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By Lash Bower
Last month, George W. Bush signed election-year legislation authorizing the construction of a fence along 700 miles of the United States border with Mexico. The fence will begin in Calexico, Calif.--ironically, the namesake township of desert rock outfit-cum-immigration advocacy spokesmen Calexico, who've been touring for more than a decade. It’s as though George found them.
“[Border control] is such an important issue for us,” singer/guitarist Joey Burns told the Alibi from Tucson in a phone interview last week. “It’s not just about the area in the Southwest or the border between the United States and Mexico--it extends globally.”
It’s Calexico’s global vision that has made their music accessible to so many listeners over the years. The band’s signature tone is a rich, wildly eclectic compound of boundlessly miscellaneous Mexican-Americana, buttressed with mariachi horns and Spanish guitars. Boasting resident members and guest musicians from all over the world, Calexico serves as an example of the creative functionality of an ethnic melting pot.
Bittersweet narratives deeply rooted in the deserts of Northern Mexico—themes frequently visited in Calexico’s catalog—are heartbreakingly realized on the band’s latest release, Garden Ruin. The track “Roka (Danze de la Muerte)” is an eerily buoyant Mexican-folk-inspired arrangement that describes the uncertainty Mexican immigrant workers face when making the perilous trek across the border into the United States.
“It’s important to be conscious and care why these people are risking their lives and crossing the extreme, harsh environment of the Sonora desert,” says Burns. “It’s not just men and young men, but women with babies. It’s heart-wrenching.”
In an effort to raise awareness about border control and immigration policies, Calexico has asked representatives from Humane Borders and Musicians for America to be on hand at several of their touring dates, including their Launchpad show in Albuquerque. Burns maintains his distance in impressing values, sagely conscious that campaigning is best left to the experts.
“I’m not trying to speak the role of any diplomat; I’m just basically more concerned about the human condition and matters of people’s emotions and heart and what’s going on there. I am not a politician; I’m a musician.”
Calexico will play with Annuals at The Launchpad on Sunday, Dec. 3. The 21-and-over show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at the door, or with an advance service fee from Natural Sound and at virtuous.com.
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