February 19th, 2007

Goin’ To The South Pacific

Today we embark on our second trip to New Zealand and Australia as Calexico. Gearing up for the long flight and friends have suggested all sorts of remedies for dealing with the jetlag and over-extended body crumple of being in a bucket seat. I will try them all and hope for the best.

I hear the first two shows, Wellington and Auckland, are almost sold out which is good news. Last time we played there was around 2003 when we released Feast of Wire and I remember the enthusiasm was especially noticeable from the shows. I remember the green hills and windy beaches of Wellington and the good friends we hung out with. I wonder if we will see fellow musicians, David Kilgour (The Clean), Robert Scott (The Bats) from Dunedin or Professor Graeme Downes (The Verlaines) and the lovely Chris Knox (Tall Dwarfs) in Auckland.

in_nzJohn Convertino and I first toured New Zealand in 1997 with singer songwriter Barbara Manning where we played with the previously listed musicians and made an album altogether titled In New Zealand (The Communion Label). Barbara was so well planned that we got to enjoy many a sightseeing adventure including the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, the Kiwi Birdlife Park and the gorgeous coastline of Dunedin where we sampled the world famous Hokey Pokey ice cream (pronounced huggy puggy).

We will be thinking of Barbara and our european lighting engineer, James Murray, who was born and raised in Auckland. He is a huge fan of the All Blacks Rugby Team and their warm-up ritual Maori war dance called the Haka. Go James!

After New Zealand we head to Australia where I will be searching for some of those famous “Musk” flavored LifeSavers I heard about on today’s radio program Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me. Great gift to bring back home.

-Joey Burns

January 24th, 2007

Japan #3

It’s Saturday, January 20th, 2007 and we all meet in the hotel cafe for breakfast. The mighty buffet has a selection of mostly western fare; scrambled eggs, rice, bacon, sausages, french fries, yogurt, muesli, french toast, hard boiled eggs, juice, soup, good coffee and espresso. However there are also some more Japanese selections like seaweed salad, miso soup and mackerel. The place reminds me of a French style cafe with octagonal tile floors and small tables.

Everyone is in good spirits as we pile into two very small vans with all of our gear and luggage. The drive today to Okayama is a long one, 5 hours. It doesn’t take long before we stop and try to rearrange the packing order, “stretch a leg” as Volker says. Paul’s new laptop has a camera with a house of mirrors function, so we wind up passing the hours making funny faces and photos that are later made into comics thanks to a new software program.

I shift over to the super cramped van with John and Sam. We try to read while swerving through mountainous highways dotted with a series of tunnels that make reading nearly impossible. We talk about the new Iron and Wine album which upon listen with computer and headphoniums sounds amazing. Both Paul and I played on a few tracks and the fully realized recordings are truly impressive. Sam really has a knack for not only delivering incredible vocals and harmonies, but also is bad, as in bad ass, at the building of rhythmic and melodic parts.

We arrive in Okayama to find the club John Bull is part of a boutique clothing and design store. It’s interesting to see how scenes in communities like this are coming together combining different avenues in art scenes, fashion and technology which reminds me of a shop in Paris called A.P.C. which sell blue jeans and have a record label and performance space. Like A.P.C. John Bull has a gallery and bar where they can have installations, have DJ’s and live music. We all have a great time here and the mood is high.

The people who work here are all very nice. They offer a spread of chips and salsa, sandwiches and drinks. We sound check and then head back to the hotel. Jetlag is kicking in strong. Sam, Sarah and I rehearse in their tiny little hotel room for a few songs before starting to get extremely drowsy.

Leaving the cocoon state is hard to do, but we manage and pull up to the club noticing there is a mobile hamburger/hot dog trailer parked out in front of the venue. Very Tucson. I wonder if they have green chili. We climb into the venue to catch the very exciting support band, Cyclops Marine Corps Band. They are a hearty bunch. Remind me of San Fransisco/Hamburg harbor hard core eccentrics.

Iron and Wine play mostly new tunes including one written a few days before at the airport. Some of the kids sit down on the clean wooden floor. The whole place is fairly new. Just built. Very modern and stylish. The night turns out to be one of the best Japanese shows ever. We are floating on a cloud of post-Lemurian Pacific Rim positive vibrations, either that or really good red wine and kitkats.

The night is full. Lots of the audience and staff want to say hey. I head back to the hotel and am asleep the instant my head hits the pillow. Tomorrow we venture to Kyoto for a day off…I dream about wandering through the temples and gardens there and becoming one
with the rake and broom. Zen Rock Gardeners.

