June 1st, 2009

June 1, 2009

John and I are here in Seattle enjoying a day off with our booking agent, Ali Hedrick and her family. The Neko Case tour has gotten off to a great start. All of the crowds have been very receptive to the two piece version. I wish we could do more dates as we’ve been having a blast hanging with Neko and the whole band and crew. The last time we did the two piece two was in 1998 opening for the Dirty Three across The States. There’s an openness with playing as a two piece that allows for room to improvise that feels really good. You learn to appreciate the space and elasticity of time with phrasing, segues and tempo. I feel like we are just now finding our sea legs and sadly the portion of dates is coming to an end this evening at the beautiful Pantages Theatre in Tacoma. John has been sitting on ‘Red Tide’ and I have been playing some 12 string acoustic guitar on ‘This Tornado Loves’ you every night. The visuals on this tour have been stellar and all coordinated by the lovely Kathleen Judge. Hey does everyone know that Neko deisgned all the t shirt art? I try to help Kelly at the end of every night at the merch booth. Jon Rauhouse designed the tractor shirt. All in all an amazing touring team and super fun to hang with.

I hope we can all meet up again on the road with band and crew again soon. Thanks to Neko, Amy Lombardi, Ali Hedrick, Kong, Kathleen, Tim, Shelley, Kelly, Barry, Tom V Ray, Paul Rigby, Kelly Hogan (come to record at Wavelab!!) and Jon Rauhouse.

p.s. Go Lakers!!

setlist for the neko dates

01. All The Pretty Horses
02. Not Even Stevie Nicks…
03. Spokes
04. Man Made Lake
05. Bisbee Blue
05. Bend To The Road
06. Slowness or Quattro
07. Two Silver Trees
08. Fractured Air
09. Scout
+Slowness and Bend To The Road (w/ Craig Schumacher- harmonica) Denver
+In The Reins (with Jon Rauhouse – pedal steel) Salt Lake City and Tacoma

January 26th, 2009

Jan 24-26, 2009 : Torino, Luzern and Ulm

I sent some photos from Torino, Luzern and Ulm today to Josh at TGREC. Thanks Josh and Celia at casadecalexico.com for helping transfer the transmissions. Tour is going really well. Torino was a dream and a welcomed change from the chill of Bologna. Thanks to Francesco for being our guide to all that is beautiful about touring in Italia. Happy Birthday to Valentina P as well. Nice comments from the folks after the show and the dinner moments before at the ristorante across the street from the Teatro Colloseo was sublime. Spaghetti vongole, vino rosso, espresso…boom! Run back to the Teatro to play to an enthusiastic and warm audience.

Serious partying on the bus leaving Torino thanks to Oliver and Jelle’s bartending prowress. Slammer = vodka and champagne mixed spells disjointed dancing on the bus and queezy sleep across the border and into Switzerland. We survived and there are photos on Valerie’s camera. Should we post them?

Better stick to the lofi cell phone shots for now.

Luzern’s KKL Theatre is super modern and kickass. In the adjacent hall under the same roof Mischa Maisky is rehearsing a Haydn cello concerto with small ensemble. I am blown away and taken to a deeper level of inspiration. Later that day we rehearse with violinist, Anna-Sophie Mahler who we’ve been playing with in Europe for about ten years. She brings a whole different vibe to songs like “The News About William” and “Minas de Cobre”. John and I recently recorded some original material for a verison of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” that she is directing in Biel Switzerland (www.theater-biel.ch and www.theater-solothurn.ch). After the show Anna-Sophie and the whole cast present with us a gift of wine, cheese, olives, flowers as a thank you.

