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DFest Headliners: The Black Crowes and Cake

Oklahoman Modified: July 22, 2009 at 11:21 am •  Published: July 22, 2009

The Black Crowes

At their final performance on October 31, 2001, The Black Crowes announced a hiatus.

But in the summer of 2004, rumors about The Black Crowes long-dormant Web site ( suddenly became animated, showing two “Crowes” heads facing each other as audio clips of the band’s music played.

On January 11, 2005, The Black Crowes announced their highly anticipated and long-awaited return to the live concert stage with five special shows — billed by brothers Chris and Rich Robinson as “All Join Hands” — at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom.

All five shows sold out instantly. And now the story continues. The Black Crowes — Chris (vocals), Rich (guitars), Steve Gorman (drums) and Sven Pipien (bass), Paul Stacey (guitars) and Rob Clores (keyboards) — have returned in full force to their devoted fans.

From the beginning, when they roared out of the gate with their multi-platinum debut album “Shake Your Moneymaker” in 1990, The Black Crowes have played by their own rules. They’ve gone against the grain and formed an intimate connection with their audience, while maintaining their independence and creative freedom from standard industry practices.

The Black Crowes are one of the few contemporary bands who’ve shared the stage with Jimmy Page, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, AC/DC, The Who, Neil Young, The Grateful Dead and many other legendary artists.

They play Friday night at 11 p.m. on the Poseidon Stage.


Almost 20 years from its inception, Cake is still an outsider — defiantly and proudly cutting their own path. Both their music and their way of operating in the ever-evolving marketplace are fueled by the same core principles of self-reliance, democracy, and integrity that inspired their formation.

“We’re using the processes that we have always used,” explains lead singer and guitarist John McCrea, “but we’ve got different tools now. The intellectual and emotional components are consistent, but the scenario and the scale are always changing.”

These values, which initially set Cake apart from the crowded California club scene and thrust them into the national spotlight, continue to flourish, expanding outward into new directions and roles.

“It goes along with maturing as a band,” says multi-instrumentalist Vince DiFiore. “We keep on adding more to the job description.”

Setting out from Sacramento, California in 1991, Cake quickly graduated from packing local venues to becoming a favorite in the thriving San Francisco scene. The combination of McCrea's captivatingly unwitting amalgam of Jonathan Richman, David Byrne, and Woody Guthrie — off-kilter yet strangely relatable — with Cake’s shambolic country funk took Northern California by storm. Key to the band’s sound then and now is DiFiore’s trumpet playing, which makes brilliant use of a timbre rarely heard in postmodern rock.

“Motorcade of Generosity,” Cake’s debut album, was initially self-released before being picked up and re-released by Capricorn Records in 1994. It featured their first radio hit, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Lifestyle,” a wry deconstruction of rock star clichés and excesses.

Their second album, 1996’s “Fashion Nugget,” included the taut, propulsive hit “The Distance,” still a radio staple and heard regularly in TV and films, along with an unconventional reworking of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”

“Never There,” powered by a looped dial-tone sample, announced the arrival of their third album, “Prolonging the Magic,” in 1998. That album also cemented the band’s core lineup of McCrea, DiFiore, bassist Gabe Nelson, and guitarist Xan McCurdy.

From there, the band moved to Columbia records for 2001’s Comfort Eagle (featuring the hit “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”) and 2004’s Pressure Chief (which included the popular “No Phone”).

Each album built on the one prior, with increasing breadth and musical evolution, encompassing a range of styles including funk, soul, pop, jazz, rap, and country.

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