David Lowery

LIVE: Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker @ The State Theatre - 5/16/13

LIVE: Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker @ The State Theatre - 5/16/13

Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker may both be fronted by David Lowery, but by design they’ve never sounded alike. CVB is considerably more experimental; any of their albums is just as likely to contain an extended Middle Eastern belly dancing number as it is a rock song. Cracker, on the other hand, has always been about straight up rock and roll, sometimes with a southern bent, other times with an alt-country twang.

In fact the bands’ sounds are so different it almost doesn’t make sense that they play together, save for the obvious benefit of having the same singer/guitarist. Last week’s show at the State Theater was a tale of two audiences; the audience that grew up listening to Camper Van Beethoven on college radio and enjoying their outsider status (many of whom left after CVB’s set), and another that was there for Cracker’s country rock. The dichotomy is clear; Camper Van Beethoven was occasionally featured on MTV’s alternative rock showcase 120 Minutes; Cracker was on the Clueless soundtrack. It was oddly like watching Guided By Voices open for Jimmy Buffet; something fun and experimental followed by something almost totally predictable.

TO DO LIST: Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker TONIGHT @ The State Theater!!

David Lowery has spent more time in the news as a tireless advocate for artists' rights lately, but it will be a trip down memory lane on Thursday as both his former bands pull into the State Theater.

Lowery got his start in Camper Van Beethoven, which formed in Redlands, California in 1983. A wonderfully eclectic amalgamation of ska, folk, and Hawaiian influences gathered fans of all punk and pop alike. Their debut album yielded the fantastic single "Take the Skinheads Bowling" (which grew to greater prominence when it was featured in the Michael Moore documentary Bowling for Columbine) and a playful, countrified cover of Black Flag's "Wasted." They received bigger attention from college radio with their major label debut, 1988's Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart; the leadoff single, "Eye of Fatima Pt. 1" was played repeatedly on MTV's "120 Minutes." It was their next album, 1989's Key Lime Pie, that really drove them into the limelight. Eschewing some of the overt humor of earlier records, Key Lime Pie was an Americana record that predated the current Americana craze by 25 years. While everyone remembers CVB's wonderful cover of "Pictures of Matchstick Men," it was songs like "Sweethearts" and "When I Win the Lottery" that made the album great. Since then, the band has only released two albums, 2004's New Roman Times, and La Costa Perdida, which was released in January. The latest record show that the band is still able to create wonderful melodies and innovative sounds, and it's a rare treat to see them live.


During the CVB hiatus, Lowery formed Cracker, a band which enjoyed more mainstream success out of the gate than CVB did in their long and illustrious existence. Their self-titled 1991 album made waves because of its leadoff single "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now), but their follow-up, Kerosene Hat, blew up because of infectious songs like "Low," "Get Off This," and "Euro-Trash Girl." Amazingly the band has released 10 albums, all of which provide a solid pop answer to Camper Van Beethoven's more worldly sounds.

Adding to this already impressive discography is Lowery's underrated 2011 solo album The Palace Guards ("solo" being something of a misnomer as members of both his bands appear on the record). A more subtle record than anything by CVB or Cracker, it features the flashes of humorous lyrical brilliance that Lowery has shown throughout his career.

With Lowery followed by Lowery on Thursday night, the State is the place to be Thursday night.