Since Calexico and DeVotchKa share a few musical sensibilities and they've both worked with producer Craig Schumacher at his Tuscon-based WaveLab Studio, it's not surprising DeVotchKa's singer Nick Urata and drummer Shawn King joined Calexico for a few songs during the band's sprawling hour and forty-five minute set at the packed to the gills Bluebird.
Early on in the set, the band revved up the crowd from with a few of many cuts from Algiers, the act's latest album, which was recorded at the Living Room Studio, an old Baptist church made of wood that built in the '30s in the Algiers area of New Orleans, according to Calexico frontman Joey Burns.
The band opened with "Epic," the first track on Algiers, before Jacob Valenzuela and Martin Wenk fired up the Mariachi trumpets on "Across the Wire" and then returning to Algiers again with "Splitter," one of the Tuscon-based band's more rocking songs of the night.
About a half an hour in, Burns invited his buddy Urata onstage for "Para," another cut from Algiers. Urata sang on a few choruses before taking over the lead on one of the verses. Later in the set, King joined the band on tambourine on "Quattro" and played trumpet on "Crystal Frontier" and "The Vanishing Mind" later in the set.
In between the nine songs from Algiers, the band drew from early albums like 2003's Feast of Wire ("Across the Wire," "Quattro" and "Guero Canelo"), 1998's The Black Light ("Minas de Cobre"), traversing between dusty Morricone-tinged instrumentals and Mexican-flavored songs. Multi-instrumentalist Valenzuela, who played trumpet, vibes and keys, sang in Spanish on "Inspiracion" from 2008's Carried to Dust and "No Te Vayas" from Algiers.
About an hour into the set, Burns invited the band's merch guy, Omar Alvarado, on stage to play the title cut from Algiers. Turns out Alvarado is also an ace on the vibes. Near the end of the set, the outfit blasted a ton of energy into Love's "Alone Again Or" and kept things motoring though "Puerto," which was fueled by drummer John Convertino frantic hi-hat work, and then closed out the set with "Crystal Frontiers."
During the three-song first encore, Calexico delved into the Minutemen's "Corona," which the show Jackass adopted as its theme song, with Valenzuela and Wenk adding the Mariachi trumpet vibe. For the last encore, the band ended a damn fine evening with "The Vanishing Mind," which also happens to be the last song on Algiers.
Personal Bias: While some of Calexico's Mariachi-fueled and Mexican-flavored songs are fun as hell, the dusty, cinematic instrumentals are equally engaging.
Random Detail: Just before the band launched into "Corona," the crowd was enlisted by the group to sing "Happy Birthday" to a girl named Grace, who turn just turned nine and was right by the stage.
By the Way: For the most part, Toronto-based openers, Bahamas, played a sleepy set, which was like musical tryptophan at times.
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