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Cake at the Roundhouse

Once upon a time, the Roundhouse was a steam engine turning station. In the engines would go, onto a giant turntable that could revolve them in whatever direction was needed. When newer, bigger engines outgrew the Roundhouse, it became a wine storing facility. And now, it is a pretty darn cool live music venue.

I used to volunteer at a round theatre in Beverly, Massachusetts. Even though the Roundhouse isn’t truly a theatre-in-the-round (with the stage in the middle and the audience around all sides), walking along the circular rows of seats brought me straight back, back to learning the seating plan, back to seeing the actors warm up in last-minute rehearsals, back to programs and ticket-taking and directions to the ladies’ room.

I was there, in the Roundhouse, to see my very favorite band, Cake. I adore Cake and I’d never seen them perform live. I have performed to their music (twice), but I hadn’t yet seen them. I’m very pleased now that I have.

The song of theirs to which I have danced (twice) is a cover of “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.” It has the right mix of humour and seduction to make it a perfect song, in my opinion anyway, for belly dancing. It is also the little unexpected touches, the syncopated little adornments, that provide moments to embellish the song with a quick stop, a flick of the fingers, a subtle lift, a sudden drop.

All of Cake’s repertoire is a bit like that–funny, sexy, thoughtful, complex yet accessible. They didn’t perform my favourite song (they didn’t do any covers, which was rather nice of them), but that distinctively delicous Cake-y sound was all there.

I’d gone on my own to the gig, and ended up sitting next to a chatty older woman, who told me that she had all their albums. She wondered if she were the oldest person in the audience. She said she was there with her son, who was somewhere down on the floor. (I opted for a seat because it was the same price as standing. Why not have a place to stash my overly large Londoner bag, instead of standing over it and bobbing up and down like a confused penguin?) One of the things I’ve always liked about Cake is their intergenerational appeal. Maybe not everyone will know who they are, but put on a bit of Cake and everyone will be happy.

This hypothesis was confirmed to me one wintry evening a year or two ago in a bar with my dad. This bar, a tiny one behind a liquor store and cigar shop on Florida’s west coast, has one of those jukeboxes that can go out to a massive music database somewhere (picture the warehouse scene from Indiana Jones) and download whatever music it doesn’t yet have. I put on a bit of Cake. “Who is this?” asked Dad.

“Cake!”

We played a good portion of their repertoire that evening. The second feature of this style of jukebox is you can pay extra to get your songs bumped to the head of the list. I’m pretty sure it’s called The Capitalist Jukebox, or The Song Machine of the Bourgeoisie, or something similar. But anyway, I’m always willing to shell out a little extra pocket change for Cake.

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