Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker packed the house at World Cafe Live

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Cracker | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Cracker | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

The middle of January in Philadelphia means its time for one of the best live one-two rock ’n’ roll punches around — Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. World Café played host to their sold-out performances Saturday and both bands were at the top of their game. Led by David Lowery, one of the foremost crusaders for fair compensation for musicians, they cruised mainly through California settings, transporting their frigid fans to sunny musical highs.

Camper Van Beethoven’s set began with Lowery, bassist Victor Krummenacher, guitarist Greg Lisher and string impresario Jonathan Segel performing the delicate “Come Down the Coast” from 2013’s La Costa Perdida. As engaging as their quintessential 1980s output is, their newer songs (especially “Northern California Girls”) showed how their unique sounds and quirks remain vital. It would not be a Camper show without classics like “Take the Skinheads Bowling” and “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” as well as the always oddly fresh instrumental “Balalaika Gap”; they were sublime. The contrast of what was and what is for Camper was a seamless transition that will hopefully lead to continued musical ingenuity.

Cracker’s set started with an acoustic flavor. Lowery opened solo with “Torches and Pitchforks” from Cracker’s 2014 double album Berkley to Bakersfield. Raw and angry, it was a brilliant way to begin. Guitar master Johnny Hickman then joined the fray and the acoustic treats continued, including a brilliant take on “Hey Bret (You Know What Time It Is).” With Krummenacher joining on bass, Cracker took the crowd on the California route for a 17-song set. The rich storytelling and varied style of Berkley to Bakersfield was on display. “King of Bakersfield” and “El Cerrito” were highlights, but when Lowery, who barely spoke a word to the audience all night, stopped the show after “El Comandante” to suggest the crowd redo the song’s end as a choral arrangement, it was a hoot. (Everyone sang “bag of weed,” much to Cracker’s delight.)

Lowery did interject toward the end of the night that he and his compadres love playing Philly and that it is one of the most underrated places to play. Garnering sold-out audiences every January, Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven are guaranteed the Philly love treatment. The closing song, “One Fine Day,” encapsulated the experience, as there could have not been one fan who could have left World Café feeling anything less than extremely satisfied with the show, making it one fine way to spend a Saturday.

Camper Van Beetoven setlist
Come Down The Coast
Darken Your Door
It Was Like That When We Got Here
I Was Too High For The Love-In
Balalaika Gap
Pictures Of Matchstick Men
All Her Favorite Fruit
Sweethearts
Good Guy & Bad Guys
We’re A Bad Trip
Northern California Girls
I Live In LA
Take The Skinheads Bowling
Summer Days

Cracker Setlist
Torches and Pitchforks
Dr. Bernice
Hey Bret (You Know What Time It Is)
Almond Grove
Where Have Those Days Gone
California Country Boy
King of Bakersfield
Low
Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)
Mr. Wrong
El Comandante
El Cerrito
Gimme One More Chance
Beautiful
Sweet Thistle Pie
St. Cajetan

Encore:
One Fine Day

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