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Ben Folds and Cake at Merriweather Post Pavilion

When I saw that Ben Folds and Cake were coheadlining a tour this summer, my initial thought was, “What an odd pairing.” With their sarcasm and monotone tunes, Cake would seem to be the complete opposite of Ben Folds, who performs his melodies on piano. However, this show turned out to be one of my favorites of the summer. Tall Heights kicked off the evening, and while their set was short, it included amazing cello playing and vocals.

Ben Folds took the Merriweather Post Pavilion stage just after 8 p.m. and performed most of his set solo at the piano. Midway through, the boys from Tall Heights joined him onstage to provide harmony and string accompaniment. It was such a peaceful and serene set, including stories about the songs he wrote, some jokes and a little preview of an upcoming November show at the Kennedy Center. His performance lasted just over an hour and included a few of my favorite songs: “Brick” and “You Don’t Know Me.”

Cake followed, and their stage setup was predictably simple. It included a small scenic backdrop and a disco ball. Surprising even me (an avid Cake fan), they kicked off their set with the last song of their album Fashion Nugget: “Sad Songs and Waltzes,” a Willie Nelson cover. Sad and somber, their set started off on a bit of a quiet note. But as the night continued, the set picked up momentum. Their performance was as long as Folds’, with 14 songs including a variety from their catalog like “Stickshifts and Safetybelts,” “Love You Madly” and “Sheep Go to Heaven.”

Afterward, the crowd cheered for more and Cake took the stage for an encore that included “Sinking Ship” followed by “The Distance,” at which point the venue said, “It’s time for the show to end.” And thus, despite not having a PA, Cake performed the entire song with the crowd singing along. Cake is definitely one of my favorite bands and I would not expect anything less from them. Ben Folds was also delightful, and together these two talents made it a perfect night at Merriweather.

Photos/write-up: Shantel Mitchell Breen