words & photos by Patrick Ogle
Really,Who Doesn't Want A Girl In A Short Skirt And A Long Jacket?
is one of those rare bands that release a CD every 4 years but don’t seem to lose fans. In fact, judging by the audience at the Riviera in Chicago, they seem to gain them. The age range was from 10 to 50-something, there were people there with a kid who looked about nine. The kid was drinking a Red Bull.
Parents of the year!
Reminds me of a show I was working at in New Hampshire years ago. Some hippie chick wanted to bring her baby into the show. I told her a) this is a bar b) do you have any idea how loud this is going to be? She started to babble some hemp-induced gibberish about shoving napkins into the baby’s ears.
But I digress.
There are other bands that do it. But a lot of those are U2
, Rolling Stones
-sorts of bands who people will blindly totter out to see just so they can say they went. Some of the more old geezery acts don’t even bother with releasing music. Not dissing the bands here necessarily. Just pointing out that Cake was not playing at Soldier Field but at a venue that holds a few thousand people at a sold out Riviera Theater.
But back to Cake specifically; when you hear a cake song you know it is Cake. Sometimes when you say this about a band it means all the band’s songs sound the same. In this case it means they have a style that is hard to rip off, a sort of musical personality, character that is theirs alone. It might be a bit of a dysfunctional personality, like a crazy uncle sort of thing, but that is neither here nor there.
There were songs they played I had forgotten about. How Do You Afford Your Rock-N Roll Lifestyle? made me look around at the audience. In some cases it I thought…”Well…that guy looks like an accountant. So that is how he affords it” or ”That dude probably robs 7-11s…” etcetera.
I’m So Sick of You, from the band’s new record Showroom of Compassion, ended the first set. The new record is, honestly and no bullshit, as good as anything they’ve done in their career. I guess you can get rid of the filler when you take years to put a record together.
There was a little too much audience participation for me. But that is because I am a cranky person who does not wish to participate. The rest of the people seemed very into it. And you sense (this could be me I suppose) that McCrea is being a little mocking in his interaction with the audience. I find mockery impressive.
The always elusive drummer, in this case, Paulo Baldi.
If you are the type to ponder about why a band is unique there are a few things that stand out about Cake. McCrea has a unique voice obviously. But they also use the trumpet well. They use it a lot but avoid being redundant. Bassist, Gabriel Nelson moves from straight up unnoticed rock n roll background bass to funky, active lines that take over a song. Even little things like the percussion thing-a-ma-bob McCrea whacks in front of the mic on numerous songs is a signature.
OK, so they give away a tree to an audience member at each show. You have to guess the type of tree (in this case nectarine…a type of tree I do not think will survive in Chicago). The band website apparently has a map where you can see the people who have won previous trees and how they grow old and the trees grow up over time. It is an interesting sociology experiment, totally uncontrolled and providing no usable data--a sort of Surrealist sociology experiment. McCrea notes he gets angry email from fans about how the tree thing brings the show to a grinding halt. It does. I mean it is a freight train slamming on the breaks sort of halt. He could read a couple of chapters of the Great Gatsby and it would move things along better. But so what? It is different. I want to see different.
Right near the end of the show I watched a guy get tossed out for taking a picture with his camera phone. Yes, they announced you shouldn’t do it. No, I do not understand why people MUST do it--to the point where they barely pay attention to the show, but, let’s face it; hundreds of people at every show are doing it. There is no way to control access to your image and it is so easy to record a show now it is impossible to stop the determined fan, only the guileless ones.
If Cake come to your town go to see them, unless the show is sold out. Don’t buy tickets from a broker. Brokers are evil.
The best shot of bassist, Gabriel Nelson