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Elizabeth and The Catapult
Joe’s Pub
June 11, 2009

Written By Ben Wood
Photographed By Amy Davidson

Opposite Photo: Elizabeth Ziman



The show at Joe's Pub starts out bizarrely with folk/novelty act the Xylofolks, far too talented a band to still be performing in full-body costume. Known only to the audience by their personae, the four-man (or four-muppet) rhythm combo exhibited a near-Olympic skill on the vibes ("Skunky"), banjo ("Chicken"), bass ("Big Dog"), and percussion ("'Blue' Monster"). But for their strange stage antics between songs -- giving away cupcakes for correct trivia answers -- and the unnecessary barrier of their alter egos, the Xylofolks would be an act worth headlining themselves.

Elizabeth Ziman of Elizabeth and The Catapult

Main act Elizabeth and The Catapult has come farther recently and as a result has smoothed out more rough edges. Even though their orchestra has near seven to ten highly proficient instrumentalists (at anyone time), Elizabeth kicks off with the front-woman herself, Elizabeth Ziman, and only a lone rhythm guitar backing her up. This may or not have been Pete Lalish, the only guitarist credited in Catapult press (along with Ziman and the "third" member of their "trio," drummer Danny Molad.)

Elizabeth and The Catapult

The show is Ziman's to carry, and carry it she does, with a clear, crystalline voice; smooth and agile without any of the artifice or indulgences of her contemporaries. Her presence is intimate from a distance, and with a keen sense of artistry guiding her compositions, Ziman is the ringmaster of a constantly filling stage. They added bass and drums for the second song, "Raniest Day of Summer," and even with the rest of the gang joining them for the rest of the 90-minute set, Ziman remains the anchor and centerpiece. All other bodies orbit around her.

Elizabeth Ziman of Elizabeth and The Catapult

The crowd is no exception. They instantly come alive for her, and they stay alive. They so immediately recognize the next ditty it comes across more as a cult following than a loyal local fan base. "Perfectly Perfect" is a quirky, irreverent, circusy song peppered with angst, and hints a bit at Catapult's roots in hipster pop. It is a rare glimpse of the early work and quickly forgivable.

The show wakes up as she steps away from the piano and leans into the mic, leading the crowd in a none-too-simple clapping pattern. Ziman seems to control them, perhaps half by seduction: she's easily as cute as her voice is playful. She implores the sound guy to "give the mic balls," to the vast delight of her audience and when, back at the piano, an overzealous lighting guy drenches the band in a weird teal light, she takes it in stride, ad-libbing in a beautiful cooing melody, "I am under blue lights and I think I like it..." It drives them wild.

Her set includes a vocoder that, while less integral to the music than Imogen Heap's, is part of a larger picture of a vastly talented group. Seemingly interested, at this point, in flexing their creativity to the extent of its range, Elizabeth and the Catapult round out the show with: an a cappella spiritual featuring guest artist Jeff Taylor, "Happy Birthday" played on ukulele; a ballad called "Dreamcatcher" featuring a trumpet (Kimi Mongello according to the group's Myspace page); and a belty tune maybe aimed at the pop charts. Ziman calls the full band back for the finale "Everybody Knows," and gets the Xylofolks out for the encore: a folksy children's tune and a slow, dreamy cover of "Coconut" which was recently honored by NY Magazine and is now featured on the band's website,

While so much of the performance feels aimed at a group this reporter doesn't belong to, with insider references, in-jokes, pet names, and a dear rapport with those already enrolled, one still feels fortunate for now to be enjoying the spectacle in such a small venue as Joe's Pub. Indeed, the house is the minus in the Catapult equation, with a floor crew as dim as dining room, in a by-now stale dinner theater format built to feed a crowd and then turn them over for the next show. It is a venue that Elizabeth shouldn't have to repeat, merely a rest stop on the road to certain stardom.


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