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Cake at Zellerbach Hall

by VM Brasseur on February 14th, 2007

To blow off some steam on Monday I sat in my office and created a folder of bookmarks to the websites of area venues, the better to find shows to attend. During that process I stumbled over the fact that Cake was going to be playing at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley the very next night. I’d been wanting to see Cake for years but somehow kept just missing them whenever they were playing in the area. There were still tickets available, so I hopped on IM to rally the Albertellis then placed an order for three seats.

Cake! I was finally going to see Cake! Woo hoo! Yeah, I was stoked. I arranged to meet the gang at Amoeba before the show. Half an hour and nineteen CDs later (more on my poor musical impulse control in another post) I recognized that discretion was the better part of valor and that perhaps it was in my best interest to leave before I did any further damage to my bank account. Guy and Megan would have to meet up with me elsewhere. That ‘elsewhere’ ended up being Moe’s Books, a bad choice if I was looking to stop spending money like a drunken sailor. But I needed those Neil Gaiman books. Honest. It was a need.

After meeting up with the others and eating a surprisingly tasty meal at Naan-N-Curry we scooted up to campus for the show. This was my first experience with Zellerbach Hall, but I’d spent enough time on/near campus to know where to find it. That it was surrounded by a crowd of students waiting to get into the show probably helped identify it.

Our seats were in the balcony, second row, dead center. Gotta say, for last minute tickets we really scored. Mezzanine might have been better, but this was pretty darn good. We could see everything on the stage and weren’t really all that far away.

Through dinner Guy kept poking for information about the opening band. I had no clue whether there even was one, but to end the thread of conversation I finally just said, “No. No, Guy, there is no opening band. None. OK?” It turns out I was wrong. The opening band was a local group called Honeycut. They play a sort of funk/blues/alternative/rock type of music. Yes, that’s vague. I apologize. There are four members in the group–lead singer, bass player, keyboardist, drum machinist–all of them gangly white boys dressed like they raided the wardrobe department from That 70’s Show. And that’s about the worst thing I can say about their performance. These guys were tight. The keyboardist filled the role normally taken by the lead guitar and he could really play. The drum machinist did a good job of laying down some solid rhythm and fills, doing it all manually on the machine rather than just hitting “play” and then stepping back. The lead singer had a good voice and a pretty good stage presence. The bass player, IMHO, was outstanding. Perhaps not as impressive as the keyboardist but probably just as good at his instrument.

Honeycut played a half an hour set then the roadies came on to get the stage ready for the main event. During the break, Guy and I headed downstairs and each bought Honeycut CDs (because I hadn’t bought enough albums at Amoeba already that night, I guess). After listening to the CD today at work I can say that they’re far far better live than on the disc. If you get the opportunity to see them it would not be time wasted to do so.

Cake is not a complicated band. They don’t play complicated music. They don’t have a complicated stage setup. Yet somehow it still was half an hour between the end of the Honeycut set and when Cake came on stage. This old fuddy-duddy has to get up around 5:30am to get to work on time, so I wasn’t so keen on being made to wait so long.

9:30 rolls around and Cake finally comes on. It seemed to take them a couple of songs to get warmed up and into the groove of things. I noticed that the trumpet player in particular seemed to be having a hard time finding the beat. It could have been that his monitor wasn’t working correctly (I prefer to think this is the reason). They clicked eventually but…well…

OK, see, I really like Cake. I like their music a lot and listen to it on a regular basis. Cake live? Not really so much different from their albums. Because the songs were played so much like the album renditions I already enjoy I can’t really say I was disappointed in the show, but I will admit to expecting a bit more. These are intelligent and witty people who sing songs with smart (if sometimes bizarre) lyrics. I was hoping to see more of that in the live performance than comes across on the CDs.

Overall I guess I’d have to say that although I liked the Cake set of the evening I actually ended up enjoying the opening band’s performance more. This has only happened for me once before, years ago when The Paperboys opened for Moxy Fruvous.

So this puts a big check mark in the February column for my 2007 musical resolution. I doubt I’ll meet/exceed the precedent of four shows in a month that was set in January though. And I’m not convinced I need to. 😉

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