With arboreal pleasure, John McCrea plucks favorite tunes from Showroom of Compassion while surrounded by Red Butte Garden's trees. Photo: John Carlisle
Although my musical tastes have shifted and evolved over the past decade or so, listening to Cake was an important part of my young teenage years. At parties, I danced like a maniac, kicking and knocking people’s drinks from their hands to “Stick Shifts and Safety Belts.” Once, when I was working a terrible, minimum-wage job as a pizza delivery boy, I was zoning out, feeling depressed in my car that had acquired the un-exorcise-able smell of pepperoni, onions and old marinara sauce. The song “Sheep Go to Heaven” came on, and the lines that say “I just want to play on my panpipes/I just want to drink me some wine/As soon as you’re born you start dying/so you might as well have a good time” encouraged me to quit that very day. Largely thanks to Cake, I spent the rest of that spring skateboarding, travelling and painting graffiti in a state of delightful and romantic poverty instead of slaving away, praying to the wrathful God of Pizza, thanking him for decent tips whenever I was lucky enough to get them.
I always wanted to see Cake live––I fucking pined for it––but at $30-$40 per ticket, the experience was way out of my price range (“How do You Afford Your Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle,” indeed). I pushed the idea far from my mind. That is, until the band’s newest release, Showroom of Compassion, dropped early this year, and I realized that they would be touring again. Paying actual money for a ticket was still out of the question, but this time around––now that I’ve dabbled in the dark world of dubious music journalism––I could con SLUG into securing me an entrance. Boom. Cake. Despite years of curiosity piled on top of the allure of a free ticket, I nearly backed out at the last second. The show was at Red Butte Garden, and you know what that means . Did I really want to have to deal with the parking, the lines, the legions of meathead fans that would also surely attend? It would be so easy to stay home and watch trite garbage on TV, but after some thought I realized that I would regret the lost opportunity forever. So I went, and, although the Red Butte experience was largely as I expected, I’m glad that I did.
Some of the ticket money went to pay security guards with flat tops and Secret Service style earpieces, just in case the crowd got out of hand and we wanted someone to kick our asses. There were Botox injected faces, zip-off cargo pants, picnic baskets weighed down with bottles of expensive wine and rich liberals swinging their Mammut soft shell jackets above their heads, dancing on the immaculate lawn. Even though I felt like a total alien in the crowd, Cake was as great as my teenage self had imagined: smooth, tight and right on time, poetic lyrics, skillful trumpet blasts and plenty of Vibraslap fun. Because Cake released Showroom of Compassion independently, they didn’t have some record label big shot forcing them to waste time with an opening band. No, sir. This was a very adult affair, orderly and punctual. The band performed two sets, punctuated by an intermission, and they were sure to play a healthy mix of nostalgic classics and a slew of new material that sounds as great as their songs ever have. During the second set, Cake added Salt Lake to their Cake Forest (look at cakemusic.com for pictures) by giving an apple tree away to one lucky fan. Drunk dudes started to get irate in the “Less talk more rock!” way, so the band complied, wailing away on all the songs that everybody has heard and undeniably loves by now. I sat on the grass, bobbed my head and ate a $7 veggie burger (Red Butte Garden, remember?), having a wonderful time. Thanks, dudes––Better than stale TV for sure.
Check out SLUG photographer John Carlisle's photos of the show here.