with Drive By Truckers and The Josh Joplin Group

On The Bricks Concert Series, Centennial Park, Atlanta, GA • July 27, 2001

Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell.” I do not know what this means, but Cake’s John McRea had thousands of Atlantans chanting it for a solid five minutes. While I pondered its meaning, John did some pondering of his own that night: “Hotlanta. What does it mean? It doesn’t mean anything. It means it’s hot.” John is a deep, deep thinker, and it’s evident in Cake’s lyrics and music, which defies genre classification.

Actually, the evening’s line-up also defied classification. Usually, you book bands that are similar and compliment each other. The festivities this night included hardcore Southern rock done up in extra redneck style and folk-pop done up extra-dull, all leading up to Cake’s bizarre mix of twisted comedy and sad commentary.

Drive By Truckers started off the night to wake up the crowd. It was nice to see this Athens band dressing up nicely for the show. Guitarist Mike Cooley actually had a clean button-down shirt on for a change. Obviously dressing up to please the Josh Joplin groupies. The band tore into their set with a triple guitar assault, playing songs from their first two releases and songs from a soon to be released rock opera. Earl Hicks was positioned on bass so Rob Malone could swing the third axe while the band ran through their Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute. “Too Much Sex Too Little Jesus” was dubbed the band’s only gospel song, and singer Patterson Hood dedicated it to Creed “’cause they’re into that shit.” Although playing to mostly teenagers way too young to see this band play at The Star Bar, hopefully, the band made some future Trucker fans.

The Josh Joplin Group took the stage as Atlanta’s own nerd boys played the concert with electric guitars. The sun was still up, and the masses were just beginning to herd onto the field as the band went into their set of upbeat melodies. A change from the last time the band played a 99X stage, back when they were an all-acoustic band. Josh admitted that they were all folkies at heart, and despite the electric guitars, the bass player had an upright bass to prove it. The band had lots of energy, and Josh did a lot of jumping through songs reminiscent of The Jam, and included one Buck Owens cover. It still was not enough to keep people from turning away and heading for the beer lines.

By 9 PM, Cake had not taken the stage. The crowd grew to the thousands and began chanting “Cake, Cake, Cake.” Fifteen minutes later, the band appeared, opening with “You Part the Waters” from their Motorcade Of Generosity album. Afterwards, John greeted the audience: “Hello Fulton County. We are Cake, and we are here to serve you.” Well, not really. He told the crowd to stop shouting out requests, and he publicly humiliated one poor woman in the front row. He not only requested that she be removed for not singing along, but he then told people to push her as she made her way through the crowd for the exit. That doesn’t sound “serving” to me. The band kicked in with all the favorites that even moderate listeners love: “The Distance,” “Italian Leather Sofa,” and “Never There.” The songs had every person on the field singing along. Strangely enough, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” did not get the same reaction. Everyone stopped singing. John remarked he wanted voices to come across the stage, not the marijuana smoke he smelled. So, singing he got. They played new songs from Comfort Eagle as body surfers were passed through the park into the waiting arms of security personnel. They closed with their take of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” and as quick as that, it was over. Forty-five minutes was all we got. I think Josh Joplin’s boring set was longer. At least if felt longer. I think that if John spent less time humiliating that one girl, he could have squeezed in a request or two and made everyone happy. Now that would be service.

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