Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven @ Echoplex 9/9/10

As published by LA RECORD:

Cracker by Linda Rapka

In a rare L.A. appearance on the eve before their annual campout in Pioneertown, Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker stopped by the Echoplex on Sept. 9. The two strikingly different bands, both fronted by David Lowery, played to an atypically hipsterless crowd with their respective obscure psychedelic-folk rock favorites and 1990s alternative hits.

For the uninitiated, CVB formed in the reefer clouds of 1980s Santa Cruz, gaining a sizable cult following with their violin-infused psychedelic and Celtic folk-punk style. After the band split in 1990, Lowery founded Cracker with Johnny Hickman, a childhood friend from his desert hometown of Redlands. This band’s more traditional and harder alt-country rock leanings gave Cracker major-label success on Virgin, scoring them a couple radio and MTV hits before the inevitable head-on collision of label versus band. Camper Van Beethoven didn’t see the light of day again for almost a decade, but after testing the waters in 1999 with an experimental reunion in the studio, the band decided they could finally get along with each other. CVB started playing live again in 2002, becoming a staple co-headliner with Cracker, and in 2005 the bands began their annual tradition of co-headlining a three-night campout music fest at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. Throughout the years the members of both groups have sometimes overlapped (Frank Funaro currently drums in both bands), and on tour members often hop on stage joining one another’s band.

Camper Van Beethoven by Linda Rapka

Nebulous crossovers aside, both bands are, in their own right, wicked (they say that out in the desert, right?)—but man, are their fans scary. Spotted in the Echoplex swell: Hawaiian shirts, black socks and white sneakers; pseudo biker chicks with small leather skirts and big ’80s hair; overgrown men thrusting metal devil horns stageward un-ironically. I was able to avoid being trampled by overly excited 40somethings and had a great time rocking out to CVB’s insanely righteous Status Quo cover of “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” a taste from their ska-influenced days. Toward the end of Camper’s set Jonathan Segel swapped his trademark fiddle for a theremin, for which Lowery explained, “Over the years Jonathan’s violin playing has actually been getting more and more in tune. So we had to bring out the theremin; to get some of that weirdness back.” After the hour and a half long set, Cracker took the stage for just as long, cranking out rollicking fan favorites like country bromance ballad “Friends,” the chorus-chanting anthem “Euro-Trash Girl,” and my all-time favorite, “Low,” the pinnacle of Gen-X pessimistic love songs. Members from both CVB and Cracker joined on stage for the final encore, a playful cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me,” solidifying their awesomeness in both performance and cover song selection.

—Linda Rapka

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Malajube @ the Echoplex 3/3/07


(Photo courtesy of 12-596/icecreamman.com)

My first proper assignment for Losanjealous couldn’t have been more splendid. I was expecting a good show out of French-Canadian rockers Malajube, but they really blew me away. And though I didn’t manage to get any decent photos of my own, among the swarming mob of SLR-slingers in the front row I managed to make friends. Greg, who was there shooting for Ice Cream Man, graciously allowed me use of his photos. As posted at losanjealous.com:

This past Saturday was my first time venturing into The Echo’s ominous downstairs space, The EXPLX. I must say, despite its massive space and zero level of light, it’s quite cozy. I especially like the high stage, which makes for good viewing wherever you are in the club.

I arrived just as Southern rockers Snowden began their set. By the number of SLRs clicking away in the front row, it was evident that every single blogger in Los Angeles was at this show. Snowden was frantically energetic and a pleasure to experience live, especially for that one guy in the front twitching around in an awkward attempt at dancing. Got to give him credit for at least moving, not just standing there with arms folded, eyes closed and head down in the universal hipster stance denoting he was “feeling” the music.

After Snowden’s wonderfully raw set, any doubt that I’d arrived in Hipsterville was removed when Peter Bjorn & John’s “Young Folks” came on and was greeted with a massive cheer as drunk girls began fumbling in failed attempts to whistle to the catchy intro and dance at the same time. But no matter. Once Montreal’s sassy quintet Malajube took the stage, such vain attempts at hipster coolness ceased when the rawkage began.

The young French Canadians seemed to be excited to be in glamorous Los Angeles for the first time. They made some jokes about the fakeness of our city, told us we were all beautiful and had movie star faces, and then went off on a weird tangent about how we should get fake boobs on our knees. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume something was lost in translation.

Once the music started, however, any hint of lameness melted away. To say that Malajube’s set was high energy would be the understatement of the century. The band’s loud guitars, driving drum beats and harmoniously synthy keys churned out a seamless blend of punky rock and indie pop chock full of sugary hooks. The way the lead guitarist and keyboardist took turns playing off each others vocals was nothing short of brilliant.

Did I mention they sing in French? Très sexy.