Prolonging the motorcade

“Shhhhh. Don’t tell anybody. Cake’s gonna do a secret show at Capitol Garage tonight and nobody knows,” one of my trusted friends at the Beat stage-whispered.

“How can that be possible, since you already know?” I responded, slightly disgusted by this friend’s rock ’n’ roll elitism. “Do you honestly think I’m going to keep that one under wraps?”

The very thought of a “secret” show made public—one boasting a $10 cover, no less—makes this writer nauseous. Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: John McCrea wants to get back to his roots and play for the “real” fans.

Hogwash. Wednesday’s show was a chance for Cake to work in new drummer Pete McNeil before doing an onslaught of radio/promo dates to promote the new album, Comfort Eagle, its first for the very major Columbia Records. Once more, it’s a way to see if there really is a street buzz after Cake’s long hiatus.

Having followed Cake from the group’s early Cattle Club days, when it opened for such disparate acts as Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and the Deftones, I’ve watched McCrea and company come a long way. Even after encountering the success of such radio hits as “Rock ’N’ Roll Lifestyle” and “The Distance,” not to mention the publishing checks that showed up as a result, Cake quite apparently has survived—much like Gloria Gaynor, whose immensely popular ’70s hit “I Will Survive” Cake covered late in its set.

In addition, Cake arguably has kept it real with its fans. The band’s frontman-singer-songwriter McCrea played the hits, asked for requests—was I dreaming?—and even had an audience member come forward to hold lyrics to one of Cake’s newer songs.

Cake motored through a set of tunes from the three previous albums that were released by the now-defunct Capricorn label (Motorcade of Generosity, Fashion Nugget and Prolonging the Magic have since been reissued by Volcano Records; disclaimer: I work for BMG Distribution, which markets Volcano), while working in new material. The band played for the 100 or so people in attendance, in what was perhaps its most relaxed setting to date. Those in attendance at Cake’s recent Capitol Garage show—the Deftones did a similar one before their recent European trek—were treated to something special. Although quirks with the new drummer were evident, guitarist Xan McCurdy, bassist Gabe Nelson and trumpeter/vocalist Vincent DiFiore seemed to settle back into the live setting quite nicely.

If Prolonging the Magic didn’t bring the throngs of screaming teens and 20- to 30-somethings out of hibernation, Comfort Eagle should give Cake a few RIAA certifications come 2002. I’m sold, anyway.