EDINBURGH | GLASGOW | ABERDEEN | INVERNESS | DUNDEE | PERTH

CAKE

at Queen Margaret Union

* * * * *

About as much fun as a cold night in January can be.

Image of CAKE

The love is here people. From cosmic country to mariachi inspired sing-offs, CAKE bring everything they have to the QMU and Celtic Connections. As sheep must surely go to heaven and goats to hell, so must Glaswegians (and a healthy American contingent too) rock out on a wet Wednesday before pay day.

Setting the scene is Israel Nash, purveyor of trippy, soulful country bliss. The Texan draws a sizeable crowd, which will have pleased him with his own headline tour about to kick off.

Nash’s set is like being dropped somewhere in the middle of a Waylon Jennings / Neil Young / ELO jam sesh. Guitars are set to phaser and harmonies are transcendental. Each song, including the gospel like Rolling On and hands-in-the-air Sweet Springs, makes full use of Nash’s impressive vocal range.

Similarly, the band are tight; standard pedal steel player ready to provide the recognizable twang. And even though we are regaled with tales of his sweet lil’ home in Dripping Springs, this is so much more than your average country music gig. Like label mate Sturgill Simpson, the new breed of hipster-friendly country crooners are proving that there’s more to the genre than good ol’ boys and broken hearts.

Entering stage left to the triumphant strains of the soundtrack to Rocky IV come CAKE to rapturous applause. Known online these days for their politically sharp tweets, there is thankfully no hint or mention of Trump or Brexit. The band launch in to a hit-laden set, drawing on a back catalogue stretching over 20-plus years.

Shepherding the flock, lead singer John McCrea, whips the crowd into a fervour during hits like The Distance, Frank Sinatra and Sheep Go to Heaven. His vibraslap is employed throughout, adding the mariachi party vibe to the set.

Vince DiFiore, whose trumpet playing skills arguably set the band apart from their 90s college rock peers, draws appreciation from the Glasgow crowd. Opening the set with a pitch perfect solo on the aforementioned Frank Sinatra is a highlight.

The QMU only holds a few hundred people but to a man, woman and student, McCrea has them all in party mode as different factions are pitted against each other in multiple happy sing-alongs. It is a mark of a great songwriter/band when songs about desperation, broken dreams and cynicism bring people together and create an overwhelming sense of optimism in their faithful listeners.

Closing the set with Short Skirt/Long Jacket, another extended call and response segment highlights McCrea’s skills as a bandleader. He, and the band, are all a wee bit greyer these days but the joy in that tends to manifest in a beautiful freedom to play, which younger bands can’t quite grasp.

Never mind ‘MAGA’, the world would be much better if we could ‘MACA’ – Make America CAKE Again.

/ @newtownwriter


Scott is a shady marketing type from East Kilbride in deepest, darkest Lanarkshire. Likes include gloomy indie music, blue cheese and whisky, while guilty pleasures comprise musical theatre and self-help videos on Youtube. Can mostly be found on the no.6 bus or aimlessly wandering the streets of Glasgow on his lunch break.

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