March 28, 2007

Sometime I wanna get you low: Cracker in Colorado Springs

Cracker don’t get no respect.

These guys are legend in my book, true godfathers of the alternative rock scene, and the show last night was only half-full at best. Given it was a Tuesday night, and given that this is Colorado Springs which is not exactly known for its swingin nightlife (that’s why we have Denver, and Boulder) — but they sounded fantastic, and gave it their all.

Criminally underappreciated, they easily were better than over half the bands I’ve seen at the Black Sheep, still sounding tight and unabashedly rocking, and the venue should have been full (if the kids knew what was good for them). Cracker is and always has been unique in the pantheon of alt-rock bands from the ’90s. They combine absolutely solid rock (as Lowery said between songs, “Hello. We’re Cracker. We make rock music.”) with an attitude of punk, and tones of country, Americana, and even folk. Plus they’ve definitely got some of the most delightfully tongue-in-cheek, intelligent lyrics of many of their contemporaries.

I walked up (late) to the club to hear the bitingly sarcastic lyrics of “Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)” pounding through the glass-block windows (we are classssssy here) and that kicked the set off in fine style. Highlights of the show included the Camper Van Beethoven polka-punk classic “Take The Skinheads Bowling,” which is so much fun to sing along to. Camper Van Beethoven were a sort of legend in the area I grew up in (they are from Santa Cruz), and trivia fact: I just found out that David Immergluck from Counting Crows was a founding member.

VIDEO: Take The Skinheads Bowling

Bonus Camper Van Beethoven cover:
Take The Skinheads Bowling – Teenage Fanclub (re-upped)

As drummer Frank Funaro started cracking his sticks together in a slower, deliberate rhythm, within two beats I recognized “Low” – a truly fantastic song from the ’90s. Maybe because I am older and jaded now, but I never realized how suggestively nuanced some of the lyrics are:

Sometimes I wanna take you down
Sometime I wanna get you low
Brush the hair back from your eyes
Take you down
let the river flow
. . .
A million poppies gonna make me sleep
But just one rosie knows your name
The fruit is rusting on the vine
The fruit is calling from the trees

I particularly love those last two lines. The imagery is so vivid (fruit rusting? genius), and in my mind it reminds me of another video from the ’90s with fruit withering in fast-motion or falling off trees – was it a Nirvana video? Does anyone else know what I am thinking of? Maybe…NIN? Too many agricultural themes for me to keep straight (which really aren’t about agriculture at all).

Low – Cracker

Even though Lowery’s been singin that tune for the better part of 15 years, he puts his heart and soul into it, even though his eyes stay closed for most of the set. He occasionally would take a glance down at the crowd, coolly, inquisitively. He still looks the rocker part, with his skinny jeans (before they were cool again), his Sauconys, and his three-day bronze stubble — as he goes to town on the guitar with all he’s got. Still the same wonderfully gravelly voice, a distinct great in rock music.

Cracker co-founder/guitarist Johnny Hickman has recently relocated to Colorado, so I saw him in August 2005 with Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers up at the Gothic. He still reminds me of a Mellencamp/Springsteen hybrid, and still shreds the guitar with finesse and joy.

I stood there feeling remarkably and deeply happy during the whole set, dancing to the relentless rhythms (drummer is great, even though he looks like he just escaped San Quentin) and singing along where I could.

I couldn’t resist dashing off a text message during “Euro-Trash Girl” to my friend Shannon in California, who attended that first show ever with me 13 years ago next month at the San Jose State Event Center (Cracker & Counting Crows) asking “wanna crowd-surf?” All 8 minutes of that hidden track, going from folksy travelogue to downright rocker, still make for a great anthem for living the wild life in Europe. Maybe I should have used that in promotional efforts for study abroad back when I was working at Santa Clara U. Selling plasma in Amsterdam, sleeping in fountains in Athens, getting tattoos in Berlin on the palm of your hand. Right on.

