Mmmm… Cake.

Saw Cake at the Crystal Ballroom last night. Cake is one of my all-time favorite bands (I’m a blogger, I can use superlatives like that) and I’ve been waiting to see them live for a long time. Last time they were in Portland, tickets could only be had by calling in to the local “alternative” radio station, so, yeah, I was out of luck. I may have emailed the band and told them that they’d better get their asses back to Portland so that fans who don’t have the spare time to sit around calling a local radio station to snag tickets to see them, could see them.

The opening act was two guys calling themselves The Punk Group (warning: site requires Flash Ugh). Good, local, sounded kinda like Devo. In fact, they had distinctive black t-shirts, black hats, black wristbands and white sunglasses, giving them the near-conformity of look that Devo had. Their lyrics were hilarious.

Cake, on the other hand, don’t have a conformity of anything. They were late to the stage, where a crowded, sweaty house was resorting to chanting “We want Cake! We want Cake!” and even booing after a bit when they still didn’t show. Finally the band took the stage at 10:25. But once they were up on stage, all previous asshattery was forgotten.

Later, after a couple of songs, McCrea said, “Cake isn’t very professional in at least one way…” to which I shouted (but probably wasn’t heard) “Yeah! You were late!” but it turned out that he was referring to their lack of a set list. “It makes us feel like a damned jukebox,” he said, and the crowd started shouting out requests. “Don’t tell us what to do!” he admonished the audience. “We play what we feel like!” To which the fans responded with a cheer. Anyone who likes Cake likes every single song so anything they felt like playing was met with cheers.

The lead singer, John McCrea, struck me with an odd presence on stage. Distracted, distant… the more I think about it, much like the band’s music, which is also ironic and detatched.

I danced. Wow. I didn’t care who saw me. I danced, I pogoed, I sang along, I participated in the audience-participation sections, like the men vs. women singing on “No Phone” from their new album “Pressure Chief”. I had a great time.

Highlight of Cake’s set was John McCrea, lead singer, dedicating the following song to “FEMA, New Orleans, and George W. Bush”, giving a new twist to the lyrics:

You part the waters,
The same ones that I’m drowning in.
You lead your casual slaughters,
And I’m the one who helps you win.

You’ve got your grand piano.
You don’t even play piano.
I’m the one who plays piano.
You don’t even play piano.

You part the waters,
The same ones that I’m thirsty for.
You invite your friends to tea,
But when it’s me you lock the door.
You’ve got your credit cards,
And you thank your lucky stars.
But don’t forget the ones who foot the bill.

You’ve got your grand piano.
And you don’t even play piano.
I’m the one who plays piano.
You don’t even play piano,
But you part the waters.

Mr. McCrea also had a rant about not being able to buy beer on a Sunday in South Bend, Indianapolis, Indiana (yes, he made the mistake of calling the state “Indianapolis”) and turned it into a plea for further separation of church and state, and bemoaned the demise of 3/4 rhythm in popular music, which turned into an introduction to “Mexico”.

If I find a full set list for the show, I’ll post it. Nothing’s shown up yet on the internets (but I’m sure it’s out there).