We arrive in cold, grey Ulm the next day. Time for laundry at the nearby washerei. Paul goes to the Apotheke for some supplies for Katja back home. Martin is on the street talking with his birthday gal Lena. Jelle rents a bike and rides of in search of crackers for our wine tasting night off. Patrick and I meet our friend Guni for espresso and pretzels. I sent some photos from the walk around town as the sun began to finally break from the clouds. We saw some old gates and buildings from the 1100’s and 1400’s. A man was taking his three greyhounds on a walk. There were decorations being hung for Mardi Gras. Tomorrow I will try to climb the gothic cathedral and get a bird’s eye view of what the legendary Schneider von Ulm might have seen. Apparently, recent scientists figured out that he would have succeeded in flying across the Donau if he had tried flying 200 meters south from his original point of departure.

wishing you all a safe flight
all those winged and webbed
a good night and sweet dream

January 24th, 2009

Jan 23, 2009 : Bologna, Italy

It´s cold outside. We are playing at Estragon outside of the city of Bologna. It´s even colder inside the industrial style hangar. Spirits are up. I stock up on vitamins and honey-lemon hot liquids. Seems like we are far away from everyone and everything. Where are we? Bologna? Italy? I think about the times when people ask us, what we see when we are on tour. I would love to have gone into town, but energy is low, and we are far from the city center. So we huddle round a spaceheater and do our best to stay warm. Hoping the show tonight brings some good kinetic energy and direction. Missing the old streets and small shops, ristorantes, cafes, etc. Jacob just sneezed himself awake. Jairo is waiting for a call from home to wish his son a Happy Birthday. John looks ready to connect with his Italian roots, Martin was online and is now missing, Volker on the bus? Paul is laying low. Late night show and hours to wait around. Best wishes to all.

January 23rd, 2009

Jan 22, 2009 : Lyon, France

Epicerie Moderne

I wake up late cuz I stay up late. Hard to roll to sleep when the bus drives off down the cobble stone. There’s movies in the upstairs lounge and drinks/food/discussion with the occasional DJ momento downstairs in the galley. Ray likes coffee at 3am. The chill settles in hard today in Lyon. Val, Jairo and I cab it into town for a look and walk around. We climb with the funiculaire to the top of the mountain overlooking the valley filled with buildings and the Rhone running through it all. Off in the distance the Alps pierce the low lying clouds with a touch of blue sky and shining mountaintop in the sun. It helps to get outside of the backstage. Seems like hours disappear easily there. It might snow tonight Ray says. I bundle up as best as I can and dig into to some rehearsing with band, “Cruel” and “Stray” are some of the cuts we run thru.

I sent some photos from my phone, sorry if they’re fogged or muddled. Must be my pockets full of dust and such that give the gloomy glow. Anyways I sent a photo of the Cathedrale de St Jean hi atop the hill overlooking the sprawl of Lyon, also sent an interior shot of a votive candle I lit for you all especially Jacob Jr, Maurio, y Juanito. Did I send the photo of the Salon du Thé? It was great. Simple and sweet. Chocolat eclaire and tarte de pomme. Merci beaux coups.

January 22nd, 2009

Jan 21, 2009 : Bordeaux, France

School of Rock Barbey

I know I know it’s a funny name for a rock club. Well, it is a school too. And they have a wicked UK red double decker bus for catering and the food was outta this world. Today feels like Monday after the big celebrations last night in Barcelona and watching/feeling the energy in Washington DC with Obama becoming our new President. People here are very proud of us. Feels good. Nice comments from lots of folks tonight and the air seemed much more relaxed. Now, can we repair relations with Cuba? I really wanna go sometime. Alright back to Bordeaux. The audience was so attentive and quiet that we were wondering if they were breathing or not. They were and gave us a wonderful welcome back. This place is special. Ever since we played here in 1998 at the famous 60’s club Le Jimmy’s we have had a strong connection. Tonight we played “Letter To Bowie Knife” and the folks dug it. The show end was one of my favs too “Red Blooms”. Loving the ambience more and more on these late nights in the Mediterranean. Merci Bordeaux.
ps. Really enjoyed singing “Deep Down” tonight as well.

January 21st, 2009

Jan 20, 2009 : Barcelona, Spain

The Apolo Theatre

Today is an emotional one. Watching the events unfold in Washington DC from sunrise to afternoon from TV and computer. Loved Obama’s speech and the fact the sun was shining on the capitol. Everyone in the group is excited and ready to celebrate. What to play tonight? we start with “Gift X Change” which seems to set a meditative mood before the energy and dynamics build. The audience in Barcelona are very enthusiastic and listening to each phrase and line. Jairo of Depedro has a great set with several of Calexico members jumping in to back him up. Amparo Sanchez who was there in Madrid also adds some serious rockin’ to the set and helps elevate the whole place as she usually does. Many people on this whole tour of Spain have been so sweet to us and very appreciative of the concerts. I hope we can return soon. This is good soul food. Muchos Gracias!

