CAKE, Ben Folds and Tall Heights
Forest Hills Stadium
An Evening with CAKE and Ben Folds
Forest Hills, NY
August 17, 2018
CAKE is a California band formed in 1991. The band features singer John McCrea, trumpeter Vince DiFiore, guitarist Xan McCurdy, bassist Daniel McCallum and drummer Todd Roper. Known for its outrageous and sarcastic lyrics, CAKE’s music is influenced by many different genres: funk, country, pop, latin rhythms, Arabic musical stylings, rock, folk and hip hop. The vocals in a typical CAKE song are conveyed in a droll, deadpan and monotone delivery.
The band was formed in defiance of the grunge genre and its music is clearly an amalgamation of all other musical formulas EXCEPT that genre. The band is also very environmentally conscious. Its “go green advocacy” centers on the fact that the band gives away a native tree at every performance. CAKE has done this for the past 12 years. Fans who attend a CAKE concert are aware that a tree is always placed on stage. At some point during the show, the tree is given to an audience member who promises to care for the tree and take it home.
The multi-platinum band known for its minimalist song structure is best known for its hits: “Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle,” ”No Phone,” “Never There,” “The Distance,” and “Short Skirt/Long Jacket.”
Ben Folds is a piano virtuoso. He first came to prominence in 1995 as the frontman and pianist of the Ben Folds Five. Folds has also performed as a solo artist and has collaborated with a diverse group of artists/actors/authors including William Shatner, Regina Spektor, Amanda Palmer, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Nick Hornby and Neil Gaiman.
During the course of his career, Folds has released four studio albums with the Ben Folds Five, three solo studio albums and three studio EPs, as well as numerous live albums and collaborative efforts. He has also contributed to the soundtracks of the animated films Over the Hedge and Hoodwinked! In 2014 he premiered a commissioned piano concerto that he composed with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Folds is also an Artistic Advisor to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Throughout his career, Folds has received many accolades. In 2002, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) officially designated and certified Ben Folds Five’s Whatever and Ever Amen (550 Records/Caroline Records/Epic Records, 1997) album as a Gold Record. In 2011, Folds was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.
The Boston-based trio Tall Heights is a folk group formed in 2009. It consists of singer/guitarist Tim Harrington and singer/cellist Paul Wright and percussionist/singer Paul Dumas. The group has released two CDs: the independent album Man of Stone (2013) and Neptune (Sony Classical Records, 2016). Its third album, Pretty Colors For Your Actions, is slated to drop in October 2018 on Sony Masterworks.
In the midst of an exceedingly hot, humid, sticky and oppressive New York City summer CAKE, Ben Folds and Tall Heights touched down at the intimate Forest Hills Stadium just as the weather broke (due to the fact that a rainstorm fueled by much more pleasant air currents was on the horizon). The impending storm, which caused CAKE’s set to be abridged, cooled and soothed the audience members who were treated to three sets of amazing music. The storm threatened (with lightning strikes in the distance toward the end of the evening’s performances), but never actually hit close to the arena until after the show ended.
The show began with Tall Heights who delivered a fantastic but short set filled with witty lyrics, amazing harmonies and brilliant, superb musicianship. Though Forest Hills Stadium is, admittedly, one of the smaller (if not the smallest) outdoor arena in the New York area, Tall Heights tunes and their intimate arrangements played well in the venue.
Folds was up next. He began his set by playing solo…just him and his grand piano for the first two tunes: “Phone in a Pool” and “The Ascent of Stan.” At the end of end of “Annie Waits,” the members of Tall heights joined him on stage. Highlights of his non-stop sing-along set included “The Battle of Who Could Care Less;” the jokey nod-and-a-wink homage to the venue’s location, “Forest Hills” (at the end of the song the whole band sang, “Forest Hills”); “Levi Johnston's Blues;” “Jesusland” and, of course, “Brick.” The high-energy set that ended with “Zak and Sara,” a fantastic version of “Rockin’ the Suburbs” and audience supplied three-part harmony on “Not the Same.”
CAKE’s set was a tad shorter than expected (and that of co-headliner Folds), due to the threat of lightning coming toward the venue from the Manhattan area. Nevertheless, the band’s 12-song featured the expected hits (“Never There”, “The Distance” and “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”) and some surprises. Highlights included the opening number “Frank Sinatra,” “Opera Singer,” “Sick of You” (featuring a fantastic audience sing-a-long to the chorus), the new and unreleased “Sinking Ship” as well as a cover of Willie Nelson’s “Sad Songs and Waltzes” and the encore—an unexpected cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.”
Although the evening was cut short, due in part to the impending storm and partially due to the curfew regulations in the residential neighborhood in which the venue was built, the performers provided the audience members with a wonderful and happy break from the tedious and muggy summer weather.
Photos by Christine Connallon