I’ve been on a roll lately. The past nine nights have been spent all around the cities listening to all types of music. Although my exhaustion level is definitely hitting an all time high, it doesn’t get old. Last night was one of those shows where I knew nothing other than the fact that I had the night off and wasn’t going to spend it at home. So I packed up my “show bag” and headed out the door to the unknown. I walked into The Fine Line for Calexico and was greeted with a venue full of older people. Usually this is a turn off but, with how tired I’ve been, the idea of just standing there and listening to some music while enjoying my own personal space sounded amazing.
Ryley Walker and his buddy Bill MacKay hit the stage promptly at 8PM. The duo jumped into a forty-five minute set that left me feeling confused in the best way possible. Ryley had a very punk sense about him. He joked around that, if given the chance, he would “drop this indie folk shit and join System of a Down”. That sentiment seemed to resonate throughout the set what with the way his guitar remained distorted throughout the set. On the other hand, Bill MacKay seemed to have a very classical training about him. Even with the way he held his guitar, you could feel this sense of professionalism and perfection about him. His guitar sound was clean and crisp with clashed with that of Ryley’s guitar giving the set a very dissonant yet truly beautiful vibe.
Beyond the beauty of the two guitars going at it was Ryley’s voice. It was much deeper than I thought it would be when hearing him talk in between songs but it wasn’t unnaturally deep. There was the tortured sense about it as he sang about love and love lost. Although not every song had lyrics and, even when they did, it seemed like the strings of words were few and far between, just the sound of Ryley’s voice seemed to make every conversation in The Fine Line come to a screeching halt. The unspoken connection between Ryley and Bill was more than enough to have my eyes glued to the stage. The way they could just nod at each other or just a quick glance to check what the other one was playing yet they stayed in sync the entire set was truly remarkable. All in all, it definitely wasn’t the most exciting set I’ve seen but it was one of the most charming ones. Ryley promised to come back in the fall with his band and you best believe I’ll be in that front row cheering him on.
Arizona based Calexico quickly took over the stage after Ryley and Bill’s performance and jumped into their set just a little after 9PM (gotta love those two band shows where the headliner goes on around 9!). Although I had never heard of Calexico prior to last night’s show, my check in to the show on Facebook was creating a bit of a buzz with friends as they explained how jealous they were. Knowing who these friends were and their taste in music, I knew I was in for something completely unlike what I’m used to but also completely amazing. As the group kicked into what would turn into a twenty-plus song set, everything made sense. Yes, the music was completely outside of my comfort zone but, just like I had assumed, it was truly amazing and I just couldn’t take my eyes off the stage.
With ten albums out dating back to 1996, a spattering of EPs and a couple of live recordings, Calexico is one of those bands that has proved time after time that they aren’t going anywhere. Their sound is truly unique what with the way the blend Americana, Tex-Mex, and indie music flawlessly to create a sound unlike anything I had ever heard. At times during their set, you couldn’t help but sway your hips to the Latin infused beats. At other points, you felt like you were at just another indie show where you should have a PBR in hand. There was a sense of freshness about this group. Maybe that was because every song seemed to have a new vibe so nothing felt stagnant, or maybe it was just the electric energy that radiated off the stage. Whatever it was, any feeling of exhaustion I had walking to the show last night was instantly replaced by pure joy and a need to dance.
One of the most impressive things about this group is the way the various members switch between instruments without skipping a single beat multiple times throughout the set. I’m not talking just a switch of guitars or the switch from vocals to guitar. I’m talking keyboards to accordion to maracas back to the keyboard with a maraca in the other hand… I mean, pure insanity. It definitely felt like chaos and, with so many instruments on stage (and people), the set could have easily fallen into the world of chaos but each instrument was played with professionalism and precision. At no point did I feel like there was too much going on when it came to the music. Although there were a million things happening at any given time, every instrument and note had it’s own spot.
Like so many other nights of my life, I walked into last night’s show with no idea what to expect but left thoroughly impressed and with a couple new acts to add to my daily playlist. Getting out of bed this morning was definitely rough but it is also definitely worth it!