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

February 2nd, 2007

Calexico on Late Night with Conan O’Brien – Feb 6

calexico and conanIn all of the preparations for leaving for NY this week we were asked yesterday if we could play Late Night with Conan O’Brien on February 6th prior to our Lincoln Center show on February 8th. We are all fans of the show and looking forward to hanging out a few extra days in NY. Thanks Conan! Paul Niehaus has performed on the show twice before with Lambchop and Vic Chesnutt recalling his meeting Larry King and Tim Robbins. Checking the NBC schedule it looks like we’ll be sharing the green room with Dr. Phil and the other mystery guest. I am thinking of writing out some horns parts for the Max Weinberg 7 and invite them to play with us. For sure Brooklyn’s virtuosic multi instrumental Rob Burger will be joining us on organ and we will try our best to coerce Conan to unwield his Fender Sratocaster. This is the first time we will be playing the show, Jim Pitt the talent and booking agent for the show has asked a few times in the past but our touring schedule has always prevented the opportunity. With a more open schedule this year we are all honored to be asked and to take part in one of our favorite late night TV shows.

-Joey Burns

February 2nd, 2007

American Songbook performance features special guests

As the week rapidly approaches anticipation builds for the upcoming show at the Lincoln Center February 8th as part of the American Songbook series.

calexicoWe are honored to be asked to take part in this tradition with fellow musicians like Sufjan Stevens, Stephen Merritt and Neko Case. What songs to perform and which covers to pull out are some of the questions floating
in our mind space and musical realm. The Allen Room looks like a beautiful space with good conjure complete with a massive glass backdrop unveiling the slow simmer glow of Manhattan’s skyline. I keep going back to earlier songs of ours like “Crooked Road and The Briar” and “Bloodflow” ones that have rarely been performed before as well as some cover songs by artists who have helped shape the eclectic side of the American Songbook such as David Hidalgo, Bob Dylan, Stephen Foster, Lalo Guerrero and Michael Hurley. We have two shows for two completely different sets of songs and tons of guests so the possibilities are endless which will no doubtedly be a lot of fun.

Joining us will be Johnny Contreras from Tucson’s Mariachi Luz de Luna playing vihuela, cuatro and vocals, Brooklyn’s own Rob Burger on piano and
accordion, and some of the members of indie-gypsy NY based band, Beirut (Jon Natchez-baritone and tenor sax, Kelly Pratt -trumpet and euphonium, Jason Poranski-ukuele and guitar, and Kristin Serrebee-violin.)

There are so many more friends and musicians we would love to invite to sit in with us this night, who knows maybe there will be more surprise guests, or maybe we should return to the NY area for a residency, something we’ve wanted to do for years.

January 24th, 2007

Lincoln Center’s American Songbook featuring Calexico

Lincoln Center’s acclaimed series American Songbook returns for its ninth season celebrating the diversity and breadth of American popular song. For 18 nights of cabaret, folk, pop, country, rock, and bluegrass, the series will explore the best of the golden age of musical standards and today’s most dynamic contemporary songwriting. The 2006–2007 season will bring to The Allen Room stage some of today’s most gifted interpreters of song including Calexico! This season continues the tradition of presenting some of today’s most innovative singer-songwriters, from a variety of genres, who are expanding the American songbook in their own unique ways.

allen_room

Thursday, February 8 (2 shows – 7:30pm & 9:30pm):

CALEXICO draws on influences as diverse as country, 50’s jazz, blues, rock, and even gypsy music, and Portuguese Fado, but you can also hear echoes of the indigenous music found around their home base in the American southwest. All of this lends an ecclectism to their driving indie-rock recordings, and it will surely be on display for their American Songbook double-bill debut.

In the intimate setting of The Allen Room, Frederick P. Rose Hall, located on the 5th floor of the Time Warner Center at Broadway and 60th St.

TICKETS for the general public can be purchased via CenterCharge at 212-721-6500, at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office, or at the Frederick P. Rose Hall Box Office beginning January 3, 2007.

Tickets are still available for the 7:30pm show HERE
Tickets are still available for the 9:30pm show HERE

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.
funny.

