Rialto & Stateside Presents
The 4th Annual Festival En El Barrio: A Benefit for KXCI feat. Calexico, Rebirth Brass Band w/Sergio Mendoza Y La Orkesta, Heartless Bastards and more...
See Article: Rebirth Brass Band to Headline Festival en el Barrio
Rebirth Brass Band is among the headliners for this year's Festival en el Barrio, which is just around the corner this Sunday...
Tucson AZ | Alternative
They call New Orleans a melting pot. When one thinks about it like that, it's hardly surprising that this is where CALEXICO reconvened to record their seventh full-length album, ALGIERS. Joey Burns and John Convertino have long called upon an extended range of musical influences, blending them together so distinctly that the results have almost become a genre of their own. Nonetheless, the choice of New Orleans may still come as a surprise to many. CALEXICO are, after all, associated with a style that their name - borrowed from a small town of less than 40,000 inhabitants on the border between the US and Mexico - has always defined with an unusual precision. Their work has spoken of dusty deserts and the loners that inhabit them, mixing America's country music heritage with that of a Latin persuasion. In other words, it isn't obviously affiliated with the sounds that have made New Orleans one of the premiere tourist destinations in the US. What's emerged as a result of this decision, however, is arguably the most exciting and accessible record CALEXICO have made. It's a fact emphasised by the band's decision to name the album in tribute to the neighbourhood where they worked: Algiers.
"When I say New Orleans, you think.... 'what?'" Burns elaborates. "Preservation Hall Band, Wynton Marsalis, Treme, Satchmo, Dr John, The Funky Butt, The Meters, Fats Domino, Boswell Sisters, Quintron, Trombone Shorty, Galactic, Harry Connick Jr, Brad Pitt, Daniel Lanois. And so do I. But when you are there, on Algiers Point or on the river or standing outside the chain link fence at Congo Square, you go back across the water to Haiti, Cuba, Africa. Some strange circles down there resurface."
The feel of ALGIERS is recognisably classic CALEXICO, but their style been revitalised and reborn by the experience of recording in the city. Its influence isn't necessarily sonically evident, but there's a strange, powerful connection to the sounds that have always coloured their own, influences Burns has previously identified as including "Portugese fado, 50's jazz, gypsy or romani music and its offshoots, 60's surf and twang from Link Wray to country's Duane Eddy, the spaghetti western epics of Ennio Morricone and dark indie rock singer songwriters."
You can hear ample proof of this in the dozen songs that make up ALGIERS. 'Epic', the magical opening track, swoons with an unexpected, easy-going romance and boasts a strangely calming, emotive chorus, and 'Para' - which Burns admits nearly didn't make the record as "it felt too confessional" - is dark and brooding. 'Hush', featuring Paul Niehaus on both his trademark pedal steel and Moog synth, meanwhile finds Burns at his most sensitive, echoes in his delivery of Bruce Springsteen at his most melancholic, a comparison one might also draw, for other reasons, when confronted by 'Splitter''s uplifting rumble. Then there's 'No Te Vayas', a collaboration between long-term CALEXICO member Jacob Valenzuela and Jairo Zavala of Depedro, and the trumpet-embellished drama of 'Sinner In The Sea', which reflects Burns' desire "to map out a song that embraced our west coast roots to our experience working in Havana with Amparo Sanchez a few years ago" and which he flippantly describes as, "LA Woman heads to the Florida Keys and drives across the water to Cuba". One can't ignore the majestic closer, 'The Vanishing Mind', either, arguably as powerful as anything they've ever written. New Orleans, it seems, agrees witb CALEXICO.
"I've always loved New Orleans," confirms John Convertino, who first met Joey Burns in 1990 when they began playing together in Giant Sand with Howe Gelb. "I knew that just by being in that place, with all that history that is so rooted in music, things would be different. You can't help but pick up the vibe. The air itself moves you in a way that is very different from anywhere else."
Of course, it's not the first time CALEXICO have worked away from their hometown base of Tucson, Arizona (and the city's Wavelab Studios) since they first started recording under the name in 1996. Garden Ruin was recorded in Bisbee and mixed in Brooklyn, for instance, and their cover of Love's 'Alone Again Or' was laid down in Nashville. But, after their initial attempts to start work on the new record proved troubling, Burns and Convertino were on the hunt for fresh perspectives: "I remember the first day Joey and I got together in our little studio to start," Convertino recalls. "It was a cold, cold morning in Tucson, and we both played about two notes each and got the hell out of there."
