so i stayed in dc an extra couple of days to see the sea and cake at the black cat last night, as it’s been a long time since i’ve seen them live, and i’ve been obsessed with seeing a show at the black cat since i read about the working holiday bash back when i was a jenny toomey groupie in high school (not that i’ve lost my rockstar-crush on her at all). so, slightly hungover from friday night in baltimore, i headed up to the black cat where some nice lady offered me one of her extra tickets for ten bucks. nice.

i caught most of the opening set by the zincs, who were musically great, but i just couldn’t get into that guy’s voice. great drummer, though. as they packed up, i went over to the merch table to pick up a copy of the sea and cake’s new album and a t-shirt (yes, i’m that guy), which was sold to me by none other than my indie-rock hero archer prewitt. i was kinda embarrassed at being sorta star-struck, and he was appreciative that i had exact change, so i guess it all worked out.

now happily having spent almost 40 bucks on the evening without having bought a drink yet, i resumed my place near the sound console to see loney, dear, who slowly and steadily blew me away. the place was getting packed, and i got irked that no one would quiet down for his quietly fingerpicked opening solo number. when the band joined him, it was like a smaller, sweeter, simpler version of sufjan stevens’ illinoise makers. the audience was invited to sing along, even taught the dead-simple but catchy-as-all-hell nonverbs of “ignorant boy, beautiful girl,” but it was obvious that the crowd was there to see the sea and cake, and not some swedish folk-pop multi-instrumentalist and his backing band. which was a shame, ’cause i kinda fell in love with them, even the chick standing behind the keyboard that i don’t remember her playing, though she had her background singer/tambourine skills finely honed.

as the bands changed over i realized that, though i was standing far enough away to hear everything perfectly, i wasn’t close enough to actually watch my geek-idols play. so, feeling absolutely foolish, i started weaving through the crowd towards somewhere with a better vantage, which i found happily under one of the massive air conditioning ducts. there were a lot of couples there to see the sea and cake, which struck me as odd, since i think of their music as lonely-single-geek music, but maybe that’s because i’m a lonely-single-music geek. and what’s with people calling their friends in the middle of a song and holding the phone out to the stage, then trying to shout a conversation over the music: you can’t be enjoying the music while doing that, and i’m certainly not having a good time with you doing that next to me.

regardless, the sea and cake rocked, of course. i was astounded to see them do a whole set sans synths: just drums, bass and two guitars. now, archer did have a sea of pedals at his disposal, and he even picked up an ebow for a couple of tunes to fake a synth effect, but they did it like a rock and roll band, and did it well. sam led them through a positively blistering “jacking the ball” with his signature scat-yelp, making me wonder if he was looking for a new spin on old material, or if he honestly hated playing what has become a chestnut for them. either way, it was kinda thrilling. eric claridge (didn’t look like how i remember him, but who knows) was a mountain of a god behind that bass, john mcentire was bewitching as always with his mad precision, and sam and archer crooned while climbing all over those guitars effortlessly. the updated/modified versions of old favorites were just as captivating as hearing the new material live, and the encore closer, “do now fairly well,” just floored me. only cats have been playing together for almost 15 years can make music like that.