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Camper Van Beethoven blows out the candles
for their Silver Anniversary in Chicago

Camper Van Beethoven
The Abbey Pub
Chicago, IL
Nov. 21 & 22, 2008
Camper Van Beethoven Camper Van Beethoven Camper Van Beethoven

Story by Holiday Girod
Photos by Tony Bonyata

Last weekend at Chicago's Abbey Pub Camper Van Beethoven performed two career-spanning shows to celebrate their 25-year union as a band. Nevermind that this self-proclaimed "surrealist absurdist folk" combo took the entire '90s off, while cofounder David Lowery teamed up with Johnny Hickman to form the successful alt-rock band Cracker. Because, as one of indie rock's first and finest, CVB deserves a cause for celebration. Not only have original bandmembers Lowery (vocals / guitar), Victor Krummenacher (bass / vocals), Jonathan Segel (violin / keys / guitar / vocals) and Greg Lisher (guitars /vocals) banded together along with the newer addition of drummer Frank Funaro (Cracker / Joey Ramone / The Dictators) for a small handful of Silver Anniversary shows in San Francisco, Chicago and NYC, but they also have a long-overdue best-of CD entitled Popular Songs that dropped earlier this year.

Despite never gaining the widespread attention they deserved in their mid-to-late '80s prime, The Abbey was crowded with appreciative fans on both nights for two radically different performances. While both shows featured favorites such as "Take The Skinheads Bowling," "Pictures of Matchstick Men," "Good Guys and Bad Guys," "She Divines Water" and their amazing take on Pink Floyd's trippy "Interstellar Overdrive," the setlist similarities ended there. The first evening they tore through favorites such as 'The Day That Lassie Went To The Moon," punked-up takes of "Cowboys from Hollywood," "Club Med Sucks" and "Wasted," along with brilliant covers of The Clash's "White Riot" and The Kinks' "I'm Not Like Everybody Else." The band also waxed nostalgically about their past shows in Chicago over the last two-and-a-half decades before they gracefully two-stepped their way into the delightful cowpoke ballad "Sad Lover's Waltz."

Night two offered up a much more organic and eclectic mix of Eastern European instrumentals such as "Balalaika Gap," "Likker" and "Payed Vacation: Greece," as well as the ska-flavored "Yanqui Go Home" and the rarely performed "Porpoise Mouth." They also touched on their last studio effort (2004's New Roman Times) with a solid performance of the title track, while also delivering strong renditions of "Sweethearts," "All Her Favorite Fruit," "Flowers" and "When I Win The Lottery" all from, arguably, their most defining album, 1989's Key Lime Pie.

The band was on fire both nights - with special props going to Lisher's fiery guitar-work the first evening and Segel's wild and impassioned violin playing the next. And while Lowery's voice has grown to a raspier growl with age, it held up as well as ever with this oddly affecting and ultimately timeless music.

Related articles:

Cracker - basement tapes session #1 - Free downloads - Sept. 2007
Camper Van Beethoven - SxSW Music Festival review - Austin, TX - Mar. 2003
Cracker - Gentlemen's Blues - Album review

Camper Van Beethoven Camper Van Beethoven
Camper Van Beethoven Camper Van Beethoven

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