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01 Aug 2016

Do the Musical Math: After a Quiet Year, Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker Reconvene for the Annual Campout

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David Lowery: “It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun for us, given we’ve had no shows this year. It’s good to have sort of a down year where we just concentrate on the Campout.” David Lowery: “It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun for us, given we’ve had no shows this year. It’s good to have sort of a down year where we just concentrate on the Campout.” Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

It’s again that time of year when Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker and fans of both bands take over Pappy and Harriet’s for a weekend known as the “Campout.”

The 12th annual Campout will take place from Thursday, Aug. 25, to Saturday, Aug. 27.

During a recent phone interview, Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker frontman David Lowery noted that the year since the last Campout has included a lot of downtime—and no new material for either band.

“This is one of the first kind of years off we’ve had,” Lowery said. “The last two years, it’s been something coming out every year.”

However, Lowery pledged that the next year won’t pass without new material: He said a new Camper Van Beethoven album is in the works.

“We haven’t even really started writing songs or anything like that, at least not in a really serious way,” he said. “There are a few things floating around, though. … We wouldn’t want to start the process of that until the late fall or early winter; 2017 is when we’ll start creating new albums. There might be some surprises later this year, but we’ll have to see.”

Even when there are no new albums or recording sessions, all of the members of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker still enjoy getting together for the Campout.

“It’s definitely going to be a lot of fun for us, given we’ve had no shows this year,” Lowery said. “It’s good to have sort of a down year where we just concentrate on the Campout.”

Each night of each Campout has a different theme. For example, in 2014, there was a punk vs. new wave night.

“One year, we had cops vs. hippies. We had cowboys and Indians one year,” Lowery said. “There was also one year where everyone wore white the first night, and black the next night, which produced the best photographs. The fans kind of come up with these themes—and I don’t really know how we ordain it.”

I asked Lowery which theme was the most memorable.

“I think cops vs. hippies was really fun,” he said. “I dressed as a cop. I shaved my beard off and had a mustache. Nobody recognized me, and I was just going around and completely fooling people. It was pretty funny, actually.”

Lowery is also well-known for his academic life; he’s a college teacher, in fact. However, he wanted to make it clear that he’s not a mathematician.

“I don’t really do too much of that anymore,” Lowery said. “I teach at the University of Georgia, and it’s basically economics and finance related to the entertainment industry. That’s what I do. There is math involved in that, but it sort of underpinned my thinking about how I analyze the music business and the entertainment industry. I am interested in mathematics, but I’m not a mathematician.”

Lowery said it’s vital that all people understand the financial side of life.

“The thing is, there’s a difference between mathematics and logical thinking. Most people intuitively understand the logic,” he said. “Even though they may not understand calculus or geometry or anything like that, they have a pretty good grasp of it. I feel like people need some mathematical backing—not really in mathematics, but (in a) mathematical financial understanding of the world. I think people make really poor decisions, like paying money up front and going debt. I think people need financial knowledge. That’s the one place you get hurt if you don’t have it.”

The Campout lineup this year includes the queen of the High Desert, Jesika Von Rabbit, as well as other great bands with which Camper and Cracker fans may already be familiar. Lowery, however, did offer a suggestion for this year’s Campout attendees.

“Some fans are pretty familiar with Ike Reilly. He’s a friend of ours and a similar style songwriter,” Lowery said. “He’s had a similar career and legacy, but maybe not as popular as Camper Van Beethoven or Cracker. He’s been around for a long time, writing straight-up roots kind of rock with clever lyrics. He’s fantastic, and we cover a song of his, and I’ve appeared on his albums. I’m looking forward to bringing him to the desert and having our West Coast fans experience him performing live.”

The 12th Annual Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven Campout takes place Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 25-27, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $25 for one-day passes, or $75 for a three-day pass. For tickets and more information, visit www.crackersoul.com/store.

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