I had a brief (we got derailed by other things) but interesting conversation over IM, about the definition of the term “side project”, with Ash over the weekend1, which is appropriate today, because of the band I saw last night. Technically, if you are into getting technical, Baltimore hardcore instrumental band …soihadto… is the only band of Duff Goldman, but when you hold the band up next to his cake empire2, Charm City Cakes, and his TV show, Ace of Cakes, …soihadto… probably falls under the purview of the phrase “side project”.
I mean no offense to the band by calling them that — but I’m pretty sure that whatever you do that garners billboards in Times Square, that’s your primary project. For Duff, it’s cake baking.
I also mean no offense when I say that I went to the show last night mostly out of a vaguely morbid curiosity. I’m not particularly a fan of hardcore, but I am a fan of Ace of Cakes, Baltimore, and Duff, and when I won a pair of tickets from Glenn at the 506 (thanks, Glenn!), I knew I wanted to go. I’d always rather be shooting live music than not shooting live music, so out on a Monday night I went.
I can’t tell you how good …soihadto… is. The only thing remotely hardcore in my iTunes library are the two EPs released by Pete Wentz’s pre-Fall Out Boy band Arma Angelus, and I objectively couldn’t tell you if that was, technically, good or not either, because I know less than zero about hardcore. (I find it weirdly soothing, but good? I don’t know. I am pretty sure it’s probably a case of “not good”. Pete screams a lot.) I enjoyed them, though, even though instrumental hardcore is not one of my go-to genres and will probably never be. They’re all good musicians; they’re fairly compelling to watch. I was not sorry that I went to the show.
And because all anyone really cares about is this: Duff is exceedingly nice. He’s short, and funny, and his laugh is just as honky and contagious as it sounds on TV. I’ve become inured to seeing “rock stars” out and about in the CH — if I lost my shit every time we saw Mac McCaughan, I would have no shit left and I’m consistently running low on having my shit together to begin with, y’all — but it was profoundly weird to see Duff standing in my dive bar. We chatted for a few minutes post-show, and after I made an off-hand comment about side projects to him, he wasn’t insulted, but he did say, honestly and sincerely, “I started the bakery so that I could do this.”
Duff Goldman started Charm City Cakes so he could play shows to mostly empty venues in North Carolina on Monday nights, because he loves it that much. That single sentence is still resonating with me; I tossed and turned and couldn’t sleep last night, thinking about that idea. I started the bakery so that I could do this. God. Not that I ever doubted it, given Duff’s propensity towards “let’s see how we can make this cake [explode/catch fire/spin around/shoot lasers/tap dance in a tutu]” on his show, but I suspect that his mind is a very interesting place. I would have love to sit down with him and ask him more about that one sentence, because it’s going to drive me nuts for weeks.
That said: I have a day job so that I can take photos and get paid in guest list spots, beer, offers of sexual favors and illegal substances (generally unaccepted), gratitude and cupcakes. I wish I got paid in cash more often, but I shoot because I love it.
Duff plays shows to 16 people because he loves it.
And that’s something you can’t fake on stage, and he never tried. Every minute of that show, every member of that band looked like there was nothing else they’d rather be doing.
So. What do you do, so you can do something else, too?
1: “well i suppose technically south san gabriel is EVERYBODY’S side project.”
2: i would like an empire of cake, please. you can start with chocolate.