Cake 10.15.16

The Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)

A honky-tonk country western band stumbled into Beck's studio and found John McCrea spitting the counter-culture revival. That's how it began... or so I would have you believe. Actually, Cake has operated for well over 2 decades on a formula that is solid. Play good music and your fans will continue to support you. And it's that support that allows a band like Cake to exist.

My Cake timeline:

"The Distance" becomes a smash hit. I enjoy the tune, but am not immediately entranced by the band.

Approximately 1996/7 a friend of mine's parents went out of town, and a co-ed high school party ensued. We drank, smoked pot, and did all the other teenage things. We hoped a girl would be naked or something like that. We weren't far off. Once the inhibitions were gone, my friend Aaron stripped off all of HIS clothes and jumped on the hosts "Nordic Track." He sang "he's going the distance...," as we all laughed.

Around 2010 I heard a rumor that Cake was playing a festival I considered attending. I was really surprised to see them resurface at Moe.down, but thought it sounded pretty cool. Although I didn't make the show, it did put Cake back on my radar. I began digging into their catalog and swore I'd make the effort to see them someday.

The album B-Sides and Rarities, found it's way to my collection and took my appreciation of the band to a new realm. It became evident that Cake was a band I had not given enough attention to.

A few months ago, Cake at the Boulder Theater popped up in my notifications, and I made my move. Then, I pretty much forgot about it. But when I received confirmation to cover the show, I was really excited. To my surprise, I was not the only one excited to get a slice of Cake. The line bent around the corner and down the block as doors were set to open for the sold out show. Through 25 years as a band, they still draw an enthusiastic crowd to hear their unusual blend of sounds.

At the core, McCrea was joined by Vince DiFiore who layered dynamic support on the keys and trumpet. DiFiore and McCrea have been there since the beginning, and their melodic interplay gave the band a unique flair. DiFiore hit trumpet lines in a variety of ways, mariachi, funk, ska, punk, and did so with gusto. His brass tone was brilliant. Guitarist, Xan McCurdy didn't miss a note all night, his playing was sharp, crisp, and robust. He and drummer, Paulo Baldi, perpetuated the rootsy, Americana backbone which coupled nicely with Gabe Nelson's funka-billy low end.

The whole performance was an entertaining swirl of alternative-rock/fusion. McCrea, a politically outspoken figure, shared jokes about the current election cycle, but kept it light and entertaining. The merchandise table sold red hats with the slogan "Make America Cake Again." He lead the crowd in harmonic sing-alongs, and well-known classics. Touching on everything from "Frank Sinatra" to "Stickshifts and Safety Belts," I was reminded how many great songs the band had penned. McCrea's vocals were strong, confident, and rich. They were simultaneously sympathetic and sarcastic, creating a likably snarky persona. But the persona was just the icing.

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