January 20th, 2009

Jan 19, 2009 : Barcelona, Spain

Spent the evening at Amparo’s house with her family and friends. Home made dinner thanks to Francesco y Sergio, musica with Jairo, Jacob, John y Jordi. Beatiful casa Amparo, gracias! Now back at the hotel room and enjoying the media blitz on TVland before tomorrow’s inauguration of President Obama in Washington DC. Many people here in Europe are extremely excited and it is felt here on tour. Last night in Zaragosa someone handed us a sign that read “two days to go”. The shows so far have been amazing. Madrid, Vigo, San Sebastian…all amazing old theatres and crowds with inspiring energy/enthusiasm. Muchos gracias por todo. Tomorrow in Barcelona will certainly be an eventful evening. Apollo are you ready?

July 22nd, 2007

Tour Diary: Part 2, July 10-17, 2007

The flight to Greece is relatively painless. We have a lot of crap and try to sort it all out before we arrive at the airport to prevent getting hit with outrageous overweight fees on luggage. We manage to escape any major dings thanks to our tour manager Oliver Nielsen and backliner Theo Thorne. The two of them counted and weighed everything the night before even brought a scale to make sure as airlines are getting more strict. We are all dazed from the early morning wake up call as we stumble into the airport, pass security and into the nearest cup of coffee.

Greece proves to be very relaxing and very hot which makes the Tucson contingency slightly homesick as we walk from the hotel to the nearest restaurant sweating as we go. We are on a night off and celebrate with fine Greek fare. The waiter showers us with a steady stream of small plates or Mezedes. Some of our favourites are the octopus, saganaki, and revithia keftdes. After dinner some take a stroll to the beach, Oliver and I head to the hotel’s rooftop lounge for the spectacular view of the ancient sites all lit up at night.

Tuesday July 10th and my day starts a little early as I am taken by car to the Greek State radio and do some interviews. I ask about classic Rebetiko singers and am handed a list of the following names from the 1920’s-60’s; Sotiria Bellou, Marika Ninou, Markos Vamvakaris, Vassilis Tsitsanis. Seems that our band’s music and Greek music share a love for the minor blues, maybe this is why we’ve had so many great concerts here in the past. Our only Greek show this year is held at an olympic baseball field in the suburb of Hellinikon in
Athens with Sophie Salomon, A Hawk and A Hacksaw and Beirut. Like most mediterranean shows the set up time and technical details are relaxed, so we hang out a while soaking up the sun and say hello to friends in AHAHS and Beirut. We ask them if they want to join us for a couple of songs in the encore which proves to be wild and bombastic, just the perfect medicine for this crazed Greek crowd. We end the night with a Les Negresses Vertes cover, “Zobie la Mouche” and an a cappella version of “Take me out to the ballgame.”

The next morning we board the shuttle to the airport with fellow friends in Beirut bidding goodbyes at the check in desk as we head to Darmstadt, Germany. Still waking up by the time we arrive to the club we scramble for a fast sound check as the doors open early tonight. Dinner here is incredible, the cook at the Centralstation venue serves up spicy Indian fare and fine wines. The show that night is a little jarring as we have been playing outdoor festivals in a higher gear. It takes half of a set to adjust to the more subtle dynamic. After the show the rain starts to fall outside as I walk around the town making long distance calls to home.

Our Swiss bus driver Axel from Pilot Reisen Bus Company has been very helpful and has offered to sell tshirts and CDs at a few shows. Normally the bus driver sleeps during the day on the tour bus and drives all night,
but since his drives are short on this tour he has been getting involved with the show. A big thanks to you Axel!

We meet up with longtime Tucson friend and musician Chris Cacavas in Karlsruhe for an open air big tent festival. I had a bit of a cold from all the flying, but feel leagues better after the show and join Chris and the band at the local rock n roll bar called Alte Hackerei. Great big pilsner beers on tap, foosball, birthday partying and an old stained glass window that reads, “wiener in freund”. Hot dog!

