Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven’s annual stop at World Cafe Live is a rock and roll whirlwind

Cracker | Photo by Chris Sikich |

A January tradition continued Saturday night as David Lowery’s bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker rocked a sold-out World Café Live. Both bands sounded glorious as they took a crowd full of memories for Camper and Cracker from the 1980s and 1990s for a rock-infused two-hour-plus ride.

Camper began the night with its eclectic mix of guitar and violin, quick songs, and the occasional instrumental. Lowery, bassist Victor Krummenacher, string-player extraordinaire (violin, mandolin, and guitar) Jonathan Segel, guitarist Greg Lisher and drummer Frank Funaro blasted through a set mixing new and old. And the freshest work, like the instant sing-along “Northern California Girls” from 2013’s La Costa Perdida, fit in perfectly with such set staples as their brilliant cover of Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and, of course, their ultimate tongue-in-the-cheek moment in “Take the Skinheads Bowling.”

Lowery used a rare solo moment to ease into the set by Cracker, the more straightforward rock cousins of Camper Van Beethoven: With just a banjo and his voice, he delivered a glorious rendition of Camper’s “O Death.” The next two numbers were only played with Cracker’s other larger-than-life personality, guitarist Johnny Hickman. The glorious intimacy of the set gave way to Cracker’s blunt anthems of desire, like the always welcome “Low,” with the help of bassist Sal Maida and another double-duty performer in drummer Funaro. With a crowd that rearranged between bands to accommodate the ebbs and flows of taste, Cracker delivered with such memorable moments as “Big Dipper” and encore “Eurotrash Girl.” The show was as energetic and passionate as anyone could demand, and it was reassuring to know, as you savored every guitar strum and gravel-voiced utterance, that you’d be back next January to experience it all over again.


Tonight’s Concert Picks: John the Conqueror at The Legendary Dobbs, Pity Sex at The Barbary, Royal Bangs at Milkboy, and more

Photo of John The Conqueror by John Vettese
Photo of John The Conqueror by John Vettese

Philly blues rock band John the Conqueror will be heading up The Legendary Dobbs this evening, before going on a European tour and releasing a new album The Good Life on February 25th. Soulful tracks make their blues sound attractive and inviting, and they’re sure to be even louder and entertaining live. Make sure to check them out before they leave the States for a good month; it’ll be their last Philly show until March 7th at MilkBoy.

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Watch the new Camper Van Beethoven lyric video, “Northern California Girls” (playing World Cafe Live in January)

Photo by Jason Thrasher

Camper Van Beethoven releases its first new album in nine years, La Costa Perdida on January 22nd on 429 Records. David Lowery, frontman for CVB, recently told Billboard Magazine about the album:

“It’s like Camper Van Beethoven leaning towards the Beach Boys’ Big Sur period and the Grateful Dead. There’s this Beach Boys album called ‘Holland’ that we have long had a fascination with in Camper, and we sort of ended up paying tribute to it by accident.” The track “Northern California Girls,” he says, also takes a page out of the Beach Boys’ songbook; “Instead of ‘California Girls’ I started fucking around and singing about northern California girls,” he says. “Then I very quickly developed a story to it and finished it off.

WXPN Welcomes CVB to World Cafe Live on Friday, January 18th. Go here for tickets and more information about the show.