If low-calorie entertainment just isn't your thing, then get ready for this summer's attempt at a musical smorgasbord: five courses of innovative, alternative music, with a slice of Cake for dessert.
The first-ever Unlimited Sunshine festival brings tour organizers/headliners, Cake, to the Red Rocks Amphitheater on August 2, along with the Flaming Lips, De La Soul, Modest Mouse, KINKY, and the Hackensaw Boys. While Cake's brand of twangy, jazzy, rock 'n' roll may seem more commercially palatable than, say, the esoteric art rock of the Flaming Lips, homogeneity was never the goal.
"We started with a rough list of bands that we wanted at the festival," says Cake trumpet player, Vince diFiore, "and musically, every band will be challenged by the other."
So how did these bands end up touring with Cake? Simple: imagination.
In the case of neo-psychedelic rock heroes, the Flaming Lips, music and visuals have always gone hand in hand. And fans can expect a "nice video presentation" running in sync with the group's enigmatic performance.
As for De La Soul, the hip-hop legends from Long Island, the festival is a prime opportunity to expose their smooth, groove-heavy hip-hop to a new audience.
"We heard De La Soul's latest record (Art Official Intelligence: Bionix), and it sounds really powerful, so I'm excited about seeing them," says diFiore. In addition, indie-rockers Modest Mouse and up-and-comers KINKY will perform as part of five straight hours of continual music.
The idea behind staging Unlimited Sunshine is an outgrowth of Cake's well-known, self-made success. Formed in the early '90s, the band started as a do-it-yourself outfit -- or, as diFiore puts it, "a special crafts project" -- amidst the plethora of young alternative bands looking to get noticed by labels.
But with Cake, the rock star mentality has always taken a backseat to endless promotion and hard work. DiFiore clearly recalls the days when "You could steal some sort of self-fulfillment from starting a rock band and doing all the work yourself."
Even in this age of commercially dictated music, Cake has enjoyed the sort of artistic freedom that most young bands can only dream of.
"We were making our own flyers and putting on shows locally back in the early '90s. Now, we take care of our own artwork, produce our own albums, and even organized this festival ourselves," says diFiore. And the same spirit of artistic integrity that initially got them noticed by a label (Capitol Records) is precisely what keeps them so self-sufficient today.
Musically, Cake has also evolved over time while still holding fast to their roots. The songs on their latest release, Comfort Eagle, represent a step in a more melodic direction, with moments of electronic experimentation strategically placed to entice new listeners. "Live ... I'm playing all the keyboard parts, and our drummer triggers a couple samples," says diFiore, while hinting that Cake's stage-show is likewise evolving to fit the band's new sound.
"We figured since there's going to be the capability to have a screen (at Red Rocks) and show a video, we might do so."
But make no mistake: Unlimited Sunshine is all about music and showcasing bands that place the innovative creative aesthetic above all else.
-- Joe Kuzma