"I was looking for a renewal of energy and to wake up in a different environment," Burns adds. "I didn't have too many expectations, but was hoping we could tap into a creative vibe and find that balance of our striving for newness and remaining true to our aesthetics. Working out of town not only opens up the musical palate, but gives you a perspective of the emotional landscape back home."
The choice of New Orleans was largely down to long time collaborator, producer Craig Schumacher. "We were talking about wanting to go to Europe and record," Burns says, "but we never get our shit together in time to make plans that far in advance. So where do you go that is nearby and has a European feel? New Orleans. The place is strong and bold, soulful to the core, but surrounded by a sea of darkness. There is a heaviness there that I like, and in some way Tucson shares a similar vibe. There's something creepy and old on the edge of town and written throughout the town's histories. Those kinds of aesthetics help with the writing and chipping away at the abstract shapes and colours."
Conscious of the clichés that can sometimes afflict acts working in a city with such a strong identity, Burns, Convertino and Schumacher chose to avoid the bigger, better known studios in favour of a smaller, more intimate setting. The Living Room Studio in Algiers, owned by Chris George and Daniel Majorie and situated across the Mississippi River from the main city, was perfect for their needs.
"There's always vinyl playing either on an old jukebox in the garage or on the turntable near the kitchen," Burns fondly recalls. "Their roommate, Kevin Barrios, cooked lunch and dinner everyday, so come noontime you couldn't help but be drawn into the kitchen to see what he had going on. It always smelled and tasted good. Shrimp Creole, Jambalaya, Fried Frog Legs, Root Beer BBQ Pork Chops, Red Beans and Rice. Our senses were awakened."
Their musical diet was equally wild and eclectic, ranging from The Boswell Sisters - "creepy shit!" Burns laughs - to Jackie Mittoo, from Duke Ellington to The Band. Their working methods, however, changed, with Burns putting aside his nylon string guitar when he was writing in favour of either an electric guitar or even the piano, and Convertino in turn inspired to play with sticks more than his trademark brushes. And, because they were resident in the studio, they collaborated more closely than for some considerable time, with Convertino adding lyrics and playing a greater role in the song's arrangements.
"The Living Room studio wound up being the perfect place to set up camp," Burns concludes. "Not only is the design and restoration of the old church structure done tastefully, but the feel of the place, with its high ceilings, helped make John's vintage Ludwig and Gretsch drums sound massive, very different to Tucson, which has concrete floors. I don't why, but the fact that we were in this old wooden chamber of a church really worked well with our acoustic instruments. The fact that we were surrounded by water, the Mississippi River, also gave us some new light and depth."
So, some 22 years since they first met, Joey Burns and John Convertino - joined as ever by a cast of musicians from across the globe - add yet another successful musical adventure to their list. You might think that, after six studio albums and a suitcase of tour CDs, collaborations with the likes of Victoria Williams, Iron & Wine, Willie Nelson, Roger McGuinn and Nancy Sinatra, and soundtrack work to boot, there wasn't much more they could achieve. But you'd be wrong. New Orleans clearly inspired them to make an album that sees them stretch out more effortlessly than ever but, while you can take the men out of CALEXICO, but you can't take CALEXICO out of the men...
Rebirth Brass Band
New Orleans LA | Jazz
Whether seen on HBO’s Treme or at their legendary Tuesday night gig at The Maple Leaf, Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band is a true New Orleans institution. Formed in 1983 by the Frazier brothers, the band has evolved from playing the streets of the French Quarter to playing festivals and stages all over the world. While committed to upholding the tradition of brass bands, they’ve also extended themselves into the realms of funk and hip-hop to create their signature sound. “Rebirth can be precise whenever it wants to,” says The New York Times, “but it’s more like a party than a machine. It’s a working model of the New Orleans musical ethos: as long as everybody knows what they’re doing, anyone can cut loose.” In the wake of the sometimes- stringent competition amongst New Orleans brass bands, Rebirth is the undisputed leader of the pack, and they show no signs of slowing down.
Sergio Mendoza Y La Orkesta
Tucson AZ | Latino
Indie-Mambo is a great characterization for the twelve plus members band Y La Orkesta. Originally from Tucson, Arizona Y La Orkesta's members are primarily from two local bands The Jons and Seven to Blue. Y La Orkesta slam dunk the resurrection of Perez Prado's sound, Sergio's greatest influence that fearlessly created Mambo by combining traditional Cuban rhythms with the swing of American Jazz, and Big Band harmonic sophistications. Unlike revival Mambo from the 1990's, Y La Orkesta maintains their influence from 1940's and 1950's Jazz by utilizing tight percussion and high register trumpets.
