Live Review: The Sea and Cake at Theater of the Living Arts, September 14, 2010

Photo credit: Megan Holmes

The Sea and Cake are invincible. I came to this conclusion after their performance at Philadelphia’s Theater of Living Arts, where they opened for Broken Social Scene.

The band played an impressive set to what couldn’t have been more than one third of the sold-out crowd. As my friend and I walked to a nearby bar, we discussed why the indie-rock statesmen would tour as an opening act, and the only answer I could come up with was “it’s what they wanted to do right now.”

Of course, the fact that Sea and Cake drummer John McEntire produced Broken Social Scene’s new record probably had something to do with their opening slot. And yes, the band possibly wanted to flex its muscles in preparation for its ninth album, rumored to be in the works. (Sea and Cake singer Sam Prekop just released Old Punch Card, his latest new record, on September 7.) But, at the heart of it, The Sea and Cake is a band that do what they will — admirably, comfortably, and on their own terms — and that’s probably the only true invincibility a band can have.

The contrast between listening to a Sea and Cake record and seeing the band perform live is measurable in jigowatts: it’s all in the energy. Their albums are great for car trips or background music at parties (they’re my go-to for something to listen to while cooking), and have a way of being pleasantly unobtrusive. You’ll rarely see someone do more than tap their foot to show their approval when listening to a Sea and Cake record.

Now speed up some of those tracks to nearly double-time, with McEntire front and center (the rest of the band flanking him), working his drum kit with precision force, and you’ve got an entirely different beast. The Sea and Cake flew through a 45-minute set mostly comprised of tracks from 2007’s Everybody and 2008’s Car Alarm. My friend and I immediately exchanged surprised glances at the speed and intensity with which they launched into their first song.

Tracks like “Crossing Line” and “Exact To Me” shimmied and shook, with McEntire’s driving rhythms offset by Archer Prewitt’s noodley post-jazz guitar lines. Sam Prekop’s vocals belied all of this; kept on the back burner, his vocals sounded smooth and unforced, almost exactly like they do on record. The band even managed to delve into some tight improvisation on a few songs – Prewitt and Prekop attacking their guitar strings – without veering off into full-on “jamming.”

Through all of it, The Sea and Cake got the attention of everyone who was smart enough to be in the room for their set. It’s a sure thing that anyone who wasn’t already familiar with them was suitably impressed — and I’ll just bet some of those same people will be picking up their next record, too. I know I will.

Sam Prekop – “The Silhouettes” (from Old Punch Card)

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