When My Good Man and I first got together, we discovered we had a shared love for music by the alternative rock band, Cake. Anytime we went on a road trip, we would play our favourite Cake tunes on the stereo. We loved Cake, and loved sharing our love of Cake. We even said that if Cake ever came on tour to Australia, we would definitely go see them.
So when I recently discovered that they were, indeed, coming to Australia to play at Harvest Festival, I resigned myself to buying tickets to see a bunch of great artists (including some other favourites: Beck, The Dandy Warhols, and Ben Folds Five) play, just to get our piece of Cake. Awesome, right? Well…I am a strange creature who doesn’t care all that much for rock concerts, particularly when they go on and on and on and I just want to go home already. But just as I was midway through booking tickets online for Harvest, a friend pointed out that they would also be playing a side show in Adelaide on my birthday; naturally, I stopped what I was doing, and did the other thing instead.
Boy, am I glad I did.
They played at HQ, at the top end of West Terrace – which ironically is the only nightclub I have ever ventured into, almost twenty years ago when it was known as Heaven. Easily finding a park on Hindley Street (it being mid-week), we arrived in good time, and stood in line waiting for the doors to open. The atmosphere was relaxed and chatty; the girl in front turned to us and asked if we had already purchased tickets, as she had not; but had heard that tickets would be available at the door. We crossed our fingers for her.
HQ is an intimate venue, with the distance from the stage to the back being perhaps 40 metres, and with a few levels to make viewing the stage easy. I asked one of the security guys how many were in the crowd; he shrugged and said the door staff would know. MGM and I took guesses: he guessed 250; I guessed 300. But crowds are deceptive, and later on, Mr Security leaned over to me and said he just heard that the tally was around 385. So, not a big crowd, then.
Kicking off the first set with the defined guitar chords of Frank Sinatra, the crowd leapt instantly from expectant to wild. My grin lit my face as I turned to My Good Man with delight; we knew we were in for an amazing night, and so did everyone else.
The band was polished, relaxed, confident, and very easy to watch. They went about the business of entertainment without any show of strain or, well, showiness. John McCrae has a real knack for engaging the crowd, making the experience feel all the more personal. His vocals were pitch-perfect, as were the back-up harmonies; I was fascinated to finally see what a vibraslap - which contributes the unique rattling sound heard on many of their tracks – looks like; the smooth, measured crooning of the trumpet was an oft-spotlighted highlight. Though one of my criticisms of live music is the lack of musical perfection, that was never even once a problem for Cake. They were spot on.
The playlist went like this:
- Frank Sinatra
- Love You Madly (our personal favourite: “…all the dishes rattle in the cupboard when the elephants arrive…”)
- Stick Shifts
- Mustache Man (so appropriate for a Movember gig)
- Bound Away
- Sick of You: for which McCrae divided the room into right and left halves, with the right half singing “i-ii-iii want to fly away”, while the left half sang “I’m so sick of you, so sick of me, I don’t want to be with you”. That was a blast.
- (Something from their most recent album, but which I can’t identify!)
- Sheep Go To Heaven (I bet the mouthy woman in the mosh pit was finally happy about that)
- Ruby Sees All
- Long Time
- Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle
…and then they gave away a potted mandarin tree to a chap named Jack, for correctly guessing the tree’s species, with the proviso that he send in photos of the tree as it grows over the next thirty years. Nice one, Jack.
- Italian Leather Sofa
- Never There
And that was The End.
Did they do an encore?? Folks, you know they did.
- They played not one song: Short Skirt, Long Jacket;
- not two: It’s Coming Down;
- but three (can you guess what they finished with? Of course you can): The Distance, which made the enthusiastic bloke on our right pretty happy.
And then we went home, sated and filled with the buoyancy that only a great live band seen on one’s birthday can give.
I am a happy woman indeed.