Ace of Bass
It's 20 minutes before showtime, and Duff Goldman has stage fright. In spite of being watched by millions every week on his Food Network show, Ace of Cakes, he's worried about performing in front of the more intimate crowd of 1,900 fans who have come to see his band ...soihadto... (pronounced "so I had to") at Atlantic City's House of Blues. "When I turn on the amps, I'm a bass player," he says. "I'm not that cake guy anymore."
Duff's bandmates see it differently: They say he has serious female Ace of Cakes fans who follow him from the TV show to these live gigs; after one, some even screamed and pulled at the Baltimore baker's shirt as if he were a Beatle. Before going onstage, the guys down a few Yuengling beers and tease Duff about his celebrity status. "We have a television star in the band, which we realize is an odd situation," says Honus, the drummer (the band members prefer to go by one name). "There are only a couple of bands like this that come to mind—Russell Crowe's band...and Keanu Reeves's. Duff's the Keanu of our group," Honus jokes. Duff shoves him in protest, shouting, "I am NOT the Keanu!"
Duff, who taught himself to play bass at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in 1994, just wants to give everyone—Ace of Cakes fan or not—a good show. The crowd, mostly tattooed and dressed in black, sways to the lyric-less music from the band's new album, Adventure Stories (Not Based on Fact?) (Grape Juice Records), which hits stores February 2.
To perfect their songs, Duff and his three bandmates practice at least five hours a week in the Charm City Cakes basement. "I used to live above the bakery, work there all day and practice below at night," Duff says. "I didn't leave the building for days at a time. I was pulling my hair out, even though I don't have any." He no longer lives upstairs, but the basement is still the band's home—it's convenient when Duff needs to run upstairs to resuscitate a collapsing cake. And the guys don't mind the interruptions, because they get a chance to sample the bakery's newest concoctions. "That's how I tried the pumpkin chocolate chip," says Yungwirth, one of the guitarists. "It was the most delicious, flavorful cake I've ever had. It's going to be my wedding cake!" That is, if Duff can get a night off from band practice to bake it.
Download the band's song "Something About the Way We Parted" for free here [mp3 LINK TK].