by Paige Parham
Cake has always been a band that people have trouble describing. They’re not rock, or blues, or country, nor rockabilly nor funk – but rather some mish-mashed hybrid of those genres. Despite this, when you hear a Cake song, you know it’s a Cake song. Frontman John McCrea, who could probably best be described as a “sexy hobo Jesus,” led the audience on a quirky musical adventure that included several sing-alongs, an intermission (because that’s how adults listen to concerts, said McCrea,) and an overall foot-stomping, hand-clapping good time.
McCrea and company began the show with the slow, deliberate “Sad Songs and Waltzes,” from their 1996 album “Fashion Nugget.” After this slow start, the energy quickly picked up with “Opera Singer” and stayed high throughout the evening. McCrea’s use of the Latin percussion instrument known as the Vibraslap is part of Cake’s distinctive sound. They played a good mix of their popular hits, including “Rock and Roll Lifestyle” and “Love you Madly,” as well as a handful of songs from their latest album, “Showroom of Compassion.”
One thing you can say for Cake, they really know how to get the audience to have a good time. McCrea divided the audience in half for the chorus of new song “Sick of You” and had them competing to sing along in a clash of emotional release. With one side singing “I want to fly away” and the competing voices yelling “I’m so sick of you, so sick of me, I don’t want to be with you,” our voices melded together in an expression of frustration.
After the short intermission, McCrea explained to the audience that the tree which had been on the forefront of the stage for the entire performance was a part of an ongoing project that the band is working on. At each show on their tour, they’re giving away a tree to one fan who promises to plant it, take care of it, and upload photos of themselves with the tree to the band’s website as the years progress. To win the tree, an audience member named Nancy correctly guessed the species of tree (it was a peach tree.) The band’s tree map will be updated by tree winners for years to come.
While they played their most popular songs to satisfy the casual Cake fan, most of the audience was delighted just to be in the presence of these fun, energetic, irreverent musicians. As we left the fairgrounds, the sound of their number one hit “The Distance” ringing in our ears, we stumbled upon perhaps Arkansas’s youngest Cake fan; a two-year old boy pleading with mom and dad to not make him leave, because “They’re still playing mama! I can still hear the trumpet!” I think we all felt that way a little bit.
More photos after the jump.