In California, the land of endless sun, freeways and possibilities, there’s plenty of room in the musical test kitchen to birth a band that’s a little mariachi, a little bit hip hop, funk, folk country and rock and roll.
Known for such quirky genre-blurring radio hits as “The Distance,” and “Never There,” the artful band known as Cake, founded in California’s capital city of Sacramento back in 1991, made their first trip to Mountain Stage on Dec. 5, 2010 at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston.
“It is always something special when they release a CD because they don’t do that every year,” host Larry Groce said of the band’s Showroom of Compassion, released in January, 2011.
After a thunderous welcome from the sold out crowd, the band dug straight back into their own roots – sharing first a gem, “Daria,” from their second album – the 1996-released platinum album, Fashion Nugget, that also featured their breakout hit, “The Distance.”
With their engines fully pumping and thumping in time, they lit up four new songs from Showroom, starting with “Long Time.” The hypnotic, Talking Heads-esque world beat funk jam featured on the first season of the TV show, “Shameless,” is fueled by Cake’s not-so-secret essential ingredients – the guitar of Xan McCurdy and tasty trumpet lines of Vince DiFiore.
As if foreseeing concerts full of audience’s faces buried in cellphones, lead singer John McCrea calls out a few fans in the audience. “Such excellent clapping and audience participation, we thank you, and your timing and tempo, – steady, except for a few people so involved in capturing the moment with their cameras, they can’t even join us here, now in the only moment you have. Here’s a song from the new album. You don’t even have to buy it. You can just be here. Right now. And listen to it.”
Introducing “Sick of You,” (the band’s first single from Showroom of Compassion), McCrea taps into the times which aren’t a changing … “I have noticed too that things have become very polarized in The United States of America…This song is about freaking out and about how furious people are. Some people can’t handle it and there is steam coming out their ears. There is an opportunity in this song for steam to come out of your ears and music to come out of your mouth.”
McCrea was not kidding. In the first of two raucous sing-a-long’s, McCrea dials the music down to bass guitar and cowbell and divides the audience up into “the people who can’t handle things and who want to escape into vampire stories,” and the other side into the “realists who are uncontrollable, unconstrained and unreasonable” to sing “I’m so sick of you sick of me/I don’t want to be with you/I want to fly away/I just want to fly away/.” As Groce stated later, “You not only heard the new single, you sang along with it.”
Watch Larry’s backstage interview with singer John McCrae to hear more about their solar-powered recording studio, how they convinced their label to release the video for “Short Skirt, Long Jacket,” and more.
After “Bound Away,” a fresh, modern-folk gospel take of tour life colored in with DiFiore’s trumpet and four-part harmony, Cake left the crowd with an interactive version of “Jolene,” not the Dolly Parton song, of course, but “Jolene,” the novelesque garage rocker McCrea and former guitarist Greg Brown wrote for their debut album.
“Somebody coming to the show requested it. You just ask for whatever you want in this life and it will happen,” McCrea joked getting a roar of audience laughter.
You can find follow Cake online, and purchase their music through their online store.
“Mustache Man (Wasted)”
“Sick of You”