Euro-Trash Girl – Cracker (fixed)
(My video here. Worth watching just for the drunk mime emoting of the lady on screen-right every time the lyric, “Yeah, I’ll search the world over” came up)

Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now) – Cracker

Mr. Wrong (live) – Cracker
(just listen to these lyrics, brash and wonderful)

The materials from their new album Greenland (2006, Cooking Vinyl) seamlessly melded alongside the old, sounding great. Some of it is a bit more wistful than previous tunes (although they did play “Take Me Down To The Infirmary” from Kerosene Hat and I forgot about the slow goodness in that).

They didn’t do this one last night, but it’s the leadoff track from the new album and I heartily enjoy it:

Where Have Those Days Gone (new) – Cracker
(wonderful California place references, clearly a native)

3/28 – Vail, CO – 8150
3/29 – Denver, CO – Twist & Shout in-store
3/29 – Denver, CO – Soiled Dove
3/30 – Denver, CO – Soiled Dove
3/31 – Ft. Collin’s – Hodi’s Half Note
4/25 – Hoboken, NJ – Maxwell’s (acoustic)
4/26 – Fall River, MA – Narrows PAC (acoustic)
4/27 – Hartford, CT – Webster Underground (acoustic)
4/28 – Allston, MA – Harper’s Ferry (acoustic)
5/4 – Birmingham, AL – Crawfish Boil
5/5 – Pensacola, FL – Flounder’s
5/17 – Robinsville, MS – Horseshoe Tunica Casino
5/20 – San Francisco, CA – Golden Gate Park (!!)
5/27 – Beverungen, Germany – OBS Festival
5/29 – Zurich, Switzerland – El Lokal
5/30 – Karlsruhe, Germany – Tollhause
5/31 – Vienna, Austria – Chelsea
6/8 – Chattanooga, TN – Riverbend Festival
6/21 – Albany, NY – Empire State Building
9/6 – Pioneertown, CA – Pappy & Harriet’s
9/7 – Pioneertown, CA – Pappy & Harriet’s
9/8 – Pioneertown, CA – Pappy & Harriet’s
9/15 – Deadwood, SD – Deadwood Jam

BONUS: Check a good live show from last summer in Madison, with some more tunes from their new album.


  • YEAH! THanks for sharing!

    Natsthename — March 28, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

  • The Eurotrash Girl Link leads to “Take the Skinheads Bowling”.

    Reuben — March 28, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

  • I believe the “fruit video” was “Closer” by NIN

    Anonymous — March 28, 2007 @ 4:27 pm

  • I just checked it – I don’t think so? The Skinheads video is YouTube, embedded. The link to Euro-Trash Girl should take you to Google video…and I am watching the Euro-Trash Girl video now….


    And anon, thanks for the tip. That’s what was in the back of my memory…

    heather — March 28, 2007 @ 4:48 pm

  • Did they play “Pictures of Matchstick Men”? My favorite Camper song, hands down (though I believe it’s a cover).

    Brandon — March 28, 2007 @ 6:08 pm

  • yes pictures of matchstick men is by status quo belive it or not

    Anonymous — March 28, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

  • Holy poop. Cracker was and is badass. Taking it easy for all of us sinners. I hope they come to my red neck of the woods soon. Thanks for some good tunes.

    THe LeGendary BoomboX G — March 28, 2007 @ 8:27 pm

  • bah, kansas is not on the schedule…

    this may be a silly question, but did you ever hear their album with leftover salmon? it was all cracker songs redone with l.s. it was kind of a trip to hear those songs im so used to hearing in a different style. “low” with a mandolin was kinda cool tho

    Don't Need Anything — March 28, 2007 @ 9:12 pm

  • HA! Funny because I was talking with a co-worker today about songs that start with the letter E and one of my choices was Eurotrash Girl.

    Eric — March 28, 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  • David Lowery is a true poet. Often overlooked by elite music scribes.
    He has the talent of Thunderoad and Little Pink Houses combined. Very American. A dying breed of songwriter. He also is great producer. He has propelled Magnolia Hi-Fi’s career and many others. I have been waiting for his solo effort for 10 years. Something tells me it will be hear soon….. charles from happyparts

    HappyParts — March 28, 2007 @ 11:41 pm

  • reuben is right. He’s talking about the songs, not the videos.

