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Dust Off Those Gnarly Thrash Boots: Camper Van Beethoven Live

Posted by March 2nd, 2013 No Comments »

Camper Van Beethoven Live @ The Tractor Tavern w/Casey Neill And The Norway Rats
February 22, 2013
By Andy Bookwalter

Camper Van Beethoven is not as weird as they used to be, but that’s OK because neither am I.

When I was 18 or so my sister gave me a dubbed cassette of the band’s eponymous 1986 LP (I might have stolen it). The tape had no song titles and no band information, just an hour or so of waltzes, ska, Pink Floyd covers, and awesome strangeness. A couple of years later I saw CVB at Bumbershoot with Robyn Hitchcock. (A word of advice: Never share a stage with Robyn Hitchcock. He will tell fanciful stories and your band, great though they might be, will look like boring schmoes.)

After 30 years, one break up, and band members wandering off into Cracker, the Counting Crows, and Monks of Doom, Camper Van Beethoven came back to town last Friday night to hawk their latest album (and first in 9 years) La Costa Perdida. And no, no one at the Tractor Tavern was under 35 years old.

Any time a band with as recognizable of a sound as Camper Van Beethoven puts out a new album, they should accept that a sizable chunk of the audience would be happy to hear “Take The Skinheads Bowling” over and over again for two hours. (Not me, I also hoped to hear “Good Guys, Bad Guys” and “Where The Hell Is Bill?”)

The new album is good though, and the songs hold up well live. According to the internet, the band was going for a “Holland-era Beach Boys sound”. I don’t know what that means, but overall there’s a laconic, twangy feel that won’t be familiar to anyone who wandered off after “Key Lime Pie”. Among the new cuts they played were “Northern California Girls”, “Come Down The Coast”, and “Summer Days”. For the fogies and semi-fogies, “Eye Of Fatima”, “Good Guys, Bad Guys”, “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” were hauled out for all to enjoy.

David Lowery is a bit grayer than the last time we saw him (aren’t we all?), but there are a lot of years of playing together up on that there stage. This isn’t Lowery with a bunch of studio hacks playing the Emerald Queen, but five guys who have been making music together for a few decades.

Opening the show was Casey Neill And The Norway Rats from Portland. A little Jeff Tweedy, a little early REM, the band is billed as a “Portland Supergroup”, but I don’t think that’s a thing. No matter, they are a fine band and well worth seeing next time they play Seattle.

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