Cake's first trip to Tucson as a band left a lasting impression on lead singer John McCrea.

It was the mid-1990s and the Sacramento-based group was still developing a national fan base.

In Tucson, that meant playing Club Congress, which, as far as McCrea could recall in a recent phone interview, went smoothly.

The rest of the evening, spent in a Congress hotel room directly above the club's dance party following the show, was a different story.

"They had this super bass beat going," McCrea said. "We had to drive 12 hours the next day. That was very memorable to me."

McCrea holds no ill will toward Congress or Tucson for the sleepless evening. The band has returned to town several times since and enjoys the historic vibe of the city, the frontman said.

This Saturday, Cake will perform in a less-historic part of the city, at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium, as part of KFMA Day, sharing the stage with The Killers, Minus the Bear, Dead Sara and other modern rock contemporaries.

The show follows a transitional period for the band.

After years of working under the umbrella of labels such as Capricorn and Columbia, the group decided to strike out on its own for its latest album, "Showroom of Compassion," released in 2011 on its Upbeat Records label.

McCrae said the band had not been happy with Columbia for some time, which is what led to the departure.

"In a perfect world, musicians shouldn't have to do that," he said. "But the music business is in such disarray, we thought that we didn't want to leave our fate up to other people right now."

"Showroom" was recorded and engineered by Cake members at their own studio in Sacramento over the course of two years.

Cake had built up an arsenal of songs since the release of its previous album, "Pressure Chief" in 2004.

McCrae said the creation process, without an outside producer at the helm, made things much more diplomatic.

"That can be a bad thing," he said. "But we took so much time with it, we were able to iron out trouble spots. When we couldn't come to a decision democratically, we had enough material built up that we could leave it and move on to something else."

The band limited its carbon footprint during the recording process by constructing solar panels for the studio before production.

McCrea said they had the idea after touring through Germany, which was always dreary during their trips, yet is one of the highest producers of solar power in the world.

"We were shamed into doing something that we should have done a long time ago," McCrea said. "After seeing that in Germany, having a studio in sunny California that didn't have solar panels seemed ridiculous."

The album came out of the gate strong, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart - a first for the band - with 44,000 copies sold in the first week.

The top spot only lasted a week, but it still surprised McCrea.

"The fact that people remembers any band after six months is amazing nowadays," he said. "We felt honored to still exist and be in that position for a minute."

Cake's stop in Tucson is a one-off for the band.

The group is spending most of its time these days prepping for its next album, which will be recorded in a similar fashion to "Showroom."

McCrea said the group might test new material at KFMA day, though they never work with a set list.

He says he is looking forward to the trip.

"I really like Tucson," he said. "I'm always happy to visit."

if you go

• What: KFMA Day 2013.

• Featuring: Cake, The Killers, Minus the Bear, Bad Religion, Middle Class Rut, Black Veil Brides, Dead Sara and Fidlar.

• When: Noon-10 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium, 2500 E. Ajo Way.

• Tickets: $39 through

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at or 807-8430.