Sergio Mendoza-Keyboards, Guitar, Vocal
Marco Rosano-B. Sax/Accordion
Jason Urman-Tenor Sax
Austin TX | Rock
Brimming with confidence and creativity, Arrow sees Heartless Bastards pushing their distinctive sound forward with their most eclectic, energetic collection thus far. The album – the Austin, Texas-based band’s first release with Partisan Records – is marked as ever by singer/guitarist/songwriter Erika Wennerstrom’s remarkable voice, at turns primal and pleading, heartfelt and heroic. Songs like “Parted Ways” and the searing “Low Low Low” expertly capture the Bastards’ multi-dimensional rock in all its strength and spirit. Following upon the difficult introspection of 2009’s acclaimed third album, The Mountain, Arrow stands as a powerhouse new beginning for the Heartless Bastards.
“The Mountain was me going through some things after being in a relationship for nine years,” Wennerstrom says. “This album is kind of like me being comfortable again.”
Arrow serves as the recorded debut of the Heartless Bastards’ current iteration, their latest and greatest line-up since Wennerstrom first convened the band back in 2003. Drummer Dave Colvin and bassist Jesse Ebagh – both of whom played on the Bastards’ first-ever demo recordings – returned to the fold in order to play live behind The Mountain. Soon after embarking on tour, Wennerstrom decided to put more meat on the band’s raw bones by enlisting guitarist Mark Nathan, who had ostensibly come aboard to handle the live sound.
“I wanted to add another guitar,” Wennerstrom says, “so I asked Mark, ’What do you think of joining the band?’ and he was into it. I’ve always planned on being a four-piece, but it just takes a while to find somebody that you feel you click with. I’d rather have it be stripped down than just have somebody there for the sake of having them there.”
The expanded line-up brought additional color and dynamism to the Heartless Bastards’ already colorfully dynamic rock ’n’ roll. With their sound honed to a razor’s edge by night after night of playing live, the Heartless Bastards were soon ready to record for posterity. But having spent so much of the past year on tour, Wennerstrom knew she needed some downtime in order to turn her musical ideas into fully-fledged songs. In Fall 2010, she embarked on the first of what would be several solo road trips designed to clear the cobwebs and help focus her songwriting. Wennerstrom visited friends and family in Ohio, hung out at All Tomorrow’s Parties in the Catskills, spent alone time in Arkansas, a lake cabin in the Allegheny Mountains and at a ranch in West Texas.
“It was really nice,” she says. “I didn’t feel like I was getting much done, but I realized that a lot of that experience ended up being reflected in the songs. I didn’t get a lot of the writing done right then, on that trip, but I feel like getting out there really helped me later on.”
2011 saw the Heartless Bastards hitting the highway once more, taking the opportunity to road-test Wennerstrom’s new songs on a bare-bones “acoustic” tour as well on a series of dates supporting Drive-By Truckers. The band set to work onArrow just two short days after their return to Austin, a revved-up, well-oiled rock ’n’ roll machine.
“We just went right in,” Wennerstrom says. “There’s a definite sound that comes from a band that’s been on the road and I really feel like it’s translated on the album.”
The band spent the next month with producer Jim Eno at his Public Hi-Fi home studio. Eno – known far and wide as the drummer in Spoon – guided the Bastards through the recording process, helping them to infuse their myriad influences and ambitions into the songs.
“Jim was really great to work with,” Wennerstrom says. “He asked me what kind of approach I wanted to take towards each song and we’d take it in that direction. It was like, what were you thinking for each song, as far as inspiration?”
Arrow showcases the depth and breath of the band’s indelible sound, with songs like “Got To Have Rock and Roll” and “Down In The Canyon” lighting upon spaghetti western film scores, Seventies soul, psychedelia, funk, blues, glam, and mudhole-stomping hard rock. Two years of nearly non-stop touring resulted in an astonishing musical telepathy among the Heartless Bastards, with all four players intuitively able to craft Wennerstrom’s songs into maximum form.
“I’m so in synch with this band,” she says. “Songs seem to go where I want them to go and it doesn’t take a whole lot of time. Even though I’m not very communicative, they know me well enough and get it.”
Kicking off with the widescreen vision of “Marathon,” the album is more wholly fleshed than anything in the Bastards’ prior oeuvre, while simultaneously securing the band in all their straight-on, unadorned majesty. Arrow is the glorious sound of a four-piece rock ’n’ roll outfit in full flight, with little outside accompaniment bar conga player Matthew “Sweet Lou” Holmes’s performance on the evocative “Skin and Bone.”
“It’s a pretty stripped-down album in a lot of ways,” Wennerstrom says. “There’s really not a lot added to these tracks, they’re really mostly live takes. We talked about adding things, but when we listened back, we thought, ’I don’t know if this really needs more.’” With Arrow complete, the Heartless Bastards are now itching to get back out there. Inveterate road warriors, the band is at their electrifying best while on stage, making deep connections with both their audience and their music.
