CAKE's broad-based sound is a good setting to pair with rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson at Sunday's show. (Tim Jackson)
CAKE frontman John McCrea is more about quality, not quantity. That’s why the eclectic rock group only plays select shows — like the Ann Arbor Summer Festival — rather than schlepp themselves across the country on a summer tour.
The California-based band is part of the Summer Fest kick-off weekend and will headline Hill Auditorium on Sunday with Wanda Jackson.
At first it seems like an odd pairing. Rockabilly queen Jackson had the most success in the ’50s and ’60s with swinging songs like “Let’s Have a Party” and “Fujiyama Mama.” CAKE is an alternative rock group that broke in the mid-’90s with the driving single “The Distance.”
McCrea says that because of CAKE’s broad-based sound — they draw influence from everywhere, including rock, funk, country and world music — it’s a good fit.
“There’s a lot of CAKE fans that are country fans,” he says. “I’m a country fan. I enjoy that era before the 1970s when it was still kind of rockabilly. I don’t know everything about (Jackson), but I certainly enjoy her voice and her music. I guess there’s a lot of legend there.”
The members of CAKE are used to mixing up the genre pot. The group used to organize the Ultimate Sunshine Tour in the ’00s, which featured a variety of musical styles.
“We put Flaming Lips, De La Soul, a band called Hackensaw Boys and Modest Mouse together (on the festival), and that was seemingly wrong from a tribal prospective because all the tribes hate each other.”
“We’re from the anti-tribe,” McCrea says. “We’ve never been part of a cultural movement so to speak. We’ve always sort of existed on the outskirts and, in retrospect, it’s allowed us to survive.”
All of the Ann Arbor Summer Fest’s schedule is a mix of entertainment. Detroit native Lily Tomlin brings her comedy show to the Hill Auditorium on Friday as part of the Main Stage line up. Other Main Stage acts are NPR’s “Ask Me Another” on June 26 and Robert Cray and Mavis Staples on June 28.
Also kicking off Friday is Summer Fest’s Top of the Park concerts. These free shows at Ingalls Mall, 915 E. Washington, include local bands, movies, wine and beer tastings and fun for kids. Top of the Park programming is 5 p.m. daily Friday through July 6, except Mondays.
Ann Arbor Summer Festival Main Stage concerts
825 N. Unversity, Ann Arbor
Lily Tomlin, Friday, $35-$55
CAKE with Wanda Jackson, Sunday, $40-$60
121 S. Fletcher, Ann Arbor
Cecile McLorin Salvant, Wednesday, $20-$35
Spanish Harlem Orchestra, June 20, $40
MOMIX: Botanica, June 21-22, $45-$55, $15 kids
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, June 24, $45
NPR’s Ask Me Another, June 26, $35, $25 students
Robert Cray and Mavis Staples, June 28, $45-$55
Andrew Bird and the Hands of Glory with Tift Merritt, July 2, $35-$45
The Capitol Steps, July 4, $40-$55