Big Thief played Portland’s Bunk Bar last night, touring a debut album of modest, well-crafted songwriting and landing lightly on its feet.
“Thank you for remembering we exist.”
Truer words couldn’t be said about a lot of 90’s bands that weren’t in the grunge scene, but Cake has been around for two decades playing their own unique brand of alternative rock. A mash-up of ska, rockabilly, funk, and country they gained popularity in the late 90’s with Fashion Nugget and sustained in the 2000s with Prolonging The Magic and Comfort Eagle. John McCrea’s half-sung, half-spoken vocals make it easy to understand the wordplay lyrics and sing along to. Most of the show was dedicated to the first half of their music catalog, pulling hits and fan favorites like “Frank Sinatra”, “Love You Madly”, and “Arco Arena”.
After a brief intermission, Cake took the stage with three songs from their latest effort, Showroom of Compassion, which debuted at the #1 spot on Billboard’s 200 (a first for the band). The remainder of the night was geared toward sing-alongs after what seemed like the obligatory new material stint. McCrea’s command over the room was hypnotic and the sheep happily followed his orders. Splitting the crowd up to conduct the chorus of “Sheep Go To Heaven”, the room grew louder and louder with each verse. The sold out crowd of 1,410 happy shiny people were right where they wanted to be. With sound near perfection and plenty of beer to go around who could complain?
The second set of the evening ended with “Sick Of You”, the first single off their latest album. Once again John McCrea divided the room. One half, McCrea dubbed “the escapists”, sang: “I want to fly away/I want to fly away/I need to fly away/I need to fly away”. Simultaneously, the other half (dubbed “the angry half”) sang: “I’m so sick of you/so sick of me/I don’t want to be with you”. It was quite the interactive evening—sold out, yet extremely intimate.
The encore was arguably the most crowd-pleasing part of the evening with hits like “Short Shirt/Long Jacket”, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”, and “The Distance”. McCrea noted, “We realize in a city like Portland you have your choice of endless entertainment. Thank you for spending it with us.” No Cake, thank you.
— Wendy Worzalla