Phil the Drummer


Park West - Chicago

September 12, 1998

First Appeared in The Music Box, October 1998, Volume 5, #10

Written by John Metzger


After scoring a huge hit with its debut single Dizz Knee Land, dada fell off the map. The group continued to tour, releasing two more excellent albums for the financially-troubled I.R.S. Records while developing a small, cult-like following.  When I.R.S. went bankrupt, it may have been the break that the band needed. The ensemble signed with MCA Records and recently released its fourth album a self-titled disc of pop tunes produced by Danny Kortchmar, guitarist on Jackson Browne's classic Running on Empty. On September 12, the Los Angeles trio pulled into Chicago's Park West and sounded terrific. It was focused by employing a carefully crafted setlist that was clearly designed to showcase its new disc while touching enough upon its past efforts to maintain the audience's attention though that really wasn't necessary.  The audience heeded every move that the trio made. The crowd sang along to many of the songs, and it followed each musical cue from the band. As soon as the group launched into the Beatle-esque Information Undertow, a number of people began waving lighters in anticipation of the line, "Do people still wave lighters in the crowd?"

In a live setting, dada, like newcomers Fastball, is capable of transforming its pop hits into furious, powerhouse barn-burners. A Trip with My Dad raged with psychedelic energy, Feel Me Don't You carried the angry weight of a paranoid drug addict, and Baby Really Loves Me swirled with confusion that mirrored the mind of a guy who just can't commit to a relationship.  Throughout the evening, Joie Calio took a number of extended bass solos, allowing the band to flip the switch between jazzy, space-filled excursions and angry punk rock. Calio's voice matched perfectly with those of guitarist Michael Gurley and drummer Phil Leavitt, creating rich, lush, and beautiful harmonies. And then there was the solid, driving, rhythmic drumming of Leavitt. which simply pushed the songs to the brink of madness before pulling them back to their pop roots.

Any energy that dada had left after its 70-minute set, was poured into its encores. Bob the Drummer sparkled with intensity. Dorina raged with boundless potency, riding the crest of Leavitt's cadence to even higher peaks. Moon, the only slow song of the evening, allowed Calio's voice to soar as the band churned out a groove reminiscent of The Velvet Underground. As the band drove a blues riff straight into The Beatles' Why Don't We Do It in the Road?, it looked as if the evening's festivities were about to end. Instead, as Gurley began to leave the stage, Calio began a funky and intense bass pattern. He was soon joined by Leavitt, and then Gurley as the trio jammed hard and fast for a few more minutes, expunging their remaining emotional energy. As the jam concluded, and the musicians left the stage, they were clearly drained and so was the audience.

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Copyright 1998 The Music Box