Calexico and My Bloody Valentine at Terraneo Festival
August 8, 2013
Situated in Sibenik, Croatia, the Terraneo festival has almost everything: it is located on the bank of the Adriatic Sea (so crowds of people take their refreshments on the nearby beaches); it is happening in an abandoned industrial complex that has been turned into a festival setting; it has enthusiastic crowds; and it has began to make a name for itself far beyond the borders of Croatia. Though far from the size and grandiosity of the Exit Festival in Novi Sad, against which many festivals in the region are measured, it functions much in the same manner, as both are treasure troves for fans seeking music from different, unrelated genres. Summer festivals these days are much like giant supermarkets where, after a careful selection of artists from different genres and sounds, there is something for everyone in the offering. For this third issue of the festival, it had diverse artists on its bill such as electronic rompers The Prodigy, Wu Tang Clan, Gang of Four, Dubioza Kollektiv, and a plethora of lesser-known bands from the region.
Sprouting from a fertile musical soil that is a crossing point for various musical genres, Calexico is indeed a joyful and tasteful mixture of a Morriconesque kind, which has spawned a myriad of stylistic labels that seem to accumulate as time goes by: alt-country, desert-noir, indie-rock, even Latin/jazz fusion. There's no showmanship at a Calexico gig, just singer/guitarist Joey Burns, fellow front man and drummer John Convertino, and the rest of the band under the lights, armed with nothing but their soulful songs. They have a chiming, tuneful, yearning sound not a million miles from the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and a mariachi band.
The set list emphasized many songs from the group's new album, Algiers (City Slang Records, 2013), including "Epic," "Maybe on Monday," "Puerto," "Para" and "Sinner in the Sea"; those songs were interspersed with oldies and covers like "Across the Wire" and "Corona." One of the surprises was the inclusion of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," as part of "Not Even Stevie Nicks," and definitely a highlight in this arrangement. Sporting an ace rhythm section and a perfect balance of delicate acoustic and electric surf guitars as well as a brass orchestra, the band's real secret weapon was Burns' distinct and engaging voice, a guiding light at this fiesta that carried the songs with ease.
Although, at moments towards the end of the performance, the group was firing on all cylinders, previously it sounded a bit flat, as if the moods and dynamics were kind of repeating themselves. Still, Calexico put on a great show with a great ending. The band has a harder edge live than on record, and with such strong musicians and excellent songs, it provided a pleasant and sometimes enthralling evening.
My Bloody Valentine
With My Bloody Valentine the festival vibe was tilting toward insanity. Really, nothing in the world can prepare for a My Bloody Valentine performance, as few in attendance could have predicted such energy and noise. The band's reputation as a difficult, compositionally puzzling listen is not borne out of nothing, as it played with austere, loud and almost ceremonial intensity. What this band does live is not an ordinary concert; it is an extreme experience that gives a sense of having a physical interaction with the music itself.
The set was launched with a version of "I Only Said," that sounded like a punch in the belly, and "When You Sleep," from the much-lauded Loveless (Creation, 1991); things went along at a frenetic pace as the group ran through tracks such as "New You" and, from the recently published and really long-awaited M B V (Self Produced, 2013). It took 22 years for that record to come out, but the new songs never stood out in the set, and never gave any hint of disruption in the sonic continuum with Loveless.