    I saw Camper Van Beethoven in Chicago on what they later announced was their last tour in 1986. They were opening for REM and had a line-up that included Peter Holsapple from the dBs. My friend and I, who were much bigger fans of Camper than of REM, were STOKED. The crowd of yahoos booed and shouted “REM” all through their set. Admittedly, their attitude towards the crowd at that point on the tour appeared to be, “We hate you, too.”

    I was thrilled when the first Cracker album came out. I was afraid David Lowery would go off and become a marine biologist or something.

    Anonymous — March 29, 2007 @ 3:20 am

  • thanks for the review Heather. I’ve been a cracker fan since college in the mid 90s.

    Kev in St. Louis

    Anonymous — March 29, 2007 @ 7:57 am

  • that was awesome!

    much love for the drunk mime emoting, definitely worth a watch… & completely off the record, i’m pretty sure i can come up with some drunk mime emoting moments of my own! :)

    thanks for the blast from the past…

    kristen — March 29, 2007 @ 10:30 am

  • Yes, I was referring to the song link for Eurotrash Girl.

    Reuben — March 29, 2007 @ 11:01 am

  • Ahhh, gotcha. Thanks. Fixed the song link now.

    heather — March 29, 2007 @ 11:31 am

  • It’s weak to see our town not support good bands (says the guy who didn’t go to the show). I saw Everclear at the City Aud…probably 4 years ago. There were maybe 250 people there. What a shame.

    JJ — March 29, 2007 @ 3:02 pm

  • hold on your memory is playing tricks..peter holsapple was never in cvb but he was in rem that tour….that tour would have been lowery/krummenacher/lisher/pedersen/morgan fichter on violin and the ever mighty david immergluck (counting crows) on other guitar and mandolin..

    Anonymous — March 29, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

  • i think the camper/cracker family is one of the legendary musical forces of all time…check out the recently released campout dvd..recorded at the first annual campers/cracker campout festival for loads of great music not just from the two parent bands but also the sublime monks of doom, jonathan segel, greg lisher and victor krummenacher (a song writing genius in his own right)

    Anonymous — March 29, 2007 @ 6:46 pm

  • i totally agree about the talented mr fact if you head over to his new site theres four superb outtakes from his new album to download and lots of history to read

    Anonymous — March 29, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

  • Johnny Hickman played with the Railbenders at the Soiled Dove underground this past October. Nothing better than Alt Rock with a Denver-fied country twang.

    Anonymous — March 29, 2007 @ 7:39 pm

  • Great post, and nice selection of tunes.

    You’re definitely right about Cracker being underappreciated. They were a great band in a golden age for modern rock.

    F.J. Delgado — March 29, 2007 @ 8:33 pm

  • I just posted about Cracker on my blog! (and some other stuff too).

    I so wish I could have seen that show. Thanks for the amazing post.

    Rand from St. Paul MN

    Lex Ham Rand — March 29, 2007 @ 9:07 pm

  • I’ll have to try to catch them at the park! Thanks for giving some love to Euro Trash Girl. The first time I heard that track it just blew me away…”What IS this??? Awesome!!!”

    “Low” and “Get Off This” are also my other Cracker favorites. And for whatever reason, I can’t think of Cracker without thinking of Everclear. I guess it’s just good times associated with good tunes.

    el walto — March 30, 2007 @ 12:23 am

  • Hey, thanks for the post, Heather. I agree about them being woefully underappreciated. And I saw that same show in San Jose with Cracker & Counting Crows…what a great show that was!!! thanks for reminding me.


    Anonymous — March 31, 2007 @ 3:47 pm

Comments RSS

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Subscribe to this tasty feed.
I tweet things. It's amazing.

Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

View all Interviews → View all Shows I've Seen →