A small crowd was huddled into the Metro on Friday night, huddled together in the center of the room after begrudgingly dropping off their outer layers at the coat check. The crowd huddled closer once The Acorn took the stage, drawn either to the rope lights that adorned their mic stands or the chance to generate more heat.
The five young Canadians launched into the most polite set of indie rock to feature two drummers at the same time. A pair of mandolins were passed around the band, and it seemed that all six of the gents were taking turns at nearly every instrument in their collection. The girl at my side summed them up best as "homework rock". Aside from a couple of peaks, the band played a consistent and mellow set, leaving the crowd to decent applause.
By ten, the crowd had nearly doubled, and after the usual wait, Marty from XRT came out to introduce...Joey Burns and a lap guitar player? Joey sang an impromptu ditty about Chicago, and declared that because his fingers were blue from the cold, he would sing "Bisbee Blue". As the final words repeated, he shifting into introductions — John
Convertino and the rest of Calexico were here after all, thank god — (no offense Joey, but we need the whole package).
The band launched into some cuts from the recent "Carried to Dust", including guest spots from and hometown Tortoise backbone Doug McCombs. Core member Jacob Valenuela provided some Spanish vocals for great effect on several songs, as well as adding his superb trumpet skills, sometimes both in the same song. John Convertino played his drums with maracas, and Martin Wenk playing about seven instruments throughout the night (depending on whether you counted his excellent whistle solo — watch your back, Andrew Bird).
As the evening wore on, the crowd got loosened up, and a few dancing couples could be spotted here and there. The band also brought out members of the Acorn for some extra percussion later in the show, and after "Two Silver Trees" and "Writer's Minor Holiday", claimed that they had one more for the night. A nearly unrecognizable "Not Even Stevie Nicks" with extra spice came and went, followed by the band's cover of Love's "Alone Again Or" (which the crowd sang along with gleefully, subject matter be damned).
After "Guero Canelo", the band finally left the stage, but...surprise surprise, they managed to wander back for an encore. The Acorn's lead singer came back out for
dual vocal duties with Joey on a worthy cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart", and a few more songs were played while a man in a puffy jacket kept popping on stage behind the band, seemingly telling Joey to wrap things up in between songs — but to little success. The evening ended with the band trailing off into rounds of distortion, leaving one by one to applause. Finally, only super-guest Mr. McCombs was left on stage, pulling the last bits of sound out of his whammy bar and looking almost sad that it had to end. Without a wave, he turned his back and walked off stage, capping a fine evening of musicians at the peak of their powers.
(Photos by Sandor Weisz, see more at our Transmission Flickr page)