Calexico | 09.23.06

The first few songs are typical Calexico—a mix of flamenco, salsa, and rock 'n' roll—with various instruments thrown into the mix, such as a melodica and an accordion.


w/Oakley Hall
Mississippi Nights, St. Louis


  Photo by Todd Owyoung 

Illuminated in eerie red light is an array of unique instruments and other accoutrements—more than half a dozen guitars, a violin, a bass, a xylophone, multiple tambourines, an organ, and a dobro. There is a glittery drum set, and another stand full of unique guitars. Books are littered on the miniscule stage—a little bit of shared reading for the audience? Blondie and TV on the Radio are gently playing from the sound system as a few people are milling around the floor, and the 21-and-up section is crammed full of hipster parents and eco-naturalists. This is definitely a no-muss, no-fuss show.

Oakley Hall takes the stage first. Six people step out into the haunting light as the audience begins to politely clap. Some band members carry water bottles, some bottles of beer, but one woman (singer Rachel Cox) strides out with a large glass of red wine. Patrick Sullivan, the male lead singer, looks uncannily similar to Elliott Smith, and while they do not sound anything alike, Sullivan could be easily be a legend in his own right. This six-piece from Brooklyn puts on quite a show, with just the right amount of twang. While all the songs in their repertoire are phenomenal, the high point on this evening is their fourth pick, "Adalina Roselma, Lapage," a tune from their first album, Second Guessing. With just the right setting between country and rock, the song emulates a lazy, early morning back road drive through farm country in an old, rusty pickup truck on a chilly Sunday morning. There are multiple conferences between the steel guitar and violin, lots of rhythm help from the tambourine, and light tapping from the xylophone.

There are even more instruments scattered about onstage as Beatle Bob cautiously steps around the upright bass, trumpets, violins, and xylophone to announce Calexico. The lights dramatically turn from red into deeper blues and bright yellows as they take the stage. With their first song, all seven people on stage look ecstatically happy to be in this town, playing music for their fans. The first few songs are typical Calexico—a mix of flamenco, salsa, and rock 'n' roll—with various instruments thrown into the mix, such as a melodica and an accordion. "Gypsy's Curse" proves to be one of the better modern-day trumpet songs and "Across the Wire" seems to have every instrument ever played in its orchestral value.

The floor has finally filled up. This music is too fun to not be as close as possible to the mouth of the sound, whether you're a teenage girl, deliriously happy and dancing around, or a 43-year-old man with closed eyes and a blissful smile playing across your face.

With a brief tribute to Dean Martin, "Arrivederci, Roma!" starts modestly, sounding like a small band of street musicians in Rome, and ends on a epic scale, like background music in a scene from a film capturing a bullfight in Pamplona.

Calexico rounds out this night in St. Louis with maracas, lots of layers, and a double encore, showcasing their drummer's strong muscles, trumpeter's healthy lungs, and beautiful crescendos of something slow, soft, and lush into a piece of music that is angry, upset, loud, and completely indescribable. Calexico seems to think so, too, as they tell the crowd: "It's nice to find a place like this, a place that feels like home."


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