CVIndependent

Tue06182019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Campout 14 came to Pappy and Harriet’s over Labor Day Weekend—with a new and well-received format.

Thursday night featured Jim Dalton, Johnny Hickman and the Hickman-Dalton Gang. Prior to the start, Hickman was being his genuine self, talking to longtime fans who have now become friends. A constant at Campout is the level of inclusion: The Crumbs (Cracker fans) and Campers (Camper Van Beethoven fans) make you part of the family.

Hickman spoke with pride about his teenage son, a young entrepreneur selling used shoes online. He pointed to a pristine pair of Timberlands his son sold him at a discount, because he grew out of them.

The song “In My Head,” by Dalton, is fun: “Today’s my birthday; I’m turning 30. I’m perfectly healthy, independently wealthy, in my head—and that’s Bill Murphy; I’m his best friend. He’s at my party pouring shots again; we’re having a good time in my head.”

In reality, everyone was having a blast. The evening progressed with a hilarious song about falling in love with a serial killer, and “Dick Bird” about a bird going No. 2 on a shoulder. “Pantalones,” a song about the loss of pants while in Mexico, is a cautionary tale about pacing yourself when drinking tequila south of the border.

“Papa Johnny’s Arms,” sung by Hickman, is the reason most music venues have security barriers—to keep swooning fans off the stage. However, attendees maintained their composure.

Hickman introduced the unreleased “Poor Life Choices”: “It’s a new song, and it’s a sing-along.” However, it was already in the memory of fans—since it was a hit at last year’s Campout 13.

The theme for Thursday was “Bad Tattoos,” and Hickman shared a story about a bad cover-up tattoo a few relationships ago. Dalton, not to be undone, talked about the alleged tattoo he has on his penis; he said he got it because he use to be a big Pearl Jam fan.

Super fan Jennifer Smyth shouted out a request for a cover of “She Wore Red Dresses,” and Hickman obliged. The Hickman-Dalton Gang worked in a cover of the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun”, and the cliché concert heckle from the crowd of “Free Bird” was met with an acoustic jam of the song. Thursday night at Campout is always a highlight, because it showcases the intimacy of Pappy’s indoor stage.

Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven played both Friday and Saturday nights, with David Lowery the lead vocalist of both. Cracker celebrated the 20th anniversary of the album Gentleman’s Blues by performing one half of the album one night, and the other half on Saturday.

The dress-up theme for Friday night was “Night of the Living Dead v. Big Lebowski.” I should have re-watched the movies in advance so I could better identify all of the characters beyond the Dudes and a whole bunch of Liams; for example, CVB fan Kit Hickman was dressed as an Irish Monk. Kudos to Kit for his originality.

Crumb chatter centered on the retirement of a longtime male member of Cracker, and his replacement, a much younger, slimmer woman. Would this lead to a change in sound? The change was not human: Johnny Hickman’s No. 7 1977 Les Paul Standard was replaced by what Hickman described on Facebook as “his (female!) replacement ... this BEAUTIFUL girl of a Fender Stratocaster. … She is a bit more temperamental, yet SO very glorious in tone.” Frankly, I could not tell the difference; the new band member was well-received.

Cracker played the hits both nights including “Low,” “Eurotrash Girl” and the lovely “Almond Grove.”

Camper Van Beethoven headlined Friday and then opened for Cracker on Saturday. CVB once again played the hits over the two nights, including theh cover of “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” “Northern California Girls” and “Take The Skin Heads Bowling.” Ben and Jenny Wariner from Utah went a little crazy when CVB went off the set list and added “History of Utah.”

Saturday’s dress theme was “Monochromatic Colors” and Cracker/CVB songs. David Lowery was in all-white denim. Johnny Hickman later commented on Facebook in response to a photograph I posted of the show: “David looks resplendent in his all white denim … a throwback salute to the ‘Eurotrash Girl’ video … magnificently filmed and directed by Carlos Grasso decades ago about 100 yards from this very spot.”

Jesika Von Rabbit, the Queen of High Desert Rock, returned to the Campout on Saturday with a new band and a new record, Dessert Rock, through Dionysus Records. Her new music was well-received, and she was a joy to hear.

Traditions are sacred at Campout—and this means Victor Krummenacher and Jonathan Segel jammed together Saturday on the indoor stage.

Ike Reilly closed out Saturday; he’s a prior performer at Campout who was splendid with his stripped-down acoustic set.

As Saturday ended and became Sunday morning, long goodbyes changed into planning for the next Campout, and the next Camp In, back East in Georgia in January.

If you are not a Crumb or a Camper or perhaps a secret member of the Royal Order of Rabbits, you may not understand the longevity of this dusty little music festival … but that’s OK. A family reunion is held every year.

Lastly, Margaret Lowery, you would have been proud of your son at this year’s Campout. The joy he brings to Campers and Crumbs every year is immense. I toast you with Tetley Tea; rest in peace.

