I was a bit apprehensive to attend the Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven show last Friday night at World Cafe Live, considering that, at the height of their mainstream popularity, I was only five years old. I do know a few lines to certain songs -- one being my favorite by Cracker, their 1993 hit, "Low" -- but Camper Van was a big mystery to me. Both bands feature of the same lead singer, David Lowery, and both also are generally categorized under the same genre: "American alternative rock." With Cracker having had more mainstream success, the majority of the audience was there to see them perform, although that did not stop the tangible anticipation of audience to hear Camper Van Beethoven perform as well.
Early on that evening, the majority of the group that arrived before Camper took that stage was over the age of 35, yet there were also some younger faces peeping through the crowd. Standing front and center was the Sausser family, Mike and Cathy and their two daughters Kasey, 26 and Krista, 11. "Cracker was a staple in our house while the girls were both growing up and it still is," said Cathy, when I asked how long they had been listening to Cracker as a family. Mike Sausser, bellowing with pride, told me this was the 11th Cracker concert he has had the pleasure of attending. Prior to this show Mike had taken his eldest daughter Kasey to one but this would be the first for Krista who was positively beaming with excitement. While the family waited for the show start, I could see the love circulating around them and thought what a lovely thing for the Sausser family to share together. While I also waited for the show to begin, I weaved around the growing crowd to see the other relationships between Cracker and their loyal fans. Kasey and Krista Sausser were not the only kids to inherit the love of Cracker from their parents. There was a father from the Greater North East who brought his two teenage sons along as well. Later in the show both sets of children could be spotted belting out the words to all their songs while jumping and dancing with their parents.
When the lights dimmed and the stage began to fill with Camper Van Beethoven, the once semi-filled room became packed wall to wall with excited fans. The band's music was refreshing and extremely catchy, and within minutes myself and the rest of the room was nodding and bobbing around to their songs. Camper Van Beethoven mashes many different styles of music together, including punk, folk, ska, classical and world music. Lowery's sharp lyrics are accompanied by the beautiful playing of instruments, the violin standing out the most. The unusual collaboration of genres and instruments with catchy, fresh and cocky lyrics make this band something I wish weren't unknown to me before this night. They’ve come out with eight albums, spanning from 1985 until 2006, and ended their set with talk of a new album coming out later this year.
After their exit from the crowd pleasing set, a small intermission was in order for concert goers to make their way to the bar for more beer, or to relieve themselves from the many beers they had already consumed. After all these needs were met, Cracker arrived on stage with a fierce confidence. Since their formation 17 years ago, they have been creating hits for old fans, and for new ones like myself. The band features the dynamic duo of guitarist Johnny Hickman and singer David Lowery. They are known for their original songs that combine the influence of rock, punk, surf and just the right amount of country. Lowery’s gritty lyrics are the perfect companion for the instrumental backdrop, and once he parted his lips to sing the first few lines of their opening song the crowd was immediately mesmerized.
By the third song into the set, I found myself singing and dancing along with the surrounding crowd. It was hard not to have a good time while they played their amazing and energetic songs. Three long time friends standing next to me in the sea of madness -- Chris Rehn, Lisa Paul and Marty Vlasic -- caught my attention. In between songs I learned that these three had been fans since the formation of Cracker, all owned their first album and were insanely heartbroken when the band went their separate ways. When they learned of their reunion, Chris told me she literally jumped up and down for joy in her living room while she called her best friend, Lisa. This would be the third time Lisa and Chris have seen the band perform and through screaming the words to the current song playing, yelled towards me “their shows are always this energetic!"
By the end of the show, I was sweaty and partially losing my voice from all the screaming, Cracker not only had the crowd drunk with alcohol but drunk with love, admiration and energy as well. The positive outcome of their reunion enticed them to come out with a new album this year, “Sunrise in the land of milk and honey” which is filled with the trademark sounds that graced their previous albums. And as I exited the venue, the chatter lingering around me from fans was anything but disappointed. To express the outcome of the show in the simplest of terms, Cracker rocked the hell out of World Café Live. Coming from the girl who was apprehensive upon arrival by the time my departure rolled around, my mood was the complete opposite.