Almanac Music: My Calexico Summer

Last night, I headed to the Melbourne Recital Centre to see Calexico. I love the warm embrace I feel when ensconced in the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall. I have been there many times to see classical music. This was my first venture there for a ….. well how do you describe Calexico’s music?


In the foyer before the show I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for many years. He reminded me our last drinking session was the year we bailed out of going to the tennis on my birthday and headed to the pub instead. He had a grin like a Cheshire Cat when he stated we made the right decision. The unrelenting heat so common at Open visits is not for the fainthearted, particularly if you’d rather be sinking cold beers talking music rather than hearing the primordial grunts from a pubescent Slav trying to smash the cover off a ball.


We moved on to having a quick chat about Calexico before heading into seeing the support, Jess Ribeiro. He told me he didn’t listen to a lot of their music at home but loved catching them when they toured. I concurred but, for various reasons, this was the first time I was seeing them.


That got me ruminating on what it is about some acts that don’t drive me to listen to their records but get me salivating at the prospect of seeing them live.


Jess did a great spot playing some quirky tunes. Her mellifluous voice floated over her sharp guitar playing to get the crowd in the mood for the onslaught to come. Looking around at the faces it came as no surprise that a 50+ bloke like me and my tennis-averse mate were right in the slot for the types to come out on a sweltering night to see these Arizonan troubadours. After her 30 minute set and a suitable intermission to get your beverage of choice (Peronis were in high demand), it was time for Joey and the boys.


Out they come. The stalwarts, Joey Burns and John Convertino, were joined by five others. Their big, brassy fusion of southern rock, folk, TexMex and cumbia filled the room. Joey exhorted the crowd to clap, sing and make merry. Songs were threaded together to showcase their stunning repertoire. As a generous bandleader, Joey encouraged his charges to extemporise and head down a byway filled with their musical prowess. Solos came one after another with a highlight for me being the double bass blast that was several minutes long. A good mate of mine in Sydney is a bass player and he instilled a love of jazz by showing me the power of this instrument. Later it would be trumpets, squeezeboxes and Portuguese guitars that would take their turns, not to mention the constant syncopation of maracas!


Throughout the night, audience members rode the waves of reverie and ecstasy that this wonderful band generated. We all left feeling a little bit better about the world, just as Joey had wanted. He made a point of requesting we all do our bit. One could sense we were foot-soldiers being enlisted in his crusade and that is A-OK by me. I tweeted out after the gig how much I enjoyed it. They had responded to previous tweets I sent in anticipation of their Melbourne shows so I knew they were generous souls.


It’s been a hot summer and we are only halfway through. Sometimes we struggle to make sense of how we cope. I love the beach, but many don’t bother. I hate the culture wars around Australia Day, but many happily breeze on through. I seek solace in whiling away the days with cricket and reading and general indolence. This summer, however, has an added edge. The way I was taken to a different plane last night means I can now officially declare this my Calexico summer. Vamos!



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Grew up playing the rugby codes in suburban Sydney. Moved to Melbourne during the Carey era so becoming a Shinboner was the natural call. Still love the game they play in heaven. Took an interest in MLB a few years back and have become infatuated with America's pastime.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Love this band! Fortunate to have seen them a couple of times, great band live. Enjoyed your piece Ruminator.

  2. Daryl Schramm says

    Hi Brian. I have an awareness of Calexico and their capabilities from WOMAD in 2016, my first WOMAD experience. I see they will be at The Gov here in Adelaide shortly.
    I too had that ‘no records but fantastic live’ experience last night at our Entertainment Centre with Mumford & Sons. Only knew a couple of their songs but a memorable live performance in spite of the record heat.
    I think it was your good self I sat opposite to sharing a red or three at the 2017 FA GF luncheon.

  3. Daryl Schramm says

    Woops. Looks like I missed Calexicos Adelaide show.only by 7 days. Have been away relaxing in Tumby Bay!!

  4. Keiran Croker says

    I went to both gigs at Melbourne Recital Centre last week .. both absolutely superb. I have also had the good fortune to see them a few times at New Orleans JazzFest where they were one of the highlights. I agree that while they produce diverse and eclectic recordings, its their superb live performances that make them such a great band.

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