Last Night: CAKE at the Palladium
April 30, 2009
Better Than: The upcoming great food shortage
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McCrea: "Is anybody here sick tonight?"
Crowd: Affirmative cheers from the back of the room.
McCrea: "You guys are a bunch of assholes."
As for the crowd, it was a surprisingly mixed bag. $30k millionaires mingled with Richie Whitt, varying degrees of hipsters, and, oddly, teens who looked young enough to prefer Jason Mraz. But hey, if they can appreciate proper use of a Vibra-slap, maybe there's hope for the next generation after all.
Besides the lineup and the crowd (not enough dreadlocks in the Metroplex), little is different since the last time I caught CAKE, way back in 2002 in Asheville, NC. Singer John McCrea still insists on wearing a raggedy-ass trucker cap and I'm pretty sure they used the same static, pixelated projection of a mountain scene as a backdrop seven years ago. In '02 they had a Christmas tree on stage, last night it was a persimmon tree. Meanwhile, their gear is still ridiculously simple: a guitar amp with a mic in front of it. The Palladium was a good venue for their stage "ambience."
Usually, when a band's been around for 18 years, longtime fans who fell in love with its first record are lucky if they get to hear more than one or two throwbacks in concert.This, though, was a night for everyone in DFW who knows the importance of red, white and blue soda cans. It's too bad that turns out to be a small number. Not that CAKE didn't get plenty of love, but the five songs from their debut album, Motorcade of Generosity, were the only ones where the crowd didn't heartily sing along. As a member of that minority, hearing old stuff like "Ruby Sees All" and "Jolene" definitely beat my expectations. I should have known better, since they re-released the record this year to celebrate its 15th anniversary.
Other highlights of the night included "Stickshifts and Safety Belts," "Never There" and "Comfort Eagle." Biggest bummer? When the band huddled to decide their next song, "Nugget" didn't make the cut. There's something cathartic about shouting "Shut the fuck up" under McCrea's musical direction.
Aside from some musical flourishes, the band played note-for-note with their recordings. They're clearly well practiced and appear to treat their performances more professionally than any act I can recall seeing.
Ah, but lest you think they take it all too seriously, they did give away that tree to the person who could correctly guess it was a persimmon. The only condition: she had to promise she'd care for it over the next 20 years. As long as I've been listening to Motorcade of Generosity, I can say it'll be easier than she thinks.
Personal Bias: Spent a year with no CD player in my car and only one tape: a warbled copy of Motorcade of Generosity.
By the way: Happy Birthday to Meghan Hester. Any time a chick you've never met pours beer into your empty cup, that's worth a shout-out.