Reviews

Cake: 16 Apr 2011 - Washington, D.C.

Kevin Smallwood
Cake photo credits: Jesse Justice

Every Cake song is the product of a recipe that has managed to keep them relevant for almost 20 years.

Event
City: Washington, D.C.
Venue: 9:30 Club
Date: 2011-04-16

Cake greeted the capacity crowd of thirty-something’s under a disco ball that shimmered oddly along a painted mountainscape backdrop. The peculiar visual fusion was perfect for a band that has never been guilty of simplicity. Opening with “Sad Songs and Waltzes”, the country funk of Xan McCurdy’s guitar and Vince DiFiore’s Mexicali trumpet began a very special, very outspoken evening with Cake.

Led by the trademark sing-speak vocals of John McCrea, Cake is precisely what their name implies: a mixture of ingredients with a flavor that varies based on the arrangement of each layer. On stage, Cake’s songs have room to breathe but not enough to give them a life outside the studio. For instance, because they structure their live extensions (or “jams”) around an impressively wide variety of rhythm (rather than improvisation), you’ll forever clamor for a killer guitar solo that will never happen - it’s just not part of the formula.

For Cake, creating a song is probably a bit like making a baby; they can labor about the creative process however they want, but in the end, genes are at play. All of their albums have different personalities, but each carries the DNA of the quintet like an audible tattoo. Having had fairly static personnel since 1994, Cake’s unique timbre is in many ways the core of their identity. Whether it’s the perfect-hook guitar lines, the rattle of the vibraslap, or the swoon of the trumpet – every song is the product of a recipe that has managed to keep them relevant for almost 20 years.

Methodical creativity aside, Cake puts on a great live show. Song selections seemed to be improvised, but the sets loosely followed a ballad>rock>rock>ballad format that kept the crowd singing and dancing throughout the night. Obvious high-points came with their most popular anthems (“Sheep Go to Heaven”, “Love You Madly”, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” and “The Distance)” and older songs, like “Frank Sinatra” and a Cake-flavored cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” were also big hits with the crowd.

As is true with most bands, Cake displayed bit more vitality while playing selections from their new album “Showroom of Compassion”. “Long Time”, “Mustache Man”, “Bound Away” and “Sick of You” immediately stood up to the classics and proved that Cake isn’t some slow-death 90’s novelty act. One of the tunes, “Federal Funding”, written specifically for Washington, D.C., served as the springboard for John McCrea’s sporadic diatribes. He introduced the song and provided the adage, “I call D.C. the ‘Big Tit’...because everyone comes here to suck.”.

McCrea’s rants were all very green-diva / kill-your-television and it gave the impression that in the right setting his passion could incite a riot - but he probably wouldn’t throw a rock on its behalf. Aside from taking some snarky jabs at politicians, bankers and frat-boys, McCrea gave away a cherry tree and lectured someone in the crowd for filming him with a smart phone. He turned to the crowd and urged, “Let’s not exist inside this device! Lets fucking hunker down and live within the present moment!”.

Activism aside, Cake put on a flawless performance and you have to respect McCrea for his blunt candor because it gets results: it was the first time in years you could see the stage without having to look through 100 LCD screens.

Photo credit: jessejusticephotography.com

Cake

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Television

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.

Music

Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.

Music

Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.

Television

Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman
Music

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.

Music

Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.

Music

The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.

Music

Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.

Books

The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.