Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven Prove That Rock is Alive and Well at World Cafe Live
An expounded evening of rock-n-roll spanning the ‘80s all the way to present day was hosted by the glorious World Café Live, Philadelphia. David Lowery and two of his creative vehicles, Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker reigned supreme on Friday the 13th of January. For those uninitiated the room is astounding in not only sound but presence. A masonic temple of sorts built in the vibe of music, housing a cavalcade of art simultaneously in the vein of Nashville’s Cannery Row. The crowd was sold out and peppered with all walks of life from wet behind the eared college kids to well-matured fanatics out way past their usual snooze time, yet nearly all well-versed in the language and the lifestyle of rock-n-roll, indie as it may be.
You simply don’t beat a “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” opener with the haunting fiddle work of Jonathan Segel kicking up spirits in the ether. Most folks identify that song more with Camper Van Beethoven than authors and originators Status Quo at this point and rightfully so, I love them both wholeheartedly. That said, CVB is simply on fire, with Victor Krummenacher’s low end and Chris Pederson’s drums, Greg Lisher’s Stratocaster shredding, and Lowery’s unique vocal stylings and rhythm guitar. The band worked through grooves and staples like personal highlights, “Take The Skinheads Bowling”, “Borderline”, and the hardest rocking “Hava Nagila” one might could muster. A fantastic hour long set to whet the palate, the crowd moving and grooving aplomb with singalongs and positive vibes. That, my friends, is what the live show experience is all about. Gypsy, rootsy, indie jams a’plenty!
Cracker smoked as usual, founding member Johnny Hickman is plainly one of the best guitarists on the planet, and the way he and Lowery command their sold out staple audience is seamless and genuine. Not one single ounce of bullshit. I felt like I was transported to the 40 Watt in Athens, GA, circa mid ‘90s, in the middle of a sweaty drunk crowd only in this fancy pants soundstage in the heart of Philly in 2017. Transient thinking without recreational drugs can only be the product of pure rock-n-roll, Cracker is as pure as it gets. The pop-minded were treated to their “Low”, those who may have dug a sheet or two deeper got their “Euro-Trash Girl” and “Teen Angst”, and I got my “Sweet Thistle Pie” from The Golden Age, which is a record I hold near and dear. The set list was jam packed and Lisher joined on guitar for a spell, was nice to see he and Hickman trading solos, those cats flat out shred. There were plenty offerings from the band’s 2014 long player, Berkeley To Bakersfield. Matt “Pistol” Stoessel’s sad machine solos and fills were the underlying heroes of the evening. The Athens native is a pedal steelin’ force and I love his work with Centro-matic, South San Gabriel, and his band BuffaloHawk. Coco Owens and my man, Bryan Howard round out the quintet on drums and bass guitar, respectively, a formidable rhythm section with which to rock. One of the best live bands around, hands down.
Both bands are seminal rock forces here for the greater good of the sport. There’s still another show left on this run tonight at BB King’s in NYC. If you can’t make that, never fear, there’s a 3 day festival next weekend at the aforementioned 40 Watt. Go do you! And if you haven’t sampled any of the newer CVB or Cracker records you’re sleeping…wake up. Not to mention Victor Krummenacher has had a couple good ones too, of which one I reviewed and was able to score an interview. Go see a show and activate your positively transient think box, it’s all the rage.