This past weekend I was invited to yet another strange yet entertaining music event near familiar territory. My Friday evening would take me to the hip independent venue Cake Shop downtown. I was set to watch the band Soda Shop perform their bizarre and alluring tunes. The band is made up of four talented musicians Maria Usbeck, Drew Diver, Ed Chittenden and Marty Martier.
I arrived at the Cake Shop quite early to linger around and see the other bands perform that night. Soda Shop were the headliners and had the support of three other bands before them: The Hairs, Railings and Dark Tea. Cake Shop is a small and grungy place with its own flair. It is a pure underground bar. I entered the space, which had a great craft beer bar upstairs with tons of delicious options to choose from. I snagged a Small Town Root Beer Ale, which tasted just like a root beer, much to my enjoyment. There was even a record browsing shelf opposite the bar for people to peruse. All over the walls were band posters, cool artwork and photographs. Scattered about were small vending machines with nothing in them. After checking in, I walked downstairs to the performance area, which had an additional bar and a narrow space for people to congregate. There was a small crowd to start, many lingering on stools. For most of the night people were simply just wandering around.
Cake Shop is right near my art collective, Con Artist Collective, so I was happy to be somewhere that I knew the terrain. The first band, Dark Tea, had a steel guitar as their main instrument. Unfortunately, I could not find any information about them online, my apologies folks. They played a form of soft-core rock. On the small stage hung silver/gold streamers behind the musicians. Christmas lights were on the ceiling with ripped apart soundproofing foam. Along the crowd space wall there was a big forest theme wallpaper.
Even as the bands performed throughout the night, there was always a bigger crowd upstairs. In the beginning it was a young bunch of people. Probably one reason why people went back upstairs was that it took each band too long to set up after each set. Then again, that’s typical for these kind of places. As the crowd grew steadily the wailing rock of Railings welcomed us as the second band of the night. There was even an air of poppy rock embedded. I noticed at this point the audience was now obviously full of friends of the bands. As each song ended, there were lots of responsive hecklers who made their voices heard that followed with laughter. Each band’s sound quality was a bit off, yet all of the solos were nice. Once the third band, The Hairs, came on I was impressed. They were not bad at all. The Hairs had a bass driven noise. It was also at this time I think there were people doing some kind of drugs in front of me. Although, being the ignorant little guy I am, I had no idea what it was. Another drawback of the night was that there were some long talking parts during the breaks. Many of the songs lasted only short bursts.
As The Hairs finished up their set, the Soda Shop folks began meandering with greetings from all their friends. It became too noisy to even hear the music anymore. Thus, the bass was overpowered. Reminded me a bit of Presidents of the United States of America’s sound. I crept closer to the stage to get a better spot for Soda Shop’s set. I sat down in a chair near the stage and noticed that there was a huge cinder block in front of the drum set, quite unusual. Man, the poor sound guy seemed tired and overwhelmed with the cacophony of the night.
To start, Maria captivated us with her water drinking skills of which she was proud. I always love it when a band has a female lead. It adds a certain power to it all. Soda Shop graced us with some nice loopy guitar licks. Immediately, Maria captivated us with her seductive voice. It was almost like Blondie. Each song carried with it her soft whispers at times. Marty was intensely focused the whole show. He was on a mission for good music. In fact, they all were. I hinted at similar guitar licks to Carly Rae Jepsen’s poppy tunes. At times their music seemed a bit repetitive. Luckily, Maria’s very expressive motions of both the face and with her body entertained everyone. Her arms kept flowing about and her leg was constantly bouncing. I must admit they provided some nice beats. She even whistled in one song. This was when the Cake Shop became a packed house. Maria stared off in the same spot all night communicating her songs all the while.
It was a long night but a worthwhile one. Soda Shop is a special kind of band that will permeate many listeners’ music libraries to come. Their somber and poppy songs are sure to attract spectators far and wide. Catch them live and experience the vibe they share. I think you may enjoy it.