By now the band and crew have their sea legs staying up till 3-4am drinking and watching bad movies on the bus, ya know stuff like Claude van Damme and Arnold Schwarzenegger a month of “final fight scene Friday night specials.”

I wake up the next day, Friday July 13th, to the sound of a massive PA system checking a kick drum, over and over and over until I get up and put my headphones on. There’s no escaping it. The bus is parked alongside several other sleeper coaches in a sprawling outdoor area at Nuke Festival in St Polten Austria. Crazy title. It’s hot and humid today, even the backstage is hot because there is no cooling. No swamp coolers or nothing. Air conditioning is too expensive, so everyone just sweats together. We meet members of the French group Babylon Circus and invite them to play a couple songs with us. We make a party out of the rehearsal backstage, exchanging anecdotes about the festivals in Europe and enjoying some of the local Austrian red wine, which is surprisingly very, very good. The show is a lot of fun, and even more so thanks to our new friends in Babylon Circus.

Saturday is a rough travel and show day. We fly to Finland to play for the first time ever at the Ilosaarirock Festival. Wishing we all had a day to stay, watch more of the local bands and see the sights. The show was a lot of fun and seemed too short. We’d love to return again.

Ahhh another travel day, this time we have a night off in Kassel Germany. Martin and Volker meet up with their girlfriends. The next day we play at a small tent near the River Fulda. Some of the group manage to wake up early to go check out the Documenta Art Exhibit. The show that night is alot of fun, good friends, family and location. This is one of those events that you wish you could invite all of your friends to, it is hard to explain, but there is always a great vibe.

The next day we travel a short distance to Erlangen to help celebrate the E-Werk Kulturzentrum’s 30th anniversary together with Lambchop. Here’s some photos from the show, check out James Murray’s inspiring projections and lighting. At the end of the night we join bands to cover a few Vic Chesnutt songs “When I ran off and left her”, “Maiden” and the signature tune “As Time Goes By” from the classic film Casablanca. If you haven’t seen it, you will thoroughly enjoy it. Then go see Cesar et Rosalie.

July 20th, 2007

Tour Diary: Part 1, July 2-9 2007

I arrive to a cold, wet and rainy europe on July 2nd, a welcomed break from the shake n bake Tucson heat. I hang out at our soundman Jelle Kuiper’s place in Utrecht Holland. We walk around the small canal streets, checking out shops, and visiting his friend Edwin who is an amazing cook and busts out some killer wines most notably a Bordeaux Saint Estephe Grand Cru 2003 from Chateau Cos Labory. We wind up playing acoustically and recording at Edwin’s place with members of Storybox.

July 3rd Jelle and I visit our monitor engineer in Amsterdam, Patrick and Nina Boonstra an their 10 day year old baby boy, Lemmy Joszef Nolan Iggy Rocker. This ‘lil guy is destined for a music career. When we met him he was wearing a t-shirt that read “little monster of rock”. After our visit, Jelle and I ride the tram to the central city to go check out palmguitars.nl and I purchase a Greek Bouzouki and a tenor ukulele. This shop is crammed with amazing instruments from all over the world. A must for any musician looking for that unique instrument.

July 5th we all assemble and meet the rest of the band and crew at the Tivoli Theater for our first concert. We are all a little nervous, but soundcheck and rehearsal goes well for the sold out show. The night opens to some great collaborations with local heroes Storybox. Jacob and I sit in on one of their new tunes, Last Train To Paris, and Nils of Storybox plays banjo on one of ours, The News About William. The crowd were extremely sweet and sweaty. Humidity always makes the best shows.

The next morning July 6th we all load into the airport for an early flight to Alicante Spain. Tonight we play the opening show with Lila Downs for the festival, La Mar de Musicas in the beautiful old Roman outpost city of Cartagena. The open air venue is set right beside an old Roman amphitheater and makes for a unique setting. Everybody there is in good spirits. We invite our Spanish friends Amparo Sanchez and Jairo Zavala to join us who make the evening even more special. I wish we could have stayed longer to enjoy the city and hang out with our friends in Lila Downs band. They even invited a Mariachi group from Barcelona to join Lila for a few rancheras. Beautiful!

