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A double dose of Cake

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Who gives a shout out to the Central Valley?

Well, someone from the Central Valley.

This week, Cake played twice for eager Central Valley crowds. The local band performed for happy Cakesters at Freeborn Hall on the UC Davis campus on both Thursday and Friday nights. Friday night, the Memorial Union hall was at capacity, 1,775 people deep. On Thursday, nearly 1,300 people came out to sway and nod with Cake.

An hour before the show on Thursday night, fans were already lined up outside, ready to vie for a good spot in the community center hall. Thursday night drew a devoted crowd with one (especially) veteran fan who declared she’s been to over 20 Cake spectaculars over the years.

The alternative rock band, as they are sometimes called – though those who try to truly define the genre struggle to do so in less than 30 words – started the show with a tribute to their local roots. The instrumental, “Arco Arena,” aided in building so much anticipation that one especially excited man nearly jumped up on the stage.

Early in the show, they played several songs from their newest album, “Showroom of Compassion." The song of the same name was first and was a song about “leaving the central valley,” said lead singer John McCrea.

Thus far, the album is proving to be just as addicting as previous albums, the unending commentary of an angry American running throughout. “Sick of You,” in particular, was another great addition to Cake’s sing-a-long favorites. “Long Time” and “Mustache Man,” featuring Xan McCurdy on guitar, were performed as well.

“Sad Songs and Waltzes” was an entrancingly mellow addition to the set list and featured the remarkable trumpeting skills of Vince DiFiori. While his trumpet skills were far more impressive in person, the acoustics of Freeborn Hall did nothing to enhance the experience.

The venue seems to be a terrific place for a college concert, but Cake’s performance was hardly that. There were more thirty-something spectators in attendance than anything else.

Cake played two sets split by an intermission, “Which, I think, is a very civilized thing to do,” said McCrea.

Whether it’s the fault of the genre-less music or audience skill level, it was obvious that Cake fans don’t really dance. The point was made apparent Thursday night during the “dance-off” for a blood orange tree, the most powerful moves being a strong “robot” and a kicky “shopping cart.”

In the end, the band gave Davis local Jacob Belway a healthy, young blood orange tree. On Friday night, the arboreous gift was a lemon tree.

One lucky Davis citizen went home with a blood orange tree Thursday night.

The band played old favorites including, “Stickshifts and Safetybelts” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Lifestyle,” as well as newbies such as “Federal Funding” that were very well-received.

By the end of the night, the stage was practically dripping with sarcasm and disdain. You almost began to wonder if there really isn’t hope.

At times, it was even difficult to figure out if the band loves the central valley or hates the Central Valley, if they love America or hate America, and if they hate it so much, why they’re still here.

The answer, perhaps, is because misery loves company. If your favorite pastime is serenading fellow comiserators with cynicism and sarcasm, where else could you find such a goldmine of willing listeners than here, in the Central Valley?

Valley soil is caked on their shoes, and it’s not coming off.

There were just a few moments when you got a glimpse of the sweeter side of Cake. “Mexico,” for one, let the audience see that not all hope is lost in the race to an implosive bitter end. The ballad was quite therapeutic after a show filled with so much sarcasm and bitterness.

Perhaps our dear McCrea and Cake will someday find inner peace. Then again, how could we survive without the ever-present Cake criticisms of society?

McCrea reinforced this sentiment Friday night when he finished the weekend in Davis with “I Will Survive,” citing that it was the only hope he had.

Cake. Simple, home-baked, yet such a delicacy. This uniquely addicting group is sure to survive forever and ever, riling and romancing fans for many years to come.

John McCrea mocked and entertained Freeborn Hall spectators Thursday night.

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