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X and Calexico Share a Consonant - and Fans - at the Wiltern Saturday

Still a few years off from Social Security benefits and Denny's Grand Slam Senior discounts, L.A. punk band X headlined the Wiltern Saturday, pushing the oldsters and youngsters back into a shared protopunk nostalgia.

X and Calexico headline the Wiltern December 19, 2009
X and Calexico headline the Wiltern December 19, 2009
Tyler Koblasa

Despite their age, punk is X (and the Blasters, the Ramones, and the Clash), and still eclipses the overproduced punk scene of today.

But time goes on; what started in Los Angeles as an aggressively modern shit-talking syncopation movement is now overshadowed by the crap-punk that a lot of us who aren't 12 year-old skater punks hate. X still blows that slop out of the water - even if they've joined forces with the North Pole the past few Christmas seasons to play suburban family faves like "Jingle Bells" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

General view at the X/Calexico show Saturday
General view at the X/Calexico show Saturday

Exene Cervenka showed up to a punk-rock show in a post-colonial, floor-length, black neck-high frock; lace ruffles fell out of her long black sleeves.

Exene Cervenka onstage
Exene Cervenka onstage

Calexico was one of the two opening bands for X, but the only thing the two performers shared is a common consonant. Calexico is a Tuscon, Arizona descended Tejano-flavored band; their name is derived from the California Mexico-border town (which, randomly, I passed through earlier in the day en route from a desert hike near Mexicali).

Calexico transcends roots rock, Americana, Indie, whatever. The 12-piece band Saturday drew the attention of two semi-different crowds, and reveled in a world occupied by things like the Day of the Dead, cacti, and steak tacos. They didn't play any Christmas covers or two-minute hard-edged rock songs; rather, they charmed with atmospheric mariachi (ever think that was possible?) and delicately spurred us, broke us, and dusted us off.

Joey Burns of Calexico
Joey Burns of Calexico

With great lyrics and a striking sound, the band deserves much more attention than they've gotten, considering they've been a band since '96. Thematically, they pulse and kick and wistfully conjure the dreamy, wide-open southwest, and charmed us into a world that, like New Mexico's catch phrase, is a wide sage desert, a "land of enchantment."

Calexico at the Wiltern
Calexico at the Wiltern

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