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[whitespace] Cheese and Crackers

Local heroes Camper Van Beethoven reunite for a lackluster Catalyst show

By David Espinoza

AT THE RISK of being banished to Scotts Valley, I'll say that Feb. 9's much-touted "Cracker Van Beethoven" show at the Catalyst could have used a little extra cilantro, if you know what I mean. Maybe the whole semi-but-not-really-reunion of Camper Van Beethoven had been built up too much. After all, when you're dealing with one of the few bands from Santa Cruz that actually achieved some degree of popularity, the prospect of most of the members playing together again would be reason enough for high expectations.

Unfortunately, such expectations weren't entirely met. First, there was the very unengaging David Lowery--a guy whose biggest hit songs are the ones when he's shouting, not when he's being calm--which is what the rest of his songs are like. The fact that lead singer Lowery and ex-Camper Vanners violinist Jonathan Segel and bassist Victor Krummenacher came out in bland non-rock star attire (jeans, old T-shirts) wouldn't have been such a big deal if they'd made an effort to liven things up a bit.
As it stood, without any visuals (one of those psychedelic liquid-projecter things would be fitting) and a little dialogue between the band and the audience, Cracker Van Beethoven's set tended to drag.

Things only got worse when Lowery, attempting an old ska-tinged CVB tune, stopped the song just as it was his turn to sing. Chapter 6 in the rock & roll Bible specifically states that starting and stopping a tune that everyone knows is to be avoided at all costs, and Lowery only dug himself into a deeper hole when he did it a second time. At this point, it began to be clear that Cracker Van Beethoven needed more practice time. Then a guitar string broke, stopping the band dead in its tracks for over a minute.

The heckling that ensued could have been silenced had Lowery or someone from the band offered some sort of apology or at least a collective "our bad." Instead, there was an uncomfortable silence.

Eventually, the band got it together, picking up the pace with Cracker's "What the World Needs Now," though Lowery's demeanor remained nonchalant at best. After the final chord of Cracker's "Big Dipper"--a song about Santa Cruz--Lowery actually apologized for the audience's not being more familiar with the tune, saying it was a big hit on the East Coast.

Vagina Folk

This year's Valentine's Day weekend presentation of The Vagina Monologues at UC-Santa Cruz's Kresge Town Hall came with an extra special treat in folk singer Anita Coats. Playing an opening set for the V-Day vignettes, the tall, bright-red-haired Coats offered a handful of lovely tunes via her lute-looking classical guitar and sweet voice. Though she's not the most adept guitar player, Coats' voice will take her far--and hopefully she'll be heading back through Santa Cruz again.

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From the February 16-23, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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