Kellen McKay wants to make it clear that Stacked Like Pancakes isn’t just a ska band anymore.
“We’re brass rock,” McKay told fans—stackers, if you will—at The Winchester Tavern in Lakewood, Ohio last night (April 18).
“But that doesn’t mean we can’t play a ska song!” he added.
So McKay’s Baltimore-based ensemble did just that. Matter of fact, the Pancakes played a few ska-seasoned tunes during its eighty-minute onslaught.
Here's five reasons why you should check out Stacked Like Pancakes in concert.
1. They're not just ska anymore.
McKay (the group’s principle songwriter) is determined to distance himself from the surf ‘n’ skate aesthetic of 2011’s We’re Not Insane and 2015’s This Is Us by incorporating the tough-tinged rock stylings and proto-progressive structures of high-caliber acts like Cage the Elephant and Foo Fighters.
An audacious gambit, perhaps—but the fresh cuts previewed Wednesday evening did pack a lot of dirty, distorted guitar chords, busy bass, and bronco drumbeats. Our ears also detected trace elements of Chicago (“25 or 6 to 4,” “Beginnings”), Phil Collins (“It Don’t Matter to Me,” “I Missed Again”), and The Police (“Message in a Bottle,” “Man in a Suitcase”). It's a pinch of punk, a pint of pop, and a rack of reggae-rock glory. Stacked Like Pancakes re less a breakfast entree than a musical casserole.
2. They're gonna break big real soon.
The decade-old septet is presently touring the Midwest and East Coast to support their forthcoming third album, the tentatively-titled, Matt Squire-produced (Demi Lovato, Panic! at the Disco) Strange Creatures. The Vans Warped Tour vets launched a Kickstarter campaign smarturl.it/StrangeCreatures to underwrite the recording, which is for release later this year. McKay confessed to the Lakewood audience that his $100,000 goal might’ve been a little high.
“We’re just not that big a band yet,” he acknowledged.
Based on this electrifying outing, however, it won’t take much longer for Stacked Like Pancakes to crest the waves that’ll spill the group onto much larger beaches.
3. They're a DIY band...but they get by with a little help from their friends.
McKay told the Greater Cleveland true believers his math justified the lofty Kickstarter target. Besides, the gang’s almost at the finish line: He reported that they’d just passed the $74,000 mark just before going on stage.
“Our fans are our record label,” asserted McKay.
What transpired thereafter made kicking in to the ‘Cakes’ cause seem like a worthwhile investment. The talent these guys possess is thick, substantive, and satisfying to consume—not unlike the Bisquick and Mrs. Butterworths they poured onto a griddle for hungry early-bird VIPs.
4. They're like a great punk rock band...with horns.
While on the topic of pecuniary matters…. McKay kicked off the show with a solo guitar / voice romp through the sardonic This Is Us protest “Money Sucks”—whose lyrics came peppered with references to at least a dozen other songs in the Pancake canon.
The his six-man wrecking crew appeared, instruments in hand (or—as in the case of drummer Kevin Goren—within reach) for “Dammit,” “Suburban Superhero,” and “Sway.” Heck, they even shoehorned a kinetic cover of Blink-182 gem “All the Small Things” into the mix, with guitarist Michael Busch and six-string bassist Lopez grinding away to the right of McKay’s Roland keyboard.
5. The brass section adds extra layers of levity to the superlative Stacked sound.
The Pancake horn section stood in formation to McKay’s left, brass gleaming in the spotlights on This Is Us entries “Sway,” “Renegade,” and “Dangerous Beginnings.” Powered by Zach Foote (trombone), Alec Leventis (trumpet), and Andy Dawson (trombone), the tootin’ triumvirate slathered the Stacked set with Swing-like strains and punctuating peals. The guitar and keyboard melodies were sublime—and the rhythms robust—but these Hep cats lent Big Band authority to the proceedings.
Aurally and visually, we couldn’t help but be reminded a little of Chicago’s Jimmy Pankow, Walt Parazadier, and Lee Loughnane. Look up any of that group’s old footage on You Tube.
They were loud, they were mischievous. They dazzled on their respective instruments and danced like dervishes when not otherwise occupied. McKay encouraged fans to scream if they liked swearing, or if they were wearing a T-shirt with curses printed thereon. He thanked super-fan Emily for founding the Stacked Like Pancakes street team, which to date has distributed 9,000 flyers to bona fide fans in twenty-eight states (and a couple foreign nations).
“Who’s excited for some new music tonight?” McKay queried.
“I relate! I’m super-pumped, too!”
Early on, he repeatedly promised / threatened to lurch into Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” That song never came, but quieter keyboard selection “Weightless” was nice—and offset the rapid-fire word flow of “An Emotional Attachment to Inanimate Things” and expletive-laden “Sh#t F@ck Damn Damn.”
McKay had to pause to catch his breath after those.
The Stacked seven wowed with new single “Hollow,” delighted on “Dreamcatcher,” and got their two-cents of political protest in with feisty finale “45,” which saw Busch raking his guitar strings as band and audience pogoed in place (and proffered middle fingers on cue).
“It means a whole lot that you’re here,” McKay told the hundred-some folks in the room.
“Wednesday night is not the hippest night to go to a show. But Pancake Nation is growing because of you. We’ll always play for you; those bandwagon fans will catch on later!”
Pass the syrup…Stacked Like Pancakes are some yummy listenin'.