Last Night: Cake At Best Of Houston BestFest
We're not sure if Cake lead singer John McCrea is genuinely a cantankerous prick, or if he simply pretends to be one onstage because he finds it amusing to do so. The end result is largely the same: An occasionally vexed audience noticeably put off by his crotchety grumblings about everything from the stage crew to his fellow bandmates.
Yet what could better befit the man's personality? Fans of Cake will no doubt be familiar with McCrea's sarcastic, smart-assed lyrics, aided by his deadpan delivery. The guy can actually sing quite well, but usually he just prefers to speak his lyrics in immaculately enunciated meter. McCrea wants his lyrics to be understood.
His persona... maybe not.
It was a long, hot day at the first-ever Best of Houston® BestFest, and also been more fun than we've had in quite some time. The bands were great, the vendors were for the most part cool and local, and just about everyone we knew was there.
Cake closed out the day, immediately following a fantastic set from Houston native Hayes Carll, as warm and likeable a front man as you can imagine. Perhaps following him is what made Cake start their set off with their cover of Willie Nelson's "Sad Songs and Waltzes."
A canny move, as it made the transition between Carll's country jukebox Americana and Cake's beatnik alternative somewhat less jarring. McCrea didn't talk much at first, instead letting the songs speak for themselves, playing mostly new material off January's Showroom of Compassion for the first half of their set. Towards the end of the new material is where, in fact, the grousing started.
McCrea started in on the backstage crew for their apparent failure to make a lone, smallish disco ball suspended high in the rafters work properly. "It's our only piece of unique lighting and you guys can't get it to work. Did you even try? Did you just try once and then give up? Try jiggling the wire. Unplug it and then plug it back in, that always works."
He toed the line between lighthearted kidding, and sincere irritation. The crowd tittered nervously, then sparse boos began fluttering up. (Boos meant for McCrea or the lighting crew, we don't know.)