Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven at Sellersville Theater, Sellersville, PA, July 14, 2014 | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Acoustic Apothecary Tour

Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven at Sellersville Theater, Sellersville, PA, July 14, 2014,

Jul 18, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven have been touring nonstop. Seemingly every time I look up, one or both of the bands are coming back through a town near me. Heck, Cracker even played a local Moose Lodge a few years back. Undoubtedly, and from seeing a couple of these shows I can attest, the bands are in top form. And Camper Van Beethoven has continued to crank out new music, releasing two California-centric albums in the past 18 months (the Northern California-themed La Costa Perdida and the Southern Cali-themed El Camino Real).

But when the bands decide to change things up a bit, as they have with their current Acoustic Apothecary Tour, it’s welcome news. For the Acoustic Apothecary dates, Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven have stripped down to a trio of common elements-Cracker/CVB frontman David Lowery and Cracker guitarist Johnny Hickman perform as a duo for Cracker songs, with CBV guitarist Greg Lisher joining for CBV material. On Monday night at the Sellersville Theater in Pennsylvania, the results were spectacular.

Opening with two later-period Cracker gems, “I Need Better Friends” from 2006’s Greenland and “Hey Bret (You Know What Time It Is)” from 2009’s Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey, the duo of Lowery on electric guitar and Hickman on banjo proved as adept as their full band at bleeding all the soul, irony, wit, and musicianship from their songs. Reaching back a few years for 1998’s “Been Around the World,” Hickman showcased playing as sublime as ever, including a wrenching bluesy solo that mesmerized with its brilliant tension/release dynamics.

After the opening trio, Lowery and Hickman dipped into more familiar catalog for the raucous “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now),” the blues-inflected early cut “St. Cajetan,” and perennial crowd favorite, “Euro-Trash Girl,” this time played with country-styled electric guitar. A version The Golden Age track “Dixie Babylon,” played by special request and after Lowery wondered aloud whether they could pull it off, didn’t fair quite as well, with Hickman’s rapid mandolin strumming attempting to make up for the seven minute-long original’s languorous cool and orchestral majesty.

Lisher emerged for a CVB set that included both tracks from the band’s recent albums as well as classic cuts, played by Lowery on acoustic guitar, Lisher on electric, and Hickman on mandolin. “Darken Your Door” from El Camino Real worked wonderfully, accented by Hickman’s mandolin, which it was noted that he hadn’t touched in two years. “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and “Take the Skinheads Bowling” were played, almost as necessity, but the band didn’t dive much into CVB’s catalog, save a thrilling rendition of “All Her Favorite Fruit,” which was introduced as one of Hickman’s favorite CBV songs. After the band finished the song, an audience member shouted, “I’m glad you played that,” to which Lowery instantly and comically responded, “I’m glad we didn’t fuck it up.”

After “Loser” and the obligatory “Low,” the band returned to the stage, once again as a duo, for what was perhaps the treat of the night, Hickman’s “Another Song About the Rain.” The song is featured on Cracker’s 1992 debut but here was rendered more soulful and full of expression, more meaningful with age, and with cathartic, redemptive guitar solo to boot.

(www.crackersoul.com) (www.campervanbeethoven.com)




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