Trash, Salmon and Cake – a ‘Secret’ Show At Blue Lamp

By Greg Hyatt and Jan Katerkamp,


Greg: I received an e-mail from a good friend and fellow SacMidtown contributor Jan Katerkamp on Tuesday around noon.

The e-mail included a link to a blog indicating that a semi-secret Cake show was set for that night, Oct. 19th at the Blue Lamp (corner of N and Alhambra streets).

Of course, a large group of us headed out for this special occasion. I arrived at Blue Lamp at 7 p.m. to find a long line had already developed, extending past the classy Motel 6 next door. Doors weren’t opening till 8. That line continued to grow, and it was evident this was going to be a fun night. Inside, the place was quickly packed.

Cake, of course, is the veteran Sacramento band that has gained some solid national and international attention over the last 15 years or so. In anticipation of releasing their latest album– Showroom of Compassion, due out in January–the band decided to put on an under-the-radar show at the tiny Blue Lamp. (They’ve done this type of show at this venue before).

The first half of the show was entirely older material, followed by a second half featuring a mix of brand new stuff and old tunes.

The show kicked off with “Walk on By,” with lead singer John McCrea alerting the packed bar/club that the song was in fact written right here in Sacto (likely midtown). Other highlights of the first half of the show included “Shadow Stabbing” off of the older album Comfort Eagle.  “Arco Arena” (could this possibly also be a nod to Sacto life?), the instrumental-only track, also sounded very fresh. “Rock and Roll Lifestyle,” one of the few “radio-friendly” hits the band has had over the years also made an appearance. McCrea said it may sound strange/ironic for the band to bust out this song (which bashes on trendiness and the notion of popularity circa 1993), noting that the band is doing pretty well financially. But he basically said, “screw it, we still love this one.”

Other highlights of the first half included “Friend Is A Four Letter Word” (Trumpet player Vince DiFiore’s solo on this one was SICK, as usual).

The crowd was completely into the show by the intermission, which seemed to last about 15-20 minutes.

But when the band retook the stage for the 2nd half of the show– things seemed to take a turn for the weird, and the mood of at least some of the crowd went from joyous to WTF in just a few minutes– perhaps due to some banter by McCrea.

The following is an opinion/analysis/banter/rant on what unfolded in the 2nd half of the show:

Greg: From what I remember, McCrea took the stage looking to throw out a teal-colored Cake shirt to someone in the crowd. If I remember right, he also wanted to share with the audience what he thought was an interesting statistic he saw in the newspaper recently. Jan, what was your recollection of what happened next?

Jan: Before I respond to your question, you forgot to mention McCrea’s reference to his dentist making more money them him. He insinuated that this fact gave the band a free pass to continue performing “Rock and Roll Lifestyle.” Allow me to nit-pick for a moment: Dentists actually make a lot of money. If you’re going to make a comparison to justify playing the song, shouldn’t you choose a profession that’s a little less lucrative? My suggestion for McCrea next time: “You might think we’re a big, rich rock band, but the guy who sells me my fedoras brings in more cash.”

Anyway, back on track. Yeah, second half of the show got a little weird. A little off-putting actually, and you could probably make the case that a portion of the crowd turned on McCrea. It actually started before intermission when he started preaching about salmon. Fine, only slightly annoying. I’m sure it’s an important issue, but is this the right venue? Once the second half started, the preaching escalated a bit. He tried to raffle off a t-shirt to the first fan who could tell him how much trash Americans produce annually, or something like that.

After chastising the crowd for all shouting at the same time (what did he expect?), someone got it right and won the t-shirt. Great, I get it. Lots of trash. Trash is bad. You’re preaching to the choir, most of which have compost heaps and ride their bikes everywhere. But he didn’t stop. And he seemed like he was getting more and more bitter as the show went on. A song, something about trash, 2 songs, more about trash, another song, something else about salmon, and so on.

My thoughts: Famous people (even those who are pseudo-famous) are absolutely entitled to use their platform to affect change. But… You have to offer something. You can’t just bitch at the crowd about something that upsets you. Offering a few suggestions on how to help, or even just elaborating on the issue a bit would have made the whole thing more palatable, in my opinion. Give me a website, the name of an organization, or have some pamphlets outside. Otherwise, you’re just one of those annoying hippies with a NO WAR sticker on their bike. Bring some common sense and pragmatism into the equation, and you’ll get some traction. In other words, grow up.  Not too much though, because your music is awesome.

I was annoyed at this point, but the music was great, so I stuck around. Things got stranger during McCrea’s attempt at crowd participation later on. I’ll throw it back to Greg…

Greg: Thanks for refreshing my memory on the dentist comment. I also recall him saying something like, “see, that’s what I hate about Sacramento” apparently in reference to the crowd’s weak attempt at a sing-along? Although I’m not clear on what was being referred to exactly. Maybe it was the fact that people were shouting at the same time in response to the trivia question, as you mentioned.

Generally speaking, as you pointed out, most big Cake fans are familiar with the band’s positions on solid waste/trash/environmental/ declining fish species issues, so I don’t think most were surprised to hear that. But I’m pretty sure he was half-joking with those comments. Or, perhaps I was still basking in the glow of the Giants big Game 3 NLCS win a few hours earlier, and wasn’t going to let anything screw with my mood.

Later on in the show, he did genuinely say “thanks for coming” and “we love you” a bunch of times. Also, when they busted out the new song “Sick of You” near the end of the set, McCrea orchestrated a loud sing-along with the crowd, which seemed to go over very well. After the show, he and other band members stuck around and talked with various people/fans. Or maybe just friends of the band. Either way, it wasn’t like they wanted to get in the van(s) and drive away immediately.

If only the people still waiting outside the Blue Lamp standing in line knew what they were missing.

Also, didn’t you purchase one of John McCrea’s favorite instruments with your I-phone during the intermission?

Jan: Alright, maybe his preaching was a little tongue-in-cheek. But if nobody gets it, don’t you just come across as a jackass? Let me answer that: Yes, you do. I’ll let it go.

The musical instrument you’re referring to is a Vibraslap, and I absolutely purchased one on Amazon during intermission. Something about the Vibraslap sound combined with McCrea’s enthusiastic “HYAAAAAAs” make me smile. I actually don’t plan on using it as a musical instrument though. More for watching sporting events at home. Manning to Garcon for a TD? Vibraslap! Hyaaaaa! Wade to LeBron for a throw down? Vibraslap! Hyaaaaa! As my wife ponders whether this behavior is adequate to qualify as an irreconcilable difference.

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Posted by on Oct 25 2010. Filed under Events, Music. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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