Baby Cakes: A soul funk cover band like no other
by SCOT CASEY
On a cool Sunday night in Bellingham, seven musicians assemble in a rehearsal space, plugging in, tuning, warming up, each in their own mumbling world. Then, at some unspoken moment, all of them look up, drummer Kevin Chrsyt says a few quiet words and out of the intimate space, bursts forth the Zutons / Amy Winehouse gem “Valerie,” in all of its soulful glory. Seven separate musicians are suddenly all one thing: the band Baby Cakes. It’s a great cover. There is a sudden electric quality in the air. Dylan Hermansen’s sax sounds like an entire horn section. Stephanie Walbon’s voice, even warming-up, is a force unto itself. Next they work on Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Shining Star,” Brian Hillman channelling Philip Bailey perfectly. This is followed by a strong rendition of the classic “Hold On, I’m Coming,” with Matt van den Heuvel’s guitar capturing the essence of Steve Cropper’s style. There is no doubt that this is a talented group of musicians.
Then they start to work on Beyonce’s “Love on Top.” After a few seemingly flawless starts and stops, there is an agreement that some subtle element is eluding them. They run a playback of the original, cutting it off about halfway through. What happens next is remarkable. Because they don’t just “cover” the song, performing a nearly flawless imitation, instead they cover and add to it their own dynamic quality. Stephanie’s voice rises up through the succession of key changes with power and beauty. Lyman Lipke’s bass is pure groove and Richard Keene’s keys capturing the elusive essence of the song and, yet, somehow, add to it also. They call themselves a soul cover band, but Baby Cakes exceeds this easy categorization. Baby Cakes is more of an extremely talented band that honors and acknowledges great soul music with interpretations that animate these classic songs with a new and unique energy.
Baby Cakes formed – quickly – a few days before a New Year’s Eve show in Glacier. “We got asked to do the gig last minute,” Kevin said. “To do a cover-soul band at Chair 9 in Glacier, which is where we had previously met. Then I just hand-picked the band to come together for that show and things started rolling from there, offers started coming in from here in town, the Wild Buffalo, the Green Frog.”
The reception for the band has been enthusiastic at the few shows they have performed. Many of the other members are well known from performing in other bands.
“Everybody in the band is highly experienced and talented,” added Kevin. “And everybody pretty much plays in side projects as well. We are definitely a working band.”
As indicated earlier, while they call themselves a classic soul-cover band, their set-list is wide-ranging. “We have definitely been expanding the whole scheme,” Kevin said, “doing more funk, more Earth, Wind and Fire recently, even some top 40 modern pop. Beyonce or Bruno Mars.”
The manner in which Baby Cakes electrifies the music they perform is reflective of the various musical influences of each of the members.
“One of the things I am most pleased with as far as the band overall,” Kevin said, “is that not only is everyone highly trained and proficient in their individual roles within the band, but we have some amazing lead voices here as well. The depth and the color , the many ways we have to shape a show has been pretty exciting. We have a wide range of dynamic voices in the band.”
As a band, Baby Cakes harkens back to the great studio bands of Muscle Shoals and Stax Records with their talented professionalism and distinctive muscular sound. If you are looking for a great soul band or a great funk band or a band that can actually do justice to Beyonce or Stevie Wonder, then Baby Cakes is your new band to look for.
LIVE SHOW: See the Baby Cakes perform on March 7 at the Wild Buffalo during What’s Up!’s 17th anniversary/200th issue celebration. Follow the band on Facebook for updates.