What: Cake, with The Dandy Warhols

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, doors open at 5 p.m.

Where: Les Schwab Amphitheater, 344 SW Shevlin Hixon Drive, Bend

Cost: $56 plus fees

Contact: bendconcerts.com or 541-312-8510

Before starting alternative rock band Cake and scoring hits “The Distance” and “Short Skirt/Long Jacket,” frontman John McCrea bought a plum tree.

The singer-songwriter lived in “this kind of crummy apartment” in Sacramento at the time, struggling to make ends meet. He happened upon the small tree at a garage sale near his apartment and purchased it for $5, then planted it in a grass strip between the sidewalk and the street.

“It was totally illegal and it was a rented apartment,” McCrea said while camping with his family near Mt. Shasta in California, about a week before hitting the road with Cake for some West Coast dates. The band — McCrea, founding trumpeter Vince DiFiore, drummer Todd Roper, lead guitarist Xan McCurdy and bassist Daniel McCallum — will return to Les Schwab Amphitheater on Saturday.

“But I just put it in there; nobody really noticed it,” he continued. “It was maybe 3-feet high tops. Anyway, my life got a little faster after that — like, I started having to tour a lot, spending most of the time in the back of a van going thousands of miles. And I ended up moving to a different apartment in a different part of town and forgot about the tree.”

About a decade later, McCrea happened to walk by his old apartment and noticed the tree, now more than 25 feet tall.

“I thought, well, everybody should have that experience once at least just to see what that’s like — to be sort of the facilitator of that kind of growth,” he said. “It dwarfs your sense of time a bit and changes something in your mind.”

After that inspiration struck, McCrea started awarding young trees to audience members at Cake’s headlining shows, usually after answering some kind of trivia question about the band. The practice has continued for about 15 years at every one of the group’s headlining performances, with more than 500 trees given away to date, according to the band’s management — mostly in the U.S. and Europe, although trees have been planted in Australia and Brazil (there’s a map on Cake’s website).

“It wasn’t necessarily an environmental statement; it was just a simple thing: You should plant a tree because it’s cool — really because it’s an interesting experience,” McCrea said. “But people have read quite a bit into it as some sort of statement, and certainly now, there are scientists that are saying we need to plant a lot of trees. It doesn’t necessarily run against the grain of what science and environmentalists are saying.”

When Cake last played Les Schwab Amphitheater in 2013, it awarded a Fancy Red Apple tree to a gentleman named Matt. The band, its management and Les Schwab Amphitheater did not have more information about him or his tree. Sometimes, Cake will stay in touch with the audience members who receive trees, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case in Bend.

“We don’t really have time to visit all the trees, but I think here and there people come and they bring a picture of the tree, or apples from the tree, or like a pie that was made from something (from the tree), and that’s cool,” McCrea said. “That’s really down-home, I think, in a good way. It’s not phony. It’s just sort of a relationship to the Earth that’s being reinforced.”

When McCrea formed Cake in the early ’90s, the band’s mix of college rock, jazz, mariachi, funk and hip-hop wasn’t known for being particularly political. But the Cake Forest is one sign of the group’s increased activism in its later years. Just check out the news page on the band’s website or its Facebook feed to find a steady stream of articles about climate change, recycling, protecting honey bees and taking the Trump administration’s environmental policies to task.

Those concerns permeated the band’s music in recent years, as well. Late last year the group released “Sinking Ship,” its first new, original song release since 2011’s “Showroom of Compassion” album, which came after a seven-year gap between records.

Proceeds from sales of the single have been donated to Doctors Without Borders, and the band is planning a vinyl release with a cover of “Age of Aquarius” as the b-side. McCrea plans a series of singles that will eventually lead up to an album to be released sometime before the middle of next year, he said; he teased another song that is yet to be released titled “Hold You (Responsible).”

“The world seems so — it seems like a serious juncture for humans, and with all the, literally, humans dying in various places,” McCrea said. “And then, I had always thought, well, you know, the b-side of that should be something not quite so negative. We had this song that we had worked on, ‘Age of Aquarius,’ a cover of that ‘Hair’ song, and it was played as just sort of for fun really for us. And suddenly it seemed like something to take more seriously and put out.”

“Sinking Ship” grew out of a guitar figure McCrea used to play around with when he was “maybe 15 years old,” he said. He had trouble finishing the song, but did come up with the chorus: “We are on a sinking ship.”

“Everyone thought it was too negative and maybe hyperbolic,” McCrea said. “And then, you know, just the last couple (of) years it just didn’t seem that hyperbolic anymore. It seemed maybe sort of appropriate, and so the verses just wrote themselves.”

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