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LIVE REVIEW: Calexico, Amager Bio, 14.04.2015

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Photos by Johannes Leszinski

Where are you from? Where are you going?

Amager Bio on a drizzly Tuesday. A diminutive blonde woman plays a lap steel guitar on a stage that surrounds her in shadow. Seated and dressed in white, she arches over the instrument in her lap, running the slide over the strings with one hand while she plucks them with the other. Her wispy tremolos are accompanied by a nylon-string acoustic guitar, the maraca rhythms of a drum played with brushes, and a cello.

Maggie Björklund doesn’t introduce herself until the last song of the supporting set, after someone in the audience calls out for the name of her band. Earlier, before a song she described as “film musik,” she had encouraged us to substitute our own narrative, as the film had yet to be made. It isn’t entirely fair. Björklund’s music conjures images of desert vistas at dusk where the mind can go wandering. It’s airy and expansive, but there’s little to draw your attention. Sometimes when the band crescendos toward a climax, you wish the lap steal would snag like a pinched nerve. But no—Björklund’s resigned to a mood. It’s music by the bonfire. At least it’s warm.

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Calexico’s set opens with “Cumbia de Donde”, a track off their new album Edge of the Sun where the Latin reference points are front and center, and that seems to be the point. “I’m not from here/ I’m not from there,” sings Joey Burns in a call-and-response interplay with trumpet player Jacob Valenzuela and guitarist Jario Zavala (“De dondé eres?/ A dondé vas?”). It’s instantly infectious, and it helps that the capacity-crowd is super responsive. Syncopated rhythms get your shoulders popping on the off-beat as you join in the refrain: “I’m in the moment and I’m on my way/ I’m on my way.”

After nearly 20 years, Burns and drummer John Convertino remain the driving force of Calexico, and much of their success is credited to a wholehearted embrace of the collaborative spirit. Though neither Sam Beam nor Neko Case are present to sing their respective parts on “Bullets & Rocks” and “Tapping on the Line”, you’d think the touring band was comprised of other contemporary heroes of alternative country you just hadn’t heard of.

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Valenzuela and Zavala in particular are standouts. Zavala, a powerful axman, is in kind blessed with natural charisma. During the elegiac “Maybe on Monday”, a song about a departed love, he manages to whip the crowd in whoops and cheers with a searing solo on baritone guitar, totally earning the applause break and mean mugging all the while. Valenzuela is a less showy performer, who gets his moment with a beautiful solo vocal performance of “Inspiracion”, a song he wrote for 2008’s Carried to Dust.

Calexico’s always had a nack for capturing a sense of place. Even when they’re paying tribute to other bands from other eras, with faithful covers of Love’s “Alone Again Or”, R.E.M.’s “The One I Love”, and The Minutemen’s “Corona”, their set is charged by an ambiance that transports you. As with their namesake, Calexico’s music is a port of entry to the sounds and themes of the American Southwest, where the steady warble of slide guitar and horns hold your soul in the borderlands of darkness and light. Toward the end of the set, on “Not Even Stevie Nicks”, Burns takes us “into the blue, into the blue”. The song then builds magnificently into a familiar tune—Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. Though they may have “the wound that the sun won’t ever heal”, I’ll always “Follow the River” when Calexico’s in town.

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PLAYLIST: Here Today’s Concerts – April

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We have updated our “Here Today Concerts” playlist.

The Twilight Sad (Loppen, 03.04.2015)

The Twilight Sad has just released their fourth studio album, Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave, to raving reviews.  Drowned In Sound wrote:  “The Twilight Sad gave birth to one of the greatest British debut albums in living memory. That was in 2007 and just seven years later they’ve given us an indication that they could attain greatness on a par with MBV or The Jesus and Mary Chain. Hell, carry on like this and we’ll be comparing them with The Cure.” Sounds like a band you want to hear, right?

Eyehategod (Loppen, 07.04.2015)

Wearing earplugs to an Eyehategod show is as effective as wearing a bulletproof vest to a catapult festival. As veteran purveyors of sludge metal, the New Orleans outfit grind out blood-encrusted songs that fall on the exploding end of the noise spectrum. Their music is the sound gravity makes with a limitless supply of anvils and anchors, the spectacle of which will be well worth the price of admission.

Kate Tempest (Vega, 13.04.2015)

The obvious reference point to Kate Tempest debut album Everybody Down is the Streets’ second album, A Grand Don’t Come for Free. It is a conceptual album that tells the story of three characters battling loneliness in the big city, with each song representing a new chapter; a rather ambitious undertaking which the young Londoner gets away with quite well.

Calexico (Amager Bio, 14.04.2015)

Calexico specializes in music of the soul by sunset, a style and attitude inherent to the group’s home in the Mexican-American borderlands of Tucson, Arizona. Combining the warm acoustic arrangements of country and the brassy orchestration of Mexican folk music, they can get big and loud without being unwelcoming. Their forthcoming album Edge of the Sun is set to release on April 14, the day of their show at Amager Bio. If ever there were a time and a place…

White Hills (Loppen, 14.04.2015)

Psychedelic New-Yorkers White Hills haven’t released much material in the last couple of years, but that hasn’t kept them out of the lime-light. An appearance on Only Lovers Left Alive–a scene in which the vampiric Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddelston and Mia Wasikowska gloomily headbang to the band in a Detroit club–has cemented their reputation as purveyors of far out cool. Loppen is certainly an appropriate venue for a band with the Jim Jarmusch seal of approval.

Grouper (Jazzhouse, 21.04.2015)

Having listened to Ruins, Liz Harris’ latest album as ambient act Grouper, it’s difficult to picture exactly what kind of performance she will put on at Jazzhouse. How do you haunt a stage the way that album haunts the mind? Undoubtedly with the aid of smoke and mirrors. Even if all that means is a bit of dry ice and some mood lighting, the aural component is smoke you can’t blow out, a mirror you can’t turn away from.

Moon Duo (Stengade, 22.04.2015)

If the East Coast psychedelia of White Hills isn’t enough for one month, Moon Duo are coming to Copenhagen to represent the West Coast. On the back of their latest critically-acclaimed album, Shadow of the Sun, the Duo will be kraut-rocking through Europe, leaving behind them a trail of burned rubber and broken speakers.

Colin Stetson (Jazzhouse, 22.04.2015)

Stetson’s New History of Warfare trilogy, recently completed, has gone a long way in redefining the capabilities of the saxophone. Thanks to circular breathing techniques and microphones inserted in strange places, Colin Stetson has turned the usually jaunty sax into an instrument of bleak and violent landscapes. Eerie pulsations and terrifying screeches are the order of the day, and we look forward to experiencing them in Lynchian environment of Jazzhouse.

Screaming Females (Loppen, 28.04.2015)

Actually there is only one female in the New Jersey Punk outfit Screaming Females, Marissa Paternoster. Even though she is tiny, she fills the stage in a way that stops the question “why are they called that then?” popping into your head. Her powerful vibrato and brutal guitar work is hard to match. Their 2012 album Ugly was recorded with Steve Albini and gained praise with publications such as Pitchfork. On their new album Rose Mountain the band explores new territory which results in a more refined sound which holds great promise for the future.

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