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Calexico, Nick Luca Trio, Galactic Federation of Love, Tom Walbank

Club Congress, Friday, Dec. 17

Best consolation for demolishing the historic Pusch building: liberation of its imposing bar, gorgeous now that it's back in action at Club Congress. Best use of the mirror ball: The Nick Luca Trio, performing Jonathan Richman's "I Was Dancing in a Lesbian Bar" with Joey Burns' fills making it sparkle, even as he blushed about the dance moves. Best reason to run out and buy records by The Decembrists and Polyphonic Spree: You can't imagine what Galactic Federation of Love is thinking, but you'd like to see it done better. Best potential candidate for Tucson mayor: Burns, whose genteel but remarkable leadership is usually overlooked entirely for the amazing music it generates. Oh, and best Christmas present I could pretend was just for me: Al Perry and Calexico performing Merle Haggard's ageless "Fugitive."

The Calexmas show had a little something for everyone, though. Besides Galactic Federation's over-the-top college skit and the Nick Luca Trio's pop/alt.country/dance set, Tom Walbank gave it up for blues fans with his edgy Brit slide guitar, especially his pumped-up treatment of Elmore James' classic, "Dust My Broom."

Calexico's Christmas tree of local artists was the show, though, focusing on home for the holidays. Burns and John Convertino swapped out their international contingent for local sidemen Gene Ruley and Nick Luca on guitar and Chris Giambelluca on bass. Guitarist Naim Amor sat in, as did Perry and Walbank. Tony Rosano and Jeff Grubic contributed trombone and saxophone on Calexico's brassier favorites. Set highlights were a cover of the Minutemen's "Jesus and Tequila" and the politically resonant "Black Heart." Other selections represented the alpha and omega of the Calexico catalog, including "Slag" from Spoke, "Convict Pool," from the EP of the same name and "Guero Canelo" from Feast of Wire.

Just about everyone who had performed over the course of the evening crammed onto the stage for the encore--a stunning take on the Talking Heads' "Crosseyed and Painless," which sent us dancing off into the early winter morning.

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