Cake Rocks Brewery Ommegang
June 22nd 2012 · 1 Comment
On the gorgeous Friday that was June 15th, in the late afternoon, I made my way from Utica down to the Brewery Ommegang just outside of Cooperstown to catch the kick-off of the brewery’s summer concert series. I got the assignment on that Wednesday. I was asked if I like the band Cake, to which I replied something along the lines of, “Hell yeah I do!”
It’s true. I’m a big fan, and though I’ve listened to Cake since high school, I can’t really pinpoint the first time I really decided that I liked them as much as I do, but I think it happened about a decade or so ago.
It’s something about their very easy sound, which hasn’t changed, that induces that nostalgic feel people get from music that reminds them of good times in the past. That’s very much Cake for myself. So I was more than glad to be comped for the show on behalf of the Phoenix. It was also a great opportunity for the budding beer snob inside of me to check out Brewery Ommegang, whose brews I do enjoy (Three Philosophers for the win).
After my scenic drive, arrival at the brewery, and long wait in line, I met up with Kelly Jendrzejewski, who handles publicity for the brewery for a low-down on the evening’s festivities. Because I actually had no clue beforehand, I was treated to the information that the night’s entertainment was the first concert in a series of five that will be taking place throughout the summer at Brewery Ommegang.
Cake got everything started and will be followed up in the coming weeks with concerts by Death Cab For Cutie, Lyle Lovett, Wilco, and Darius Rucker (of Hootie and the Blowfish fame), so stay tuned to local media for more information on these events as they come up. Or, run a quick search on the internet search engine of your choice for more information.
Ticket prices will vary, but will be in between the range of $30-50. On the topic of ticket prices, they were going for $50 for Cake, which seems like a lot (considering that I spent $70 to see Radiohead two days prior), but there was no opening band and the crowd got to enjoy an intimate, two-set performance, also, the Brewery offers, and will be offering, overnight camping on their land, and breakfast in the morning. So, it’s worth the money if at first the ticket price seems steep.
The price of beer was a bit off-putting. I don’t have a background in economics or business, but $6 beers sold at an event outside of, and hosted by, the same brewery which produces them seemed steep. There are few parts to pro-bono journalism more fun than swindling people for freebies, but I didn’t want to wear out my welcome (my ego in real life is exponentially smaller than that which is conveyed in print), so I dished out $12 for two beer tickets and commenced to double-fist both Belgian Amber and Rare Vos, two of the brewery’s staple beers.
On to the music.
When Kelly had told me, in our brief, albeit very informative discussion, that Cake would be playing two sets with no opening band, I became more excited. In my experience, such an occasion was rare. While I know it happens, I’ve never been to a concert that had no opener.
The band took the stage a bit after 8:30 p.m., and seeing lead-singer John McCrea’s trademark beard (hey, that’s how I’ve always remembered him) that I had only seen in pictures, and the rare SNL/late night talk show, performance set the tone. It was pretty sweet to be seeing a band like Cake for the first time.
I can’t recall which song they opened with, I was milling about the crowd more focused on trying to take pictures in the fading sunlight than enjoying the first few songs. Cake doesn’t do setlists either, so attempts at locating one on the internets failed, but I’m sure if you have a friend who attended, and wasn’t over-boozed by the time the band came on, they could tell you. They did play oldies like like ‘Frank Sinatra,’ ‘Shadow Stabbing’, and ‘Love You Madly.’
What I can tell you, is that most of the first set were newer songs. Cake plays a good mix and in my “research” I’ve read about them that they like to be spontaneous so as to feel alive and not acting the part of a machine (oh, McCrea is a quirky man), but this show was more or less broken down into newer stuff at first, older stuff later, with bits and pieces scattered about without any chronological consistency. I’m also trying to make excuses for my shortcomings in regard to article content.
If you’ve never listened to Cake, they have a very crisp sound. I hate labeling bands with genres, but if you’re into that sort of thing, I’d say the band’s sound is any mix of rock, indie, “proto-funk” (see what I mean about genres?) that you can imagine, with often off-beat, near-monotone vocal delivery which has become a trademark for the band. It’s not “crank up the stereo” music, and the band developed somewhat in opposition to that trend among rock musicians in the early 1990s.
In between songs, the audience was treated to a number of rants and poignant statements on society. I dig this kind of thing. Cake is very much involved with environmental activism. As part of this, there was a small tree on the stage as they were performing, the purpose for which, was divulged a bit later in the show.
At their concerts, the band has been known to give various types of trees to members of the audience on the condition that they actually take the thing home and care for it. On their website, there’s actually a section which features a global map, and graphics which indicate where the trees they had previously given away are. They ask people who “win” the trees to upload pictures of the progress of it as it grows. If you fail to do this, however, they fully advocate that the witnesses in the crowd “hunt you down with their negativity.”
After calling on some members of the audience to name the type of tree it was, in order to win it, someone finally came through and answered correctly that it was, in fact, an apple tree. Arguably, New York’s favorite tree.
By the second set, I had removed my press pass, tucked away the camera (which is how I double-fisted those previously mentioned beers), bummed a cigarette from a friend, and took in the remaining songs, which were those I’m sure everyone was most familiar with such as ‘Never There’ and ‘Sheep Go To Heaven’, some of their bigger singles. It truly was an interesting experience only being entertained by one band. The mood of the crowd seemed to reflect my sentiments as well as they were quite enthusiastic, shouting at times throughout the show to help fill the lyrics of other well-known songs like ‘Short Skirt/Long Jacket’ and ‘The Distance’.
I heard a lot of my favorites, but I would have liked to hear both ‘Mexico’ and ‘I Bombed Korea’ (no doubt, many who know me just rolled their eyes with that last one), but it was a great time and a superb setting as breweries seem to be ideal settings for concerts. As such, I strongly encourage more people to check out the remaining shows at Brewery Ommegang this summer.
By Mark Ziobro