Published in Reviews

Campout 12, the annual party and music festival arranged by Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, returned to Pappy and Harriet’s for three days, Thursday, Aug. 25, through Saturday, Aug. 27, filling Pioneertown, Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree with “no vacancy” signs thanks to the temporary resettlement of music fans.

This festival has ingrained itself into the high-desert community. One example: I was seeing discount offers on social media specifically for fans of the event. ArtFx and Furnishings offered a 10 percent discount if you mentioned the Campout, and 2 Guys Pies Brick Oven Pizza did the same if someone used the code word “Crumb,” the moniker of Cracker fans.

Skylar Gudasz, hailing from Durham, N.C., opened Thursday night, keeping with the tradition of having great new talent appear at Campout. “Oh my God, this place is gorgeous!” she said, quickly understanding the unique vibe of Pappy and Harriet’s. She hooked the audience with “I’ll Be Your Man”; the song’s video was directed by her brother, filmmaker Jason Gudasz.

Custom dictates that a Cracker duo set takes place on Night One—but this was not to be: David Lowery was absent, as he had a class to teach. Thus, Johnny Hickman took charge, performing double duty by offering a solo warm-up, and then playing with the Hickman-Dalton Gang. “Mick could not be here, but you got Keith,” Hickman joked. A highlight of Thursday night was a stripped-down version of “San Bernardino Boy.”

Johnny Hickman’s fans can get a little crazy—in a fun way. Odd overheard comments, like “My favorite word is labia,” caused those on the stage to pause temporarily. Still, the comfort level at the Campout is high, since everyone here loves the music, and the fans love each other.

Last year, fans wore pink to remember Karen Pratt-Mills. In her honor, Chris LeRoy, of the Dangers, with Johnny Hickman sang a song written for Karen by LeRoy. Some tried yet failed to maintain their composure during this sweet song about a special Crumb who passed to soon last year after a battle with cancer.

The Kolars, a husband-and-wife duo, were a treat, after being featured band at Echo Park Rising in L.A. a few weeks ago. Rob Kolar sings and plays guitar, as Lauren Brown becomes an instrument herself, by using her feet on top of a bass drum while playing a full drum kit. The Kolars mesmerized the audience. They are slated to return to desert for the Joshua Tree Music Festival on Oct. 6.

Friday night brought Skylar Gudasz back for another indoor set. On the outdoor stage, Jonathan Segel of Camper Van Beethoven showed off his guitar and violin talents while bandmate Victor Krummenacher supported Segel on the bass.

Jesika Von Rabbit also brought her show to Pappy and Harriet’s. Focusing on her solo material like “You Drive Me Ape”—including the banana cannibalization by one of her ever-present Grundle sidekicks, which also included a leather-clad gorilla-faced Grundle. A new fan favorite, “Dog at a Human Party,” brought a four-legged friend to the front of the stage. Todd Rutherford Johnson from Gram Rabbit joined Jesika onstage, pleasing Gram Rabbit fans by closing with “Dirty Horse.”

Camper Van Beethoven headlined on Friday, with lead vocalist David Lowery present and wearing all-white, forgoing the “Pajama Party” theme of the night. Campout participant Douglas Avery of Arizona wore his best bathrobe and turned in a fine impersonation of the “Dude” for the pajama party.

Lowery sang the hits, including “Eye of Fatima (Part 1)” and “White Riot.” Camper Van Beethoven also played “Northern California Girls,” a 2013 release from the album La Costa Perdida. Pajama-clad fans sang and danced with joy.

Saturday featured the Dangers, a staple of the Campout, along with the Whiskey Gentry duo. Los Rios Rock School, a music academy in Orange County, offered students an opportunity to play a rock show.

Ike Reilly, a singer song writer from Libertyville, Ill., performed solo, warming up the audience for Cracker. He just released his seventh studio album, Born on Fire (Rock Ridge Music/Firebrand). Reilly is a fabulous storyteller, a fact best demonstrated by the title track “Born on Fire,” a song about his middle child: “Don’t let nobody try to dampen your flame, try to cool you down, try to make you change, try to steal your heat, or mock your desire. Take your flames to the street cause you were born on fire.” Johnny Hickman joined Reilly onstage, and a request for a female backing singer resulted in an onstage female invasion.

It is safe to say that Cracker drew the biggest crowd on Saturday. I ran into one of my blog followers, Rocio, who was attending her first Campout. She is a music fan who seemingly appears at every must-see concert, meaning her presence is a true litmus test on what is good and hip in music. She’s also a former Marine who turned in several tours during the War on Terror. I suggested that she shout out a request for “Yalla Yalla,” a song about the Persian Gulf conflict, since the song is seldom heard at the Campout. Alas, she did not feel comfortable screaming out a request.

Lowery wore his vintage “The Inland Empire: We will kick your ass” shirt, a slogan I first heard about when Lowery penned an op-ed after the San Bernardino shooting. Cracker performed well with hits including “Teenage Angst,” “The World Is Mine” and “Low.”

