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Cake Goes The Distance at Williamsburg Park

With promises of thunderstorms looming over Cake’s performance at Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Park, the band managed to pull out a slice of California luck as skies remained clear throughout the two set show. After taking an eight year break from releasing new material, Cake’s 2011 album ‘Showroom of Compassion’ debuted at #1 on the Billboard album chart, making it the band’s highest chart to date.

Cake found success in the 90′s alternative rock boom with sarcastic and witty songs about cars and absurdity backed by funky bass riffs and sexy horns. Hits like ‘The Distance’ and ‘Short Skirt, Long Jacket’ have remained in the public consciousness over the years, and albums like ‘Comfort Eagle’ still holds up a decade later. This makes for a relatively hot crowd – most of the fans knew what they were in for, were well versed in the band, and were ready for new grooves and old classics alike.

The first set felt like both an introduction and a warm up – it contained mostly songs from the newest album, and managed to get the crowd excited with ample drinking time in the sun. The set closed with lead singer Jon McCrea splitting the audience in half and constructing a sing along to the chorus of the new album’s single, ‘Sick of You’.

After the brief intermission, the band returned with their awesome take on Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pig’. The opening vocals elicited a roar of approval to the crowd for what would surely be a set highlight. In what would assure the crowd they were getting a more old school set, McCrea reached way back to 1994 to play the band’s first hit, ‘Rock N’ Roll Lifestyle’ off of their debut album Motorcade of Generosity.

In what was either a love it or hate it moment, McCrea busted out what is now a signature of the Cake show – the tree giveaway. McCrea pointed to the tree that had been placed on stage throughout the show, and asked audience members to guess which type of tree this was, one by one. As you could imagine, the crowd was not filled with botanists, and this strung out for quite a while. In what was a pretty unique outcome, the winner was able to take the tree home, on the condition that he plant it and send pictures to the bands website every few years. This whole segment was fun and quirky, but probably would have received a more harsh reaction had McCrea not apologize for the lack of music beforehand.

The rest of the set was full of Cake classics like ‘Never There’, and with the sun down provided a more appropriate backdrop for a rock concert. The encore, appropriately, were the band’s two biggest hits in ‘The Distance’ and ‘Short Skirt, Long Jacket’, giving the crowd one more chance to jump around before hitting the exits.

For most bands pushing two decades of existence, an evolution is natural and necessary. Some bands are unrecognizable twenty years later, with new members, new instruments, and new sound. Cake has managed to balance staying fresh without ever losing that signature sound that makes them so recognizable and loved. If you liked Cake then, you’ll love Cake now.

– Justin Charles