Cake is a band that loves its car imagery, as is evident in the lyrics of ditties such as "Satan is My Motor," "Stickshifts and Safetybelts" and, of course, "The Distance," the song that once seemed destined to doom the band to one-hit-wonder status. But the band, which played the first of two sold-out shows at the 9:30 club Friday night, has a successful formula--deadpan vocal delivery, funky bass line, country guitar and a versatile trumpet.

Front man John McCrea isn't given to much posturing, and his thoughts between numbers Friday tended to be that of the abstract liner note variety ("This song was written in a very tall building," he helpfully shared at one point). McCrea mostly stuck to his place at the center of the stage, which was decorated with electric candles and a backdrop picturing a mountain scene, though he moseyed off a few times to lead the crowd in singing "Sheep Go to Heaven."

Cake saved its cover of "I Will Survive," from its 1996 "Fashion Nugget" album, for near the end of the show.. Where most other bands would probably be satisfied with a mocking sendup of Gloria Gaynor's disco hit, Cake remakes it into a showcase piece with a quick, complex solo from each of the musicians. Which is one reason why Cake's heavy use of irony never becomes a turnoff--despite the cool exterior, you can see that these guys are working hard.