Friday night I found myself inside the dark music room of Ace Bar once again. It’s not my favorite place in the world, so if I’m there you know that I really want to see whoever is playing. On this particular evening I was looking forward to more than one set. Canasta was the headliner, but before that Zapruder Point was on stage. Mike Roth also played some songs. I only caught the last one, but it sounded great.
Dan Phillips took center stage around 10:15, and I liked him immediately. Zapruder Point had been reviewed extensively in a publication I used to work with, so I never felt the need to check Dan out. Turns out the jokes on me, because he’s great! When I talked to him after the set he very humbly said “I’m just a folk singer.” His songs are much more interesting than that.
He writes intelligent pop songs that are melodic without a lot of fuss. He gets straight to the point and says what’s on his mind. The same is true of his on stage banter-at one point he said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “This song is dedicated to the movie Flight. What a piece of shit, preachy movie.”
Phillips’ backing band, who don’t appear on most of the recordings, really deliver a punch of energy. The bass player, a man that I feel bares a striking resemblance to Aaron Sorkin, was jumping all over the stage-nearly collapsing the whole thing. The drummer did a nice job of playing hard, but not so loud that he drowned out the rest of the band, which can happen in small rooms. The guitarist all the way stage right didn’t get a lot of opportunities to shine, but when he sang he did it well and his line solo was a good one.
At the end of Zapruder Point’s set they brought up Matt Priest and Jon Saunders of Canasta to play a cover of Colin Hay’s “Overkill.” It’s a really beautiful song, and they did it justice for sure.
After a surprisingly short break, Matt and Jon returned to the stage with the rest of the Canasta crew, minus Elizabeth who couldn’t make it. I’m not sure she would have fit on the stage anyway, as they were packed in like sardines with five people.
Having five up there didn’t sit well with Matt, however. According to him, they never played a show with less than six people. So to up the numbers, they brought Josh Lava in to sing on some songs and add percussion. He used to be their drummer, so he knows the songs pretty well. He also has a really strong singing voice, which I was not expecting.
The band moved through a bunch of songs, mostly off their last record The Fakeout, The Tease, and The Breather. They did two covers-“Major Tom” and “No Diggity,” much to the delight of this fan. They also hit older tunes like “Slow Down Chicago,” “Impostors,” and “An Apology.” They took “Mexico City,” my favorite song they’ve done, and knocked it out of the park.
There was one fan up in the front that was a little too into the show for my liking, but he was just doing his thing so I won’t complain. He also bought a bunch of music from the artists, so good for him. For the most part the crowd was pretty chill, with some folks going back and forth between the show and watching the Blackhawks game in the bar.
Overall it was a good night of music. The two bands seemed to go well together. Canasta definitely goes for a more indie pop sound, while ZP blurs the line between folk/pop/country/post-punk. Everything sounded good to me, and I can’t wait to hear more from both parties.
You can catch Canasta for a free in-store at Saki record store on April 27th.