Saturday night’s show with David Lowery, and the more-or-less original line-ups of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker illuminated a few things for me. First, some people age better than others (frontman David Lowery still looks pretty much exactly the same as he did in 1993, except that he may now need bifocals as evidenced through his indecisive “should I keep them on or take them off” fiddling with his glasses); second, that the late 80’s/early 90’s remain to be an overlooked era of new music; third that I should go to more reunion shows to feel young.
Let’s talk for a bit about reunion shows. Some of you (by this I mean 5 people) might already be aware of my conflicted feelings about this matter. It’s not that I dislike reunion shows, it’s more that I think their very nature (being a cash grab) makes for rather lifeless shows. But it’s a double-edged sword…on the one hand those of us who would’ve been too young to go to these concerts in the first place want to relive a missed past. On the other, shouldn’t we be letting these people get on with their lives instead of driving barrel-fulls of money up to their homes begging them to perform said almost-chart-topper? Shouldn’t we be letting these people get on with their lives? It’s all very gray and hazy for nostalgic folks such as myself, but I at least acknowledge that recapturing what was then will never be for now.
The same contradictions that I feel about reunion shows can apply to the way they are being carried out. More than a few acts have taken CVB’s/Cracker’s same approach of touring one definitive album, often considered by fans and critics alike to be the band’s best release, and giving the fans what they want. The Wedding Present did the same thing with Bizarro this past year, and judging from t-shirt sales, this is what people are looking for. I suppose it’s better than getting a barrage of requests by a pathetic drunk superfan’s barrage of “best of” requests being flung every few minutes (more on that, as well as Lowery’s response to this, later).
First off, I note that Lowery is really well-preserved and his gravelly voice is on par with how I remembered it, hearkening back to my observation that some genres of music are simply more forgiving than others when decades pass. He first appeared with a 6-man line-up for the Camper Van Beethoven blitzkrieg-paced performance of Key Lime Pie. Some renditions went over better than others, with the country-infused (like with Borderline ), augmented “baby getting hit with a cat” violin bits of who I can only assume to be Don Lax not flying over so smoothly. Interlude and Flowers were a bit more dodgy, probably based more on my lack of appreciation of the songs more than anything else. Of the slower tracks, June probably came off best. Their cover of Pictures of Matchstick Men, the biggest managed to revitalize the lulling crowd (which looked almost sold out to me at this point).
The most amusing interaction Lowery had with us was when he was setting up a recorded sample on his iMac, where he admitted we could probably hear the interruptions from his Gchat account pinging him. Which begs to question, how seriously are these shows anyway?
Not very, and rightfully so. Lowery even sent so far as to belittle an annoying drunk fan who wouldn’t stop yelling out requests, in spite of the explanation that this would be a track-by-track performance of the Cracker album Kerosene Hat. “Dude, you are so not funny anymore”. During another jabbing round when the guy continued to yell out songs he wanted to hear, guitarist Johnny Hickman attempted to break it up with some light stories about how the drunk guy would eventually succumb to embarrassing stories of the first time he was laid, to which Lowery responded “What are you kidding me? This guy’s never been laid in his life!”
Let this be a lesson to you loud request yellers.
As for the Kerosene Hat set, it made me remember how good this album was in 1993 and still is today. The energy was a lot higher because of the singalong qualities of most of the songs that would’ve come back to casual observers like even me. Songs like Low, Get Off This, Let’s Go For A Ride, and Euro-Trash Girl all made me realize how heavily rotated it was and how “alternative rock” even seems like a bit of a dinosaur concept nowadays. These guys did it pretty well, and seemed pleased to be up there, which is always better than someone killing your memories.