Calexico, Ranchero Brothers: Cherilyn diMond's House, Thursday, Mar 16

Wednesday Night

Calexico, Ranchero Brothers

Cherilyn diMond's House, Thursday, Mar 16

Private parties, club parties, label parties, dot-com parties, release parties -- bollocks! Ain't no party like a backyard party, and South by Southwest is no exception. Ex-Meat Purveyor Cherilyn diMond opened the doors to her house off North Loop one fine South By afternoon, and the bands they did come. After the sweet-lunged Neko Case and Austin's hard drivin' Fivehead opened the ceremonies over barbecue, steamed clams, and a couple of types of free beer, Tucson, Arizona's finest, Calexico, took the makeshift backyard tent stage to serenade the comfortable, sun-baked crowd of no more than 100 with their brand of patented psychedesert border music. Calexicoans Joey Burns and John Convertino took the opportunity to spread their wings, with the aid of local help on stand-up bass, slide guitar, and trumpet, playing it loose with a set of material culled mainly from 1998's desert noir masterpiece, The Black Light. Transposing lyrical bits from one song to the backdrop of another, the boys looked like they were having as much fun as the faithful seated in front of the band, or the revelers in the beer line. Near the end of their set, Burns coaxed Case, clad in jean shorts and a T-shirt, into joining him onstage for a spirited cover of ABBA's "S.O.S." Burns and the boys then gave way to the Ranchero Brothers, Misters Rhett Miller and Murry Hammond of Dallas' Old 97's. From the first note of Miller's acoustic guitar, it became clear that this was a special kind of gig, a golden opportunity to see the duo harmonizing and pining in such an intimate setting. Old 97's public supporter Janeane Garofalo must have been impressed too, as she viewed the proceedings from the backyard fence near the stage. Also amid the revelry was Bob Pollard of Guided by Voices. The Rancheros hit their stride with a pair of impressive new Old 97's songs after warming up with a handful of covers. The cartoonish duo was in rare form, with the ebullient Hammond spewing forth his cornfed country charm, and ladies-man Miller in full googlie-eyed, heart-wrenching persona. When Miller let loose with the 97's' brilliant contribution to the "I'm drunk and my woman left me" genre, "Wish the Worst" off their debut Hitchhike to Rhome, the clouds that had been gathering overhead began gently shedding tears to Miller's pleading cries of "I just wanna know where you been." By the time the Brothers let loose with a reworked version of "Timebomb," the rain began a-pourin', leaving scheduled act Spoon high and not-so-dry, and signaling the end of one helluva little yard party.

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