-Joey Burns

January 21st, 2007

Japan #2

I wandered around for a while in Fukuoka weaving in and out of shops and promenades where boutique stores and small shops displayed their impressive goods. volker mentioned a vinyl record store nearby, so I went with him to look at 60’s and 70’s Japanese bands. We listened to The Blue Comets live ’66 and the Tigers which was a kind of Magical Mystery Tour gate fold with color photo book. All very impressive. Just across the way from the hotel was the Chicago Thrift Store and inside there were tons of old clothes from the States mostly, I found an identical copy of Paul Niehaus’ turquoise western shirt and loads of Pendleton wool shirts.

After lunch John and I went with Kentaro and the local promoter to do a live radio interview at Love FM (www.lovefm.co.jp/stylishlife) for their program called the Stylish Life. We spoke with Ana who asked us about the kind of clothes we were wearing and what we knew of Fukuoka. John was wearing a Pendleton plaid vintage shirt and myself a wasabi green western snap shirt from a Tucson thrift store called Blast. A listener named Pumpkin Princess wrote an email asking if we tried the town’s famous ramen noodles yet. John replied that he “lived off of it for years living in Los Angeles.” We also spoke about Japanese bands we’ve played with in the past and named a few like Double Famous, Ego Wrappin’ and Quruli. Earlier that day I visited the Tower Records store, I guess they haven’t gone out of business here, and there was a whole floor of Japanese music. I wish we had some time to see some traditional Japanese music played or some of the free jazz and experimental groups like Satoko Fujii, who my brother John told me about.

We finish up the interview and head over to the club to meet the others setting up the gear at the club, Soul Bird which is downstairs in a very modern designed lounge with tables and a fancy tucked white leather interior. The backstage is tiny but well stocked with drinks and snacks and instead of going back to hotel after soundcheck I hang out at the club playing the piano and talking with the locals.

The first show is a good one. There is a nice mix of people, some Americans like Ryan from Illinois and Ashley from Alabama who flew over from Korea to see the show. I meet the Pumpkin Princess and ask which kind of ramen she could recommend but she replies that she doesn’t eat the stuff. go figure. Unfortunately Sam and Sarah Beam arrive after we play, their flights were delayed because of all the weather in the States. So we all go get some food close by the hotel. On the menu tonight the house specialty, Horse sashimi.

-Joey Burns

January 19th, 2007

Japan #1

left when it was dark. arrived when it was dark.
waking when it’s dark.

well, we were sure happy to see Hiroshi Asadah pick us up at the airport.
we had been told to wait outside as the airport was CLOSING. huh? what the?
so i called his mobile phone and he came right away.

this is our third tour of Japan that Hiroshi has promoted. these tours are always unique, never the grind and stress of other tours at home or in Europe, there is a quiet flow to the air here that is steady and calm.

speaking of air, it was a little chilly outside the airport and when we got into town, we immediately met up with volker, paul and jelle at a really comfy cozy restaurant.
nice warm jazz music playing. everyone in their socks sitting on a wooden raised floor.
beautiful carved wooden bar and overall lighting and design.

the food was perfect starting with a sushi platter that had an amazing decor and style, kind of like eating sushi tucked into an aquarium setting. if that makes any sense.
there was yellow tail, tuna, mackerel, red snapper, a gianormous underwater snail shell filled with curly pink and green tendrils and floating in its own jar, a succulent clump of cod intestines.

hmmmm…let’s see what else was there. oh yeah, a pork dish with a paper thin flour top that was cooked hard like a shell, so we broke it, and mixed the semi raw egg into as well. fun. that was one of my favorite dishes.

then there was a nice plate of deep fried mussels followed by some egg fried rice with a healthy dose of hot sesame oil. loved that. but the topper was most definitely the cod testicles tempura. Kentari, one of Hiroshi’s crew who had spent 6 years living in NYC plainly said, “shut up and eat. it’s good for tomorrow’s show.”

everyone at two tables were in fine spirits. it’s been a while since the steady pace of last year’s touring. i am curious as to where the music might go, especially since we’d just been fortified with essential vitamins and hormones?

i got some sleep on all three flights. wow a first.
so now at 6am i am awake and ready to go.

started playing some guitar and now thinking about heading out to walk around Fukuoka to watch the sunrise.

–Joey Burns