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