THIS LITTLE UNDERGROUND
Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, The Social, Jan. 5
Few manage the feat of being in a defining band. David Lowery’s
name, however, is at the top of two acts in the canon of American indie rock with Camper Van Beethoven
And this stacked winter tour brings both bands together on one bill.
Cracker at the Social
Since their rise and peak prominence in the 1990s, Cracker
have long been known for bending alternative rock with sensibility as humorous as it is rural. But live, it’s abundantly clear that they interpret and execute American roots music with genuine love and fidelity. As a full-winged seven-piece band, they stroke it grandly with a big, taut sound flush with pedal steel, piano and organ. And even with all their jokey lyrical tendencies,
their playing is studiously lined with the soul of tradition in ways that feel anything but ironic.
Camper Van Beethoven
Even though Cracker was the marquee name as the more successful cult band, in some ways the more momentous appearance was Camper Van Beethoven,
a group dating back to the dawn of American alternative rock that’s been willed back to life. Emerging in the 1980s, a time when the nascent indie rock scene at large was far less hip to folk and roots styles
than it would ever be in subsequent decades, CVB were a somewhat misunderstood group at the time who now seem prescient.
Camper Van Beethoven at the Social
The irreverent spirit of both bands was manifest on stage. But while Cracker’s playing was expert and stout, Camper’s heart beat with more raw art and daring
when side by side. The first and last time I saw CVB was as a kid, opening for a bigger band and being woefully underappreciated. So it was especially nice seeing their signature combination of rangy roots experimentation and classic alternative pulse again after all these years, under some of their own spotlight and with the verdict of history
on their side.
All told, it wasn’t just a deep pairing of some rock mavericks but a whole lot of music history
loaded into one night.
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