14 bands, 15 minutes

There’s a streak of madness in Jerry Perry. The publisher of music rag Alive & Kicking and longtime promoter of local music has set up many, many crazy shows over the years, but perhaps none so insane as his cramming 14 bands on the stage of Old Ironsides last week. Particularly when one of those bands is Cake.

Of course, it was all in the name of charity, and although there was no sobbing Julia Roberts in attendance (nor that dumb, self-congratulatory prick Matthew McConaughey, nor any of the other celebrity photo-op mongers profiting off the tide of death, horror and political mismanagement), there were various KWOD DJs introducing bands and running a promo table out front.

The name of the game was raising mad cash for Katrina victims, and this is one thing that the Sacramento music scene knows how to do. We do come out in droves when we are needed. (The rest of the time, we sit at home and watch Gilmore Girls DVDs.) Music fans dropped $10 per head to witness Sidestar, Spider Silk Dress, Richard March, Liani Moore, Bridges, Didley Squat, Deathray, Las Pesadillas, Jonah Matranga, Nevada Backwards, the Snobs, Supermodel Suicide, Crazy Ballhead and, of course, Cake.

It was a terrific show, but perhaps that goes without saying. For one thing, 15-minute sets are my favorite: just enough to whet the appetite, but not enough to bore the audience. There’s no time to roll slowly into a killer set, so bands come out of the gates in full-tilt boogie mode, and there’s just no stopping them.

The high point for me was undoubtedly the Snobs. I’m way behind the curve on Snobs appreciation, as most people in this town already seem to know that they’re a simply terrific band. They offer something akin to Paul Weller’s intelligent pop songs (perhaps more in the direction of Style Council than the Jam), unhinged but intelligent pop with a punk beat, soulful vocals and, of all things, a saxophone. The band reminded me a bit of another local favorite, Frank Jordan.

As for Cake, the band was terrific, but that’s no great surprise. What is constantly surprising to me is that Cake fans tend to be clean-cut young men who would look more at home at a frat party or a rally for young Republicans than at Old Ironsides. John McCrea’s lyrics are consistently bitter and irony-laden, and to hear a room full of such men singing along with those songs always confuses me. Either I’m grossly mischaracterizing the audience (no way!), or these people just don’t get the songs. Either way, the sing-along portion of the show (“Mexico” from the band’s third album, 1998’s Prolonging the Magic) was a fun time.

It’s too bad the crowd started to thin soon thereafter, as the follow-up set by Supermodel Suicide was terrific. Like the Snobs, the band references a sort of post-new-wave songwriter sensibility with a punk-rock edge. Every time I see this band, I’m impressed, and this was no exception.

I’m waiting on the final numbers from Jerry Perry himself, but I imagine that the pairing of Alive & Kicking, Old Ironsides and KWOD created plenty of firepower to get a hefty pile of Sacramento’s cash off to the victims of the hurricane, if Bush’s favorite bedfellow Halliburton doesn’t have it all cleaned up first. Of course, Halliburton’s not fixing the levees; just the naval base. Oh, the irony! Maybe McCrea will write a song about it.