May 12, 2011
State Theatre, Minneapolis
There is absolutely nothing comparable to Cake fans. Nothing. They aren't hippies or hipsters, and they aren't washed-up punk kids, lost to a decade of marriage and overweight tendencies. They aren't a delegated group of stereotypes that can only be formed in this place or that. They are simply Cake fans. Cake fans are die-hards. They know every album, every song, and every idiosyncratic lyric. They know precisely each second before the trumpet is going to break through to kick your ass, remembering exactly why Cake always leaves you wanting more.
As I looked around the State Theatre at a sold-out crowd, in freakish anticipation to Cake gracing the stage, the fans were undeniably that: a feverish pack of devotees, resembling something like an NFL game parking lot prior to the Super Bowl.
As if the crowd's mouths weren't sweating already, the anticipation grew thicker. They strategically began play the epic action ballad theme song to Rocky 4 ("War," by Vince Decola) over the loud speakers as the lights went down. Not just a sample of the track either, it was the entire five-minute feature. Envision this: A particularly large disco ball illuminating the entire stage (and orchestra pit), pitch-dark theater, and a premature orange tree in a white bucket to the front of the stage... All while standing in complete confusion to the current soundtrack choice. But the crowd started to get it. Standing up out of their seats, they began clapping furiously in hopes to coerce the band out onto the stage.
Eventually Rocky reached the steps of the Capitol building and we all were welcomed by Cake with "Sad Songs and Waltzes." John McCrea (the person behind those nasally Cake vocals) emerged with his familiar adornment of unkempt beard, a trucker hat, Levi jeans, and a corduroy jacket. (To which I wonder if they've ever met Drive-By Truckers... is Sacramento, California as large a trucking territory as I imagine it to be?)
Cake seemed to flow quite nicely through their (unplanned, unscripted) set list. They have an array of albums and songs to cover, so it was interesting to witness their choices in accommodating the crowd. Their fourth song played was "Satan Is My Motor," which was a crowd pleaser and one of the most energetic hits they performed. McCrea broke in amidst the song to aid the audience in opening up, announcing that, "There is nothing more frightening then someone who doesn't know they have a dark side!"
The trumpet player (Vince DiFiore) was a star player for the night. If the trumpet solos and the roar of the funk from the vibraslap don't bring you to another place and time from your past, well then Cake isn't doing their job.
That said, I don't believe they incorporated as much punk gusto as the Fashion Nugget days, but what do I know, I wasn't there then... I'm here now. I still think there should have been some pogo jumping going on up there.
"Sick of You" and "Jolene" garnered much attention from the audience; I felt this choice of songs in the playlist kept things flowing nicely. Cake can be a bit unwavering at times, and it's possible to forget what song they've actually moved on to playing.
McCrea kept complaining about the people still pouring into the aisles and rustling in and out of their seats during the performance; some in attendance didn't have much regard for the stage presence, but more interest in refilling their beer cups mid-song. To which McCrea responded, "I thought the show poster said the show started at 8 p.m., or do you people not read those anymore?" and "Are you all seated yet, or should we take the intermission now? Sorry you're late, but the show time started at 8. We're not going to wait for you!" He felt very passionately about this, and the whole band appeared to be a bit perturbed about the status of the theater aisles and their constant moving.
One thing I greatly appreciated about this show, and I've been noticing in general lately, is that more and more artists/bands are requesting that the audience turn their cell phones off during the set. It's a great distraction to yourself, your peers, and mostly the band. You don't need to tweet and text the whole show to people that aren't there; they should have a bought a ticket, or showed up on time.
The most interested spectacle of the evening came when Cake decided to give away that baby fruit tree mantled on the stage. (No it wasn't just a prop.) For those who don't know, Cake is a very 'gone-green' band, exercising just about all aspects of the term: Showroom of Compassion was recording using 100% solar energy. Cake auctioned off the tree, or rather made the audience answer a very simple, but stumping question. Fans raised their hands to answer, and whoever guessed correctly went up and won a tree.
The question: "What petroleum source do we use as fertilizer?"
Natural gas of course!
So all in all, Cake was just as expected, distorted and simple, just the way their lyrics are written. Amidst the therapy and the science lesson, Cake fans got just what they came for. An evening with Cake.
Personal Bias: I am not a "Cake fan." I have always liked Cake, and I'm familiar with their music. That said, this might be bias, but I don't believe they played to their potential last night.
The Crowd: Some older kids, some younger adults. Check it; these guys have been institutionalizing the essence of youth into their music since the '90s.
Overheard in the crowd: "Why are we still clapping!?" (It'd been like 5 minutes of this Rocky music stuff and they were still not on stage.) Also, in response to John saying: "There are a lot of problems in our nation right now: deficit, war, crude oil," one man shouted, "REPUBLICANS!"
Random Notebook Dump: To the obnoxious people sitting behind me... That is no way to behave, or respect a band of this caliber (or any band for that matter). Stay home if you can't behave in public.
Sad Songs and Waltzes
Wheels Keep Spinning
Rock and Roll Lifestyle
Satan is My Motor
Say It All
Sheep Go To Heaven
Sick of You
Short Skirt/Long Jacket