Wake up call on July 7th is at 5am. Ouch! Not good, but we manage to de-crustify from our rusty shell-like cocoons. cafe cortados for all my friends and pan de chocolat por favor. I keep dozing off on the plane and finishing my Cormac McCarthy book, The Road, sad and heart wrenching story at the end of the world. Reminds me of my friend Harold Jones’ paintings of atomic mushroom clouds on black velvet. We arrive into Dusseldorf and collect our bags, hop on the bus and drive to Bonn. There we meet up with Lambchop and hunker over some breakfast beers and mostly muesli. They just got here and are doing the jetlag fly n play. They pull off an outstanding and inspiring set. I video tape some of the show and the sprawling crowd of 130,000 at this free outdoor concert. We have a good show and resume partying with the ‘Chop while Die Fantastischen Vier kick the night into bungee jumping frenzy.

By now the lack of sleep and jetlag are setting in, on the drive to Liege Belgium I finally get some serious sleep. Today is July 8th and it’s Paul Niehaus’ birthday. I think we’ve celebrated the last four or five of his birthdays on the road. In Amsterdam I bought him some of the latest Joe Sacco comic novels. Paul loves his stuff. We all do. Today’s show at Les Ardentes Festival goes swimmingly despite the occasional bursts of rain. We of course are loving every drop and try to explain this to the crowd. We meet up with many good friends and get introduced to some new friends as well; Neneh Cherry who now lives in Stockholm, Les Rita Mitsouko and Olivia Ruiz. Very French, very nice. We all have some champagne and celebrate Paul’s birthday and the final day of this amazing festival. Congrats Fabrice and merci le Soir for inviting me to play on their ukulele video session. All in all an excellent first string of dates. Time for a day off and travel to warm and laid back Athens Greece.


June 5th, 2007

Recording, resting and ready for more…

After an incredible time at New Orleans Jazz Fest we returned home inspired and wanting to make some new music. John and I went into Tucson’s Big Block Studio with engineer Mike Prado to record some new instrumentals for a tour cd we call “Tool Box”. The songs were written while tossing ideas around for a three day stretch and after we finished John suggesting asking Victor Gastelum if we could use one if his earlier works. So we called up Victor who said yes and also offered to help set the typography for the album artwork. The figure kind of has a tool box head which seems to fit our state of mind these days.

The instrumentation on the album features a wide range of instruments John and I have collected over the years including acoustic/electric guitars, drums, upright bass, cello, vibes, accordion, glockenspiel, cuatro, banjo and a new addition to the guitar collection, a waylacho from Mexico. For the recording process John and I ping-ponged parts and popped out the album in three days. We wanted to go back to basics and see what we could do with just a handful of instruments played between the two of us. It was fun and sounds good with lots of soundtrack worthy material and headphone friendly sounds for those who never leave home without their music bubble.

After recording we mixed the batch of tunes the next week with Craig Schumacher at Wavelab and mastered with Jim Blackwood at KUAT, all in all a speedy Tucson creation with much thanks to our Chicago pals Adam Reach and David Babbitt at Touch and Go Records.

We also ordered new calenders for 2008 and hope they’ll arrive before New Year’s Eve.

Tucson’s been beautiful. It’s great to be home and see the slow turning of Spring into Summer. We’ve been busy recording with a few friends both local and out of town as well as working on music for the Todd Haynes’ film “I’m Not There” about Bob Dylan. So far what we’ve seen of the film is really good, especially the parts featuring Cate Blanchett. A big thanks goes to music supervisor Randall Poster and Jim Dunbar for connecting us with the film.

Last week we played a benefit as a three piece (John, Jacob Valenzuela and I) for a local school, Gentle Hands, who help support families and kids in need of long term commitment and heartfelt care. An inspiring evening of good food and drinks, fancy dressed folks, and perfect summer evening temperature made this one of our favorite shows in a longtime not to mention the occasional horn blasts from the Santa Fe train in the distance.

We have a few weeks off before the European Summer tour begins. Time to work on some more new material and find some new cover songs for the tour. We’re all really looking forward to the trip since we’ve had a relaxing break at home. Hope to see you on tour.

Best wishes