual.

    As they tour more and more across the country (Saturday’s Tucson show will be the farthest west they have ever played), the band hopes to gain fans without having to rely on any buzz or Internet hype.

    “”We take music very seriously even though we’re very young,”” Robinson said, hoping to reinforce that the band is not some fly-by-night gimmick. “”Close your eyes, open your ears and form your own opinion.””

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