Calexico offer a little midday entertainment at Rough Trade East
Joey Burns and John Convertino, the two founding members of Calexico, will play the HMV Forum on Tuesday with a full ensemble of musicians. “Just turn up with an instrument case, say you’re in the local marching band and they’ll let you in for free – it always happens!” quips Burns. But today it’s just the two of them at Rough Trade East, doing a midday in-store armed with only an acoustic guitar and a rickety old drum kit. Ironically it’s on intimate occasions such as these, in front of a Brick Lane crowd on their lunch break, that the veteran duo have to really knuckle down and prove their worth as performers.
Fortunately, Calexico have never needed smoke and mirrors to get their point across – their dusty brand of Latin-inflected Americana explores subtle moods and textures that other modern rock bands tend to ignore, making the band’s music perfectly suited to a stripped-down line-up. “We’ve just flown in from Tucson, Alabama, and we’re jetlagged and hungry and happy and elated to be here”, said Burns, before throwing us all off guard with an unexpectedly soulful take on Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone (yes, the Top Gun classic). “I just wish we had some appetisers to make it worth your while.”
Throughout the set, the band appeared more innocently preoccupied with promoting a friends’ pizzeria in Holborn than their new record Algiers. But the material off the record sounded fantastic, hype or no hype, especially the unsettling twang of Para and recent single Splitter, shorn of its New Orleans horns and reminiscent of Gold-era Ryan Adams at his sprightly best.
Burns has always been an unassuming frontman – several audience members were overheard mistaking him for a member of staff before the show – but his humble croon worked wonders on the warm-sounding ballad Fortune Teller, and his earnest love of music (and record stores in particular) shone through in his appreciative between-song asides. The short set served as both an excellent musical palate cleanser before heading back to work for the afternoon, and a catalyst for anticipation ahead of Tuesday’s main event.
Listen to Calexico’s new single Algiers here