When does something happen by chance, and when is it divinely inspired?
The thought struck me at once last eve midway through Canasta’s headliner at The Hideout. During “Slow Down Chicago,” in fact. Here I was, almost a year to the day I launched Chicago Tunes, basking in the sounds of the band that got reviewed here first. (Chicago Tunes purists, actually, might argue it was The Shivers’ gig at Martyrs’).
Whatever the case, my point is this: I may have moved here in June of ’10, but I don’t consider myself a Chicagoan until I truly got my feet wet. And that didn’t happen until, oh, the end of July, when I began exploring the local music scene with an idea to document my experiences on the web.
I expected (well, hoped!) then that the site would still be alive now, but what I didn’t imagine was to have 200 posts in the books already. (This review, as it were, is number 201). In the early days, as you may know, the site relied heavily on the honest efforts of a rag team of volunteering extraordinaires — in particular, Josh Terzino, who has since fired up his own project, and seems to be doing well for himself). Over time, Chicago Tunes evolved, and total responsibility has fallen back to me.
Reviews of mine aren’t uploaded with nearly the same earnestness that drove this site in its infancy. I simply don’t have the time for it, you nutsos. (Or, so have convinced myself). But one thing that’s persisted since day one are posts of quality, every time. I could be like a lot of music blogs out there that do quantity over quality. Yet doing so would mean Chicago Tunes would look a lot like this, and that’s not pretty. A creative doesn’t get the point in re-sharing what can be found elsewhere. Because really, what’s the point?
Backtracking a bit, what was it about Canasta’s show that so hit home for me? Well, honestly, Canasta functions much like a first love. In the time that passed between their Simon’s show and The Hideout, of course I’ve discovered other outfits to track and follow. Yet Canasta hasn’t totally escaped me either. Sunday night, as I thought it would, was a lot like checking in on an old friend (that just so happened to be hanging out at one of the most underrated clubs in the city).
Even trekking to The Hideout — by bike, from the north side — is an experience and a half. I totally encourage you to pedal down Southport until it merges with Kingsbury, follow it until it smacks into Cortland, then hang a left on Elston until running into Hideout’s home on West Wabansia. You’ll feel like you’ve mixed up a time or three, but keep going. It’s an unintentioned offshoot of The Hideout’s good charm.
Anyway, lots of older catalog Canasta last night. Tunes from We Were Set Up seemed to be favored heavily. And I have to say that, yes, I know The Fakeout far better than the group’s first full-length, but I totally didn’t mind the seasoned cuts. In fact, there came a point — not too far into the thing, actually — where I realized I favored the early material! It’s extended, jazzier and is a bit weightier than, say, “Mexico City” and “Magazine.”
That discovery — perhaps I’ve revised my music tastes in the past year — makes me wonder where Canasta might go from here. They do pop well, and key components like Elizabeth’s violin, I think, sound best amid the frenzy of a high tempo tune. And yet, still, those older songs are the ones sticking with me the day after.
About as unexpected as my siding with We Were Set Up was a general disjointedness in the set’s early goings. Either I haven’t noticed it before or Canasta’s working through some growing pains. For me, it took awhile for the group to pass as a cohesive unit. Much of it, I think, rests on the fact that all of ’em — four men and two women — took considerable time in breaking out of their spaces on stage. Sharing the mic helps round things out, and I think once that started happening the discord wasn’t so obvious.
A similarly sized group, The 1900s, divides the spotlight extremely well. (The one time I’ve seen them, anyway). So much so that I had trouble that night at the Bottle deciding which of ’em commanded more of my attention.
Canasta fans are an interesting bunch. Not one person demanded a standing spot front and center. Instead, the 50 or so who turned out the same night as Lolla’s finale preferred distancing themselves at least 10 feet from the stage, slightly bobbing their heads and not mouthing any words. Not to say the room was completely devoid of rowdiness. There was plenty of Canasta-fan interaction as the set continued, and that was some good fun.
Canasta performed their cover of “No Diggity,” as is customary. I think that’s happened every time I’ve seen them. As well, they did a new one — Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” — that was actually super nice. I dug it.