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

January 13th, 2007

Benefit Success & On To Japan

Joey Burns writes:

ariel benefit show

After having enjoyed the holiday vacation we all returned to Tucson for a memorial concert and benefit on January 6, 2007 for the family of mariachi musician, Ariel Cramer. I just wanted to say a special thank you to everyone that helped out in making it a truly special evening. The Cramer family were all very taken back by the number of people that came out to support the relatives and children of Ariel. Thanks to the Rialto Theatre staff and crew, Steven Eye of Solar Culture, Billions Booking and all of the musicians who donated their time and energy to making such a beautiful night of music and sentiment. This was truly a great way to start the year.

calexico and iron wineSoon we will climb back into our suitcases for a tour of Japan with our friends Sam and Sarah Beam from the group, Iron and Wine. They will be opening as a duo on the whole tour and gradually will be flanked by members of Calexico performing songs from the EP “In The Reins”. As on tours before in North America and Europe, I am sure there will be a lot of improvising together and coming up with interesting new original and cover songs. Last year Paul Niehaus and myself recorded with Sam at his home studio to contribute to the new Iron and Wine album due to come out later this year.

Touring Japan is always an exciting time. Everything is organized well, the shows are early, crowds are attentive, and after every night there is always a big dinner held where we meet a lot of the local artists and personalities. Last time we played Japan we met cartoonist, Ashura Benimaru, one of the creators of Pokemon who showed us his studio full of books, toys and tons of vintage guitars. We also stopped by the Flat 4 Volkswagen shop and showroom. What an amazing collection of old vintage bugs. beetles and parts. They’re celebrating their 30th year anniversary. Check it out.

The last few times we’ve been to Japan we’ve managed to schedule a day off in Kyoto to visit the countries’ most famous temples and shrines. So this time around I made sure to ask that we return again to Kyoto since for me those experiences there, in what was the
spiritual center, always make a huge impact upon returning home. It was in these minimalist styled gardens and temples where the presence of absence made me feel a connection to living in the Sonoran Desert back home in Arizona. That and reading works by writer Haruki Murakami have been a constant source of
inspiration.
www.harukimurakami.com

December 31st, 2006

Calexico Performs in Honor of Ariel Cramer

cramerA very special tribute and benefit concert will be held in Tucson on Saturday, January 6th at The Rialto Theatre to honor the memory of mariachi musician Ariel Cramer who passed away unexpectedly in May 2006 leaving behind one child and one newborn he never got to see.

Joey Burns writes:

Ariel Cramer came with us to Europe for the first concerts we ever played with Mariachi Luz de Luna in 2000 for the City Slang Records’ 10th Anniversary in London and Berlin. Ariel was also in the music video for the song ‘Crystal Frontier’ and recently played with us at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, together with Luz de Luna and Lila Downs.

Ariel or “El Cramer” as he was nicknamed, was an instantly likeable person. He always came to rehearsals and performances with a huge heart and personality that lit up the room. He played both the guitar and vihuela exceptionally well in several mariachi groups as well as a heavy metal group. Ariel was always cracking jokes and making us all laugh, his presence is thoroughly missed.

Johnny Contreras of Luz de Luna introduced Ariel to Calexico and when we spoke about doing something to both honor the memory of our friend and raise some money for Ariel’s family – we thought there is no better way than through music.

Volker Zander writes:

Let’s remember El Cramer. He seemed to be shy and quiet. His appearance expressed Gemütlichkeit. Cramer would greet me with a peaceful “Wassup”, but then give me a ton of a handshake. Because he had super powers. I once saw him flying – ‘Ariel’ was his name – over a mile high pile of luggage inside of an overpacked tourbus filled up with about 40 Calexicans, Luz de Lunas, Lambchoppers, their bags and cases. “I might be big, but I can mooove”, he said after the stunt and showed us his biceps. The whole bus cheered. That was
London, 2000.

The last time I played with him was the Tucson show around Xmas 2005. We made the deal cramer2that I had to serve him beer on stage to fight the limelights heat – secretly of course, not for the eyes of the festive audience. We handeld it like Stan and Ollie, as the theater must have witnessed. That particular night he showed his speed-metallist skills on the vihuela. He was a fast ball. The biggest guy with the smallest guitar, the biggest smile and the fastest pace.

Ariel had plans for the future. He talked about teaching kids his music and lessons in life.
I miss Ariel. My thoughts are with you, dear family and friends.

Here is another picture, made minutes before he appeared on stage of the Disney Music Hall in Los Angeles. Not everybody plays this venue. He did.

Tickets are now available for Saturday’s concert which will feature Luca, Calexico, Mariachi Luz de Luna and Mariachi Aztlan de Pueblo High School. All proceeds from the concert will benefit the family of Ariel Cramer