Calexico and The Dodos @ The Rickshaw Theatre – October 20th 2012

I got an email to confirm that everything was wrapped up in a neat little package, as far as the concert was concerned, after a very stressful past couple of weeks. To my pleasure, I was reminded that The Dodos were to be playing with Calexico, making something great even better.

I had double booked the evening (naturally) with my friend Greg’s birthday, however, things worked out and I could easily move between locations, making it to the Rickshaw Theater at a cool 8:00 PM. The Rickshaw was another new one for me, and when I inside the concert area, I was a little taken aback. Okay, it was called a theater, but I still wasn’t really expecting one. I liked the seating arrangement, it really worked out well; there were about 15 rows of seats and ample room for standing (which eventually was completely used up, but more on that later). To be honest, it was a little sketchy looking inside, but I didn’t get the classic ‘sticky-theater-floor’ feeling, so I’ll give them full marks. The stage was fairly big, and PACKED with equipment from the get-go (a sign of a good night). Everyone seemed to have the same idea as me with the whole sitting thing, and I noticed that the crowd was, on average, more middle-aged than most concerts I’ve been to; which was kind of cool to see an older crowd coming out for what seemed to be an amazing line-up.

The Dodos hit the stage at 8:20. Meric Long and Logan Kroeber came together in San Francisco in 2005, and started their journey through a world of sweet, sweet sound. I’d started listening to the band a few years ago when I’d gotten hooked on ‘Red and Purple’ and ‘Fools’ from their album Visiter. Like I said before, I wasn’t really aware that I’d be seeing them, and I got pretty excited for a chance to hear some of my favourites live.

They started off with some technical issues (mostly because there was some sort of feedback ghost throughout the night) as they played ‘Black Night’, the first song from their newest album No Color. I’m not sure if it’s because it was a new song, as Meric Long said that they were trying out new songs on this tour, but I have NO idea what the next song was. My song-searching abilities failed big time on this second song and their last song, so I’m going to cheat and call them both new songs, my bad, sorry guys. However, I DO know that the song after mystery song number 1, was ‘Ashley’, once again from Visiter, which was followed up by an actual new song, which had the word ‘Confidence’ featured fairly prominently, to the point where I’ll just give it that name for the time being. It was a soft song that was pushed along by the lyrics, and backed up by strong drumming from Kroeber. The song picked up about halfway through and Long played a great, flowing solo, before it transitioned back into its earlier pace flawlessly. Meric Long then switched to an acoustic and they played ‘Walking’ before immediately shifting into one of my favourites ‘Red and Purple’, which featured some great harmonies, and a cool section before the end of the song where they switched up the tempo to add a little something extra before finishing. The seventh song of the set was another new song, which really had a good feel to it and let Kroeber show off his skills, as Meric Long played over his own looped sound. The song is easy enough to find on youtube, so just check out The Dodos – New Song (or something along those lines, it’s called new song on there). As stated before, can’t place the last song at all, but it was a slow/fast/slow song that had a really strong sound when it picked up, and was a great way to end things. The set finished up at 9:00, and over-all was really strong, and every song was great. Do check out, do see live, and hopefully see them for a full, long set.

Now was the time for set-up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many guitars on stage, as they rolled them on out. The place was getting more and more packed as Calexico took the stage: Joey Burns (guitar and vocals), John Covertino (drums), Ryan Alfred (bass, both stand-up and electric), Sergio Mendoza (on the everything including keys, and ukulele), Martin Wenk (on the everything else, including keys, guitar, bells, and trumpet), Jairo Zavala (all the way from Madrid, Spain playing lap steel and guitar and provided vocals), and Jacob Valenzuela (playing an everything of his own, including trumpet, bells, and vocals). They set it off with ‘Epic’ from the new album Algiers, and I honestly didn’t really know what to expect. Most of what I’d heard from the band was from their assistance on the I’m Not There soundtrack. I was greeted with about what I had expected, and then got hit with more of a heavily Spanish influenced alternative country when they started playing ‘Across the Wire’ from the album Feast of Wire. This was followed up by the addition of lap steel and accordion when they played ‘Splitters’.

