Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
We probably shouldn't even be talking about Canasta today. It's nothing but crazy dumb luck that we are. Oh, it's a lot more than that, but the hell if it isn't a ton of crazy dumb luck and that's okay, because dumb luck is some of the good kind. The members of the six-piece band out of Chicago - named for a card game developed by South Americans and played by old people everywhere - would confess to being recipients of such luck. It's improbable, but not easily spooked. It gets fallen into, like a warm pool or bed. They'll take it. We even bring such a thing up because, as luck would have it, in a few days, the group is celebrating its 10th anniversary and for any band, that's a miracle.
There are dog years and there are band years. Band years are exponentially longer - both mentally and physically. Dog years are mostly filled with tail-chasing, panting and squatting in the backyard. Band years are ungodly numbing and torturous. It's been proven time and again that those who share similar tastes in the music that they start off playing are destined to grow quickly apart, citing irreconcilable artistic differences. Most of the time, two albums and 4-5 years is maxing out. It's all over. New bands are formed or side projects become the main focuses. It's almost inevitable.
Somehow Canasta - which consists of lead singer and bassist Matt Priest, violinist/vocalist/trombonist Elizabeth Lindau, guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Beckford, pianist/vocalist Ryan Tracy, drummer Brian Palmieri and keyboardist/vocalist Sarah Kneebone - has persisted. It has continued to make impressionistic pop music, set in the soul of a big city, one with trains and traffic and more fast-moving people than you could ever could ever count or cross. It has continued to write songs that fill themselves out in all the right places - offering quirky and charming, gritty and mopey succinctly.
The band has continued to defy nearly everything about being a band. They've toured Mongolia, sponsored by the U.S. State Department. They've persevered through the years as nearly the number of people that would dress for three basketball teams have left the band. They've performed for the President of the United States and they've gotten to watch Matthew Broderick and Alan Alda slowly walk backwards in a movie, as one of their songs played over the scene. Our feeling is that they've been able to keep all of it together either thanks to the care packages of delicious cookies that they send out, or just because they're that good.