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Dada Entrances Fine Line Crowd with Hooks and Jams

Michael Gurley and Joie Calio of Dada at the Fine Line, Minneapolis, June 14, 2024. Photo by Mike Dolbow.

Minneapolis fans “of a certain age” – let’s call them (and me) “Gen X rock devotees” – were treated to a marathon set from Dada at the Fine Line last night.

I own two Dada albums in my modest CD collection: their debut Puzzle, which includes their biggest hit “Dizz Knee Land” and “Dim”; and their eponymous 1998 record, which got decent airplay when it was fresh. They have multiple themes in common, but in my opinion the most important thing is that neither one has a bad song on it. Front to back they are chock-full of catchy jams, quirky lyrics, and infectious vocal harmonies.

Michael Gurley of Dada plays a guitar solo at the Fine Line, Minneapolis, June 14, 2024. Photo by Mike Dolbow.

If you looked at the packed house last night, you wouldn’t guess that Dada hasn’t released a full length album since 2004’s How to Be Found. I spoke to several fans who have followed them on this tour, seen dozens of shows, and still get excited by their constantly changing set lists and 2-3 hour shows.

Joie Calio of Dada at the Fine Line, Minneapolis, June 14, 2024. Photo by Mike Dolbow.

This “Return to Dizz Knee Land” tour of course promised to feature songs from Puzzle heavily. Not that I minded, given that it’s one of my favorite albums and I know nearly all the lyrics to every song. But looking at some of their recent set lists (Portland, Seattle), I guessed there would also be at least a few “new to me” songs to get excited about.

Michael Gurley of Dada at the Fine Line, Minneapolis, June 14, 2024. Photo by Mike Dolbow.

And it didn’t take long for Dada to flex their improv muscles. After opening with a roaring version of “Dim”, guitarist Michael Gurley experienced an equipment failure that his roadie struggled to fix, so drummer Phil Leavitt and bassist Joie Calio jammed, trading bass solos with Leavitt’s singing and working the crowd.

Finally Gurley’s guitar issues were fixed and the band launched right into “Mary Sunshine Rain”, which was the song they started originally. After finishing it, Calio quipped, “Did anyone time that? Gotta be the longest version.”

Michael Gurley and Phil Leavitt of Dada at the Fine Line, Minneapolis, June 14, 2024. Photo by Mike Dolbow.

After a rendition of “Time”, Gurley told a long story about the girl who inspired “Posters”. But then they stuck to their set list and played a new one to me, “SF Bar 63”.

Several songs featured extended jams, with Gurley and Calio trading riffs and solos. Gurley’s guitar pyrotechnics were on full display during each song.

If you asked the average rock fan what they want to see at a show, the answer probably wouldn’t be “a lot of bass solos”. But Calio’s solos were far from wanking. Right in the groove and filled with his signature spirit, they electrified the crowd and set up intense segues and casually improvised interludes. His tongue-in-cheek t-shirt that said simply “Cult Leader” didn’t seem too far from the truth.

Joie Calio of Dada plays a bass solo at the Fine Line, Minneapolis, June 14, 2024. Photo by Mike Dolbow.

Not content to be left out of the jams, Leavitt carried a lengthy drum solo to open up “Posters”, while Calio and Gurley comped to tease the song. When the first lyrics were finally sung, the crowd sang along enthusiastically, “she was seventeen going on fifty”!

Phil Leavitt of Dada sings and drums at the Fine Line, Minneapolis, June 14, 2024. Photo by Mike Dolbow.

And that was just one of their dozens of catchy, quirky, and humorous lyrics. The hooks are especially evident when Calio and Gurley sing harmonies together – which is through the majority of their songs.

Joie Calio of Dada at the Fine Line, Minneapolis, June 14, 2024. Photo by Mike Dolbow.

The crowd was transfixed, shouting encouragement over quieter parts of the jams, and holding up phones and flames during “Information Undertow”, when the band sang, “do people still wave lighters in the crowd?”

Michael Gurley of Dada at the Fine Line, Minneapolis, June 14, 2024. Photo by Mike Dolbow.

Singer-songwriter Becky Kapell opened the evening with a solid set of Americana tunes bolstered by her husky vocals and crackerjack sidemen. Both her bassist and lead guitarist laid down thick grooves and tasty licks to support her steady acoustic guitar on songs like the title track to her recent album In It to Win It.

Becky Kapell at the Fine Line, Minneapolis, June 14, 2024. Photo by Mike Dolbow.

As usual, the First Avenue staff running the venue were all class and welcoming to patrons. It’s always a pleasure attending a show at one of their clubs.

Becky Kapell and sidemen at the Fine Line, Minneapolis, June 14, 2024. Photo by Mike Dolbow.

Dada Set List 

  • Dim
  • Extended Improv Jam (Meth Lab Zoso Sticker, etc)
  • Mary Sunshine Rain 
  • Time is Your Friend
  • SF Bar 63
  • I’m Feeling Nothing 
  • A Trip With My Dad
  • Ask the Dust
  • Posters
  • Holiday 
  • Information Undertow
  • Moon
  • California Dreamin’ (cover)
  • Feel Me Don’t U
  • Dizz Knee Land
  • Dorina

Written by Mike Dolbow

Mike Dolbow has over 30 years of experience as a musician, playing guitar and bass for bands in New Hampshire, California, and Minnesota. He matches those years as a writer and editor for multiple publications, including GeoHipster.com, jbellmusic.com, and Music in Minnesota. When he's not playing music or working his day job in spatial technology, he's hanging out with his family in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.

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