Camper Van Beethoven

House of Blues

January 21, 2005

There was only one dissenter. As singer/rhythm guitarist David Lowery told a long story about David Byrne and a UFO, a guy yelled, "No one cares!" Lowery ignored him and continued. I understood the man probably wanted to hear his favorite Camper Van Beethoven songs instead of a slightly rambling account. Still--dirt on the enigmatic Byrne from smart-ass Lowery? I was all-ears. Here's the story:

At a sit-down function, Lowery and Byrne were placed at the same table because they were the only lead singers in the house. Lowery asked Byrne if he remembered when his band(pre-Camper Van Beethoven) opened for The Talking Heads. In a polite way Byrne racked his brain and came up with five to ten different times that they could have played together. That's when Lowery stopped him and said, "No, you would have remembered this gig. We played with you on a flying saucer." That's when Lowery told the audience the same back-story he must have told Byrne.

In 1983, Lowery's band got the call from a Los Angeles promoter two weeks before the gig. Lowery didn't believe The Talking Heads would want a small band from Santa Cruz to open for them. The promoter pestered them to play every day until the one before the gig, when Lowery and company decided to make the drive to L.A. and meet up with their guitarist, who was living there and waiting for them with the promoter. This is when Lowery told the audience his guitarist, who had told the promoter about the band, was a "poor judge of character." The directions the guitarist gave the band led them right into a ghetto, and more specifically, a crack house. It seemed that while the guitarist was in L.A. he had turned into a crack fiend. So, the band walked into the house, met the promoter and started asking specifics about the gig.

"Man, we haven't heard our name mentioned in any of the radio advertisments or seen our name on any of the press for this gig." The promoter blew them off for hours on end until two hours before the gig, when he snapped. The promoter said, "No, man! That's the fake gig. You're playing with The Talking Heads up in a flying saucer." So, after a slight pause to let the laughter in the House of Blues subside, Lowery said with a straight face, "So, we played with The Talking Heads up in a flying saucer."

Lowery told the story as a way to introduce "That Gum You Like is Back in Style," a song off of CVB's first album in fifteen years, "New Roman Times." Lowery deviated from the song's theme and the album's concept when he wrote a few lyrics about the David Byrne/UFO incident for the second part of the third verse.

CVB rocked Friday night. They gave time for the beautifully languid and executed "All Her Favorite Fruit," and they weren't afraid of a sensitive violin solo, but they mainly stuck to head-nodding songs that proved they're just another rock band at heart. Much is made out of how many genres influenced their music, and sure--their soaring, almost orchestrated melodies are rare in most rock bands--but, at the concert, especially in bombastic, feedback-heavy "White Fluffy Clouds," it wasn't hard to see how Lowery made the leap to the straightforward rock of Cracker after CVB split up in 1989.

So, they were back with a wondrous(I'm not using that word lightly) twenty song concept album and an each-day-a-city tour in their van.

CVB started the show off slow with an instrumental and an obscure song before they moved into new standouts like "51-7," "Fluffy White Clouds," and "Sons of the New Golden West." The rest of the concert had lots of great old stuff("Joe Stalin's Cadillac," "All Her Favorite Fruit," "The Day That Lassie Went to The Moon," "Wasted") mixed up with little new material. "L'Aguardiente" got the crowd clapping and stomping with its mix of Zydeco and Klezmer. I never realized how similar those musics were before. And, then there was the obvious but no less fun "Take The Skinheads Bowling." That was the sing-along. No "Where The Hell is Bill," though.

Violinist Jonathan Segel picked at his strings for a mandolin sound and fooled with a computer for sequenced sounds that cover the new album. The band wasn't very energetic. They stood in place, but the music still got across well.

A group of fifteen or so people in the front were the most lively fans, while the rest of the dancefloor was filled with comfortable elbow room. It was weird that the audience only gave up stuttering, polite appluse. Maybe many of them were drawn to the concert because of CVB's indie legend status.

The band played a super-rockin' version of Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" as their ten minute encore(The band went thirty minutes over their given time for a two hour show. I've never seen a band allowed to go so far over their time at the House of Blues before). Think of the main melody of "Interstellar Overdrive."
What if Rage Against The Machine had played it with Rick Rubin producing? You get the idea--it was super-rocked out with hooks that dug deep.

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