“It can be hard at times,” Wennerstrom says, “but I love it. I love playing on stage. It’s that hour and a half, that time that we’re up there, that I love most. There’s a lot of sitting around, trying to find things to fill in the time, but then we finally start to play, it’s so worth it and rewarding.”
Arrow sees the Heartless Bastards doing what all great bands do – furthering their artistic scope with each successive effort. With its impressive range and undeniable vigor, the album flies straight, honest and true, the finest distillation yet of this extraordinary rock ’n’ roll band’s fiery, unforgettable sound.
“I feel like this is the strongest record I’ve ever done,” Wennerstrom says. “I feel like playing with these guys, us all being so connected, really helped make it so fully realized. I’m really, really happy with it.”
San Diego CA | Latino
The B*Side Players are a 10 piece power house of bilingual reggae, funk and cumbia. With fierce political lyrics and an overwhelming positive vibration of love, culture and unity, their live shows have raised them to legendary status. The Players have been igniting and uplifting dance floors for 15 years and have been blessed to share the stage with, The Wailers, Toots and the Maytals, Ben Harper, War, James Brown, Cultura Profetica, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker and many more.
Tucson AZ | Rock
In early 2011, the Cordials were born through a flurry of writing: four songs in four days. Over the next year, the band expanded from two to three to its current incarnation of four members. With an expanded, collaborative set that ranges from surf to punk to soft, folky country, the Cordials have developed a broad draw in Tucson's music scene. Their debut album, "Not Like Yesterday," was released in March of 2013.
The members are Laura Kepner-Adney (Silver Thread Trio), Courtney Robbins (Seashell Radio), Cristina Williams (the Modeens), and Winston Watson (Greyhound Soul, Talk to Strangers).
RIYL Sleater Kinney, the Breeders, the Pretenders
Tucson AZ | Rock
Sun Bones, formerly Boreas, is a classically-trained rock band with lush vocal harmonies, a fierce DIY streak and a willingness to plunge into a wide range of musical styles. Described by local radio station KXCI as "baroque pop,"their music resounds with echoes of the Beach Boys, Animal Collective, Paul Simon, Radiohead and Steve Reich. Their live show, using stripped-down drums and no effects, is in turns intimate and explosive. Sun Bones has self-recorded and -produced two albums, using the spaces of their native Tucson to create a sound that is versatile, intricate and alive.
Mariachi Aztlan de Pueblo High School
Tucson AZ |
Mariachi Aztlan de Pueblo High School was founded in the fall of 1992 by Mr. Richard Carranza, as a curricular component within the Pueblo High Magnet School Performing Arts department. Comprised entirely of Pueblo High Magnet School students ranging in age from 14 to 18 years old, the mariachi program has grown from eleven students in its first year to well over one hundred and twenty students currently. Students are offered three levels of mariachi music: Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced/ Performing group Mariachi Aztlan. Students entering the performing group must, after audition and acceptance, maintain a high level of academic achievement in order to remain on the first team. Their extensive practice and performance schedule also demands most of their free time. The sixteen-piece Mariachi Aztlan is motivated by pride and dedication to their cultural heritage of Mexico.
Tucson AZ | Alternative Country
Tucson, AZ based Sweet Ghosts is the new project of Katherine Byrnes and Ryan Alfred. Started as an outlet for their original music on breaks from their day jobs (Katherine sings background vocals with Amos Lee and Ryan plays bass in Calexico's touring band), Sweet Ghosts is now recording their first album and starting to play shows all over the southwest with their awesome 6 piece live band. The music they make is not a hundred miles away from the bands they tour with; colorful, moody Americana played on a blend of acoustic and electric instruments, story songs with reverberating swirls and evocative strings, all anchored by the duo's strong harmony vocals. Recommended for fans of The Swell Season, Iron and Wine, The Civil Wars, and The Avett Brothers.
San Francisco CA | Singer-Songwriter
Sounds like: The Cowboy Junkies + Leonard Cohen. Intimate story-songs; blanket-fort music; a new favorite record. Best listened to on long drives or walking in the woods with a good set of headphones, Wolf Larsen's debut album Quiet at the Kitchen Door is intimate, intelligent, transporting and rather soothing. Known for her arresting live performances, Wolf is famous for bringing any noisy barroom to a standstill. With total focus, stillness and a gentle approach to playing her nylon string guitar, Larsen invites an audience to lean in closer and to feel the Quiet as a part of the fabric of her songs.