After two aborted shows in the province in the last six years, all of us Cake fans in Ontario are lucky we’ve been given another chance.
In June 2004, the group was set to don their trumpets and vibraslaps for Toronto Bluesfest, until the festival was cancelled due to lack of ticket sales. But that’s nothing compared to what transpired at Edgefest 2002, when a horde of irony-proof Nickelback diehards rebutted Cake’s tongue-in-cheek Canadian jokes the only way their braincells knew how: by pelting the stage with bottles, forcing the band off two songs into their set. Realizing, however, that cancelled shows and belligerent crowds go hand-in-hand with the “Rock ‘n Roll Lifestyle” they sang about way back on Motorcade of Generosity, Cake is returning to Ontario for two shows this week, playing Thursday at Toronto’s Sound Academy, and Friday at the Hamilton Convention Centre.
Cake’s orchestral presence and fortified lyrics make for a truly unique sound. With his trucker hat and passion for agriculture, lead singer/songwriter John McCrea may not be the likeliest of wordsmiths, but he’s certainly one of the smartest working today in rock. His librettos defy all musical reason, with lines that are simultaneously catchy and dense. You innocently sing along, and then retrospectively struggle to interpret the words you’ve just been singing. (Here’s one of many annotated versions of “Sheep Go to Heaven” floating around the web.)
Throughout their six album discography, Cake has snuck in songs that are toe-tappingly political, from Motorcade’s “I Bombed Korea” to Pressure Chief’s “Too Much Carbon Monoxide.” The band’s entertaining website (featuring Weekly Advice from Cake) certainly makes no secret of their left-leaning allegiances, devoting half of their homepage to a Sarah Palin quote (Attention Nickelback lovers, Irony Alert!): “I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that.”
Though the band is at times outspoken, what makes the bottle-throwing incident so perplexing is that, unlike so many politically-conscious musicians (Toronto’s recent Randy Newman concert for example), Cake doesn’t let their commentary overshadow their set. On stage they are the most egalitarian of performers, displaying an earnest concern for fans and their favourite tracks. After each number, the band surveys the crowd, then quietly huddles up to decide what song they’ll do next, ensuring they never play the same show twice.
Tickets are still available for both concerts. For those daunted by the trip to Hamilton, Cake’s website offers a carpool page, where fans can arrange group transport. Just remember what your mother cautioned, and be wary of accepting a lift from anyone in a Nickelback t-shirt.
Photos courtesy of CAKE