JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

July 27, 2013
Granada Theater
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Roy Turner
Photos by Roy Turner

Camper Van Beethoven - Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker

Cracker Van Beethoven? Or Camper Van Cracker? It's Still Rock & Roll To Me

In the 20 years since Cracker had one bona fide hit with Low, the band has remained a bit of a cult figure and that also rests largely on the back of unpredictability & punk cred of its earlier Camper Van Beethoven incarnation. The two bands are really just different sides of main man David Lowery's personalities and consist of primarily the same members. Changing hats from one to the other is not really a stretch, as Cracker is the more accessible and restrained, compared to Camper's endless indulgence. Their recent gig at the Granada Theater in Dallas, Texas was a great example of Lowery's musicianship, stamina and simply making things work!

The crowd at this show was divided between those that know only the Cracker material or just know Cracker and the older Camper Van Beethoven stuff - both would unite in their dislike for the newer Camper material that dominated the opening set.

Split into two sets, starting with the Camper line-up, the set droned on and on and on with SEVERAL mini-operas of unfamiliar and increasingly bizarre indulgences that had most of the crowd waiting in the lobby - one even ended with the band chanting "Make me a Sandwich" - Until they finally got around the aforementioned Key Lime Pie with All Her Favorite Fruit. Ironically, what really showed the band's diversity and the best part of its set were the many covers of wide-reaching genres.

Starting with Status Quo's Pictures of Matchstick Men and peaking with The Clash's White Riot & Black Flag's Wasted, Camper's trip through '80s indie nostalgia was better in spirit than it was in execution, but they did finally play Take the Skinheads Bowling.

After Camper ended its set, they took a quick fifteen minute break and then reemerged as Cracker, and the more conventional part of the program began. You would think it would take more effort in playing the weirdness of CVB's material, but the band and especially Lowery, really seem to put more into the Cracker set. It's no coincidence why the band metamorphosed into two bands, as they are clearly at home and identify with this sound and probably associate more good times with this soundtrack. They played their hits you would expect like Low and Euro-Trash Girl - but like Camper before them, oddly enough it was their cover of Grateful Dead's Loser that seemed to have the most legs of any part of the show. They should just combine the band and make it one big mess and maybe do an entire opening set of covers next time.