After the show, I ran into Rocio. She smiled and told me Cracker played her favorite song “Almond Grove” from their latest release, Berkeley to Bakersfield. I did not ask her if she knew someone who could relate to this somber song, including the lyrics, “See my big brother Jack? He went to Kandahar, but he never came back.”

Sometimes, people ask me: Why go to the Campout, with the same two headliners and the same lead singer, year after year? The answer is simple. Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker have cultivated a catalog of songs making the bands as relevant now as they were two decades ago. Attendee Jessica Auck said it best: “It’s the only place in the universe where I love the audience as much as I love the band.”

Published in Reviews

Campout 11 came to Pappy and Harriet’s for three days starting last Thursday, Aug. 27, bringing to Pioneertown the annual migration of “Campers” and “Crumbs” fanatics from all over the United States, Canada and even the United Kingdom.

Custom, of course, dictates that there are dress themes everyday. Thursday’s unofficial theme was “Pink,” in commemoration of fan Karen Pratt-Mills, aka “KPM,” who passed earlier this year due to cancer. A sea of pink demonstrated the strong bond among this family of music fans.

The Hickman-Dalton Gang was the first band to perform inside. Hickman entered stage-right, strapped on his Gibson Les Paul “Lucky Seven” guitar and said: “Lots of love for Karen.” Johnny Hickman was wearing a pink KPM sticker in the style of the ETG logo (Eurotrash Girl). Claire Wilcox, one of the Queen Crumbs, told me Nancy Wheeler produced the sticker to hand out to fans with the help of Jan Switzer and Steve Rizzari. This example of friendship among Campout fans is the type of bond that keeps this mini-festival going.

The Hickman-Dalton Gang played the first song they wrote together: “Mexican Jail.” Later, Dalton noted: “This song is not on the list, but a pretty girl asked for this song,” as he introduced “My Name Is Dalton.”

With the audience warmed up, bluegrass came to the Campout thanks to Whiskey Gentry, formed by wife and husband Lauren Staley and Jason Morrow. Staley’s voice was impeccable, and Whiskey Gentry hooked me with “Martha”—a song the duo reportedly wrote about a week ago.

The Cracker duo, Johnny Hickman and David Lowery, shut things down Thursday night. Lowery greeted the crowd: “Hello, everybody. Welcome to Campout 11,” before starting with “Torches and Pitchforks,” off of Berkeley to Bakersfield; the lyrics powerfully echo the activism Lowery famously exhibits on behalf of artists’ rights: “We will fight you from the mountains, and we will fight you in the streets, and we will fight you in the valleys; you cannot take what isn’t yours.” The duo also played “Low” in addition to “Eurotrash Girl” and “Duty Free.” Hickman took the lead on vocals for “Wedding Day,” leaving his admirers content.

Friday night’s outdoor stage featured Jonathan Segel on guitar, with Victor Krummenacher on bass, playing cool jams showcasing their instrumental skills. Whiskey Gentry offered a set that was expanded from the night before. Lauren Staley said this was her first time in California; it seemed she might have been hooked on the high desert scene.

Camper Van Beethoven headlined on Friday. The theme: classy dames and able gents. Of course, lead vocalist David Lowery wore a tuxedo. Listening to Lowery sing “Eye of Fatima (Part 1)” was worth the price of admission alone. Segel and Krummenacher shredded and grooved, making people want to dance—with the bonus of hearing Camper Van Beethoven’s cover of Status Quo’s “Matchstick Men.”

Thayer Sarrano, from Athens, Ga., opened on the outdoor stage on Saturday. Her honeyed voice grabbed me, and her song “Shaky,” from her album of the same name, blew me away.

The Queen of Joshua Tree, Jesika Von Rabbit, was up next. Jesika showcased favorites like “You Drive Me Ape,” “Devils Playground,” “Dirty Horse” and “Glamorous Misery,” whose video is astonishing but very NSFW. Jesika ended with “Din Ho,” a fast-paced song about a defunct Yucca Valley Chinese restaurant that gets you wanting to square dance.

Cracker headlined the outdoor show, and many fans wore Bakersfield or Berkeley garb. Cracker played the hits including “The World Is Mine,” “Low” and “Teenage Angst.” Cracker also played the very melancholy but flawless “Almond Grove,” from the group’s latest, Berkeley to Bakersfield: “Yeah, I’m going back home, to the cotton fields to the almond groves, to the old homestead, see my Ma and Pa, see my big brother Jack, he went to Kandahar, but he never came back.”

Cracker does not normally play encores, but the band came back with “You Got Yourself Into This,” also from the latest release. Lowery handed the baton to Hickman to close the outdoor show with “San Bernardino Boy,” a non-autobiographical tune about a young Inland Empire lad who sounds like someone you might run into in this part of the desert.

For those with endless endurance, Frank Funaro played a great Lou Reed set to end Campout 11.

Published in Reviews