Front-man Joey Burns was quite interactive and friendly with the audience calling for our screams and asking how Vancouver was doing. Quite considerate of him. ‘Roka’ featured the Spanish vocals and trumpet playing skills of Jacob Valenzuela, and a keyboard solo from Sergio Mendoza. ‘Dead Moon’ is a song that didn’t make it to the new album, which is unfortunate because it featured Joey Burns, Jairo Zavala and Martin Wenk on guitar and was a great addition to the set-list. Find a live version on Youtube to see what I’m talking about. The lap steel and accordion solo in this next, dark sounding song, ‘Para’ from Algiers, was beautiful and probably my favourite slow-paced song from the set. This was followed up by the instrumental ‘El Picador’ from Hot Rail, which was just a good ride through-out, with bright trumpets and twangy guitar in that classic western film style. ‘Inspiracion’ from Carried to Dust was easily one of the best from the night, with its all-Spanish lyrics care-of Jacob Valenzuela, and its smooth sound before things got back to more of an Alt-Country sound with ‘Fortune Teller’.

At this point, Joey Burns apologized to the fella on lights, as he decided to switch things up because they were out west; apparently ‘Sunken Waltz’ from Feast of Wire is important to us over here, as the audience was real happy with the band’s choice. ‘Maybe on a Monday’ was is a good song from the new album, but was plagued was incessant feedback every 30 seconds, which somehow got rectified as Ryan Alfred switched to an electric bass from the stand-up he’d been playing all night, so that they could play ‘Two Silver Trees’ from Carried to Dust, another crowd pleaser. Another favourite of the night was ‘Victor Jara’s Hands’ from Carried to Dust which heavily featured Jairo Zavala on guitar as well as filling in vocal duties. ‘Black Heart’ was another dark, epic song that was countered by ‘Alone Again Or’, which is a cover of a song originally by the band Love. It was an upbeat, moving song, with beautiful harmonies and a great trumpet solo; definitely a cover that honoured the original. This went right into ‘Puerto’ from Algiers, which was followed by another cover, this time of the song ‘Corona’ by the Minutemen. The band was having tons of fun on stage, and it was just great time with an even better feeling to it.

The band took their leave of the stage to initiate encore time, and came back to inform us that we were the rowdiest crowd on the whole tour. While the room and aisles were PACKED at this point, I’m not sure if I’d take that at face value, but the crowd loved it anyways as it got chastised for drinking Pabst (apparently what Joey Burns’ parents drink), and introductions were made (including Omar on merch). ‘Sinner in the Sea’ kicked things off, with that classic salsa (feel free to correct me here, that’s just how I think of it) piano line that made you want to get out of your seat and dance. ‘Crystal Frontier’ has another song that includes those classic Spanish hooks and it has a great pacing, made even better with some trading 4s from Valenzuela and Wenk. Though there were a lot of contenders for my favourite song of the night, I’m hesitant, but willing to say that ‘Guero Canelo’ was probably the number one, as it was a great wrap-up to the encore and the night (or so I thought). From Feast of Wire and apparently the soundtrack for the movie Collateral, it was just a smooth song with a lot of energy, as well as a Zavala and keys solo.

But like I say, the night wasn’t over. A second encore ensued, since there just seems to be “something crazy about the west”. ‘The Vanishing Mind’ is the final song from Algiers, and was a slow, strong way to end. It was a good contrast to all the upbeat, fast-paced songs that preceded it.

I definitely zoomed through all these songs, but the band played a meaty 21 song set, that showed off their skill, and made sure you knew that they were professionals who deserved above and beyond the recognition that they’ve gotten so far in their careers. Every single member of the band was a multi-instrumentalist, and was amazing with every instrument they touched. The set was incredible, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing, as it all seemed to fit quite nicely together.

I really can’t do the band justice in writing; it’s really something that needs to be heard to get the real experience. For now, listen to the set-list in full, and hopefully if the time comes, go see Calexico; they’re a group of extremely talented individuals, and they’re more than capable to change any preconceived notions you may have about what the world of Alt-Country/Americana is all about.

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