Cracker Tour Dates
12/05/14 Chicago, IL Old Town SchoolHugh Bob Tour Dates
12/06/14 St. Louis, MO Blueberry Hill's Duck
12/27/14 San Francisco, CA The Independent
12/28/14 San Francisco, CA The Independent
12/29/14 Santa Barbara, CA Lobero Theatre
12/30/14 Solana Beach, CA Belly Up Tavern
12/31/14 Denver, CO Soiled Dove Underground
01/02/15 Carrboro, NC Cat's Cradle
01/03/15 Nashville, TN City Winery Nashville
01/14/15 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
01/15/15 Toronto, ON Lee's Palace
01/16/15 Cambridge, MA Middle East Downstairs
01/17/15 Philadelphia, PA World Cafe Live
01/18/15 New York, NY B.B. King Blues Club
12/05 The Frequency Madison, WIRead More
12/12 Cactus Club* Milwaukee, WI
* w/ Frankie Lee
Hugh Bob and the Hustle
photo by Amy
Masterson’s songwriting takes a real Springsteen-esque approach, using his experiences growing up in the tiny northern town of Butternut, WI to provide color and life to his songs. Small town living isn’t the only theme, however, as Masterson joked that getting a song on the radio in Milwaukee requires making the city the subject - hence “Milwaukee Man”!
Near the end of the set, Masterson announced that he was gearing up to move the band to Nashville; the Hustle’s final regional show scheduled for tonight in Madison at the Frequency. I’d bet my money on their move turning out to be a success. In fact, they’ve already been garnering positive reviews from local press.
“This band is called Cracker,” lead singer David Lowery rumbled into the mic as an Ennio Morricone-style intro led the band on stage. Cracker, like Lowery’s other group, Camper Van Beethoven, has explored a variety of musical genres in the 20-odd years they’ve been making music. Where CVB injected traditional Eastern European music and psychedelia into their punk songs, Cracker has had more of a surf and roots slant to their rock tunes - an amalgamation that has been dubbed “Bakersfield Country,” named for the California city where the band practices. The band that scored the 90s alternative rock hit “Low” can also bust out western-flavored tearjerkers like “Where Have Those Days Gone,” the song that opened their set.
The band’s new album, Berkeley to Bakersfield, to be released next week on 429 Records, is divided up into two discs: one is influenced heavily by classic country music (Bakersfield) and the other has more of a punk-rock spirit (Berkeley). Songs like “California Country Boy” and “King of Bakersfield” showcased some incredible slide guitar playing compliments of the band member known only as “Pistol” as well as some spectacular solos from guitar-slinger Johnny Hickman. Hickman also sang lead on “California Country Boy” and “Friends,” provided Lowery with back-up vocals and offered the occasional yodeling.
Lowery himself said little but looked sharp with mirrored sunglasses and a black cowboy hat, singing each song with that gruff Southern California drawl that I love so much. New songs like “El Comandante” and “March of the Billionaires” prove that Lowery’s biting humor and commentary is as sharp as ever. Cuts from Cracker’s first two records, however, like “Low” and “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)” sparked some passionate sing-alongs in the crowd (and in one concert-goer, an intense dance routine). Through the course of the night, I was treated to one of my favorites “Get Off This,” the blues-y “Been Around the World” from 1998’s Gentleman’s Blues and a soaring, soulful version of “This is Cracker Soul,” a song that really highlighted the extraordinary musicianship of the band’s bassist (is that a Rickenbacker I spy?) and keys player. When one of Hickman’s guitar pedals broke, Lowery wasted no time and unleashed an acoustic “Torches and Pitchforks,” a modern-day battle hymn that contains the lines: “We will fight your goons and lawyers/and we will fight your pinkertons/and we will fight your bought-off congressmen/you cannot take what isn’t yours.”
As the set came to a close with “I See A Light” the mirrorballs dangling above showered fans with tiny white lights. For the encore, the band kicked into “San Bernardino Boy” with Hickman on lead vocals and Lowery taking over again on “St. Cajetan,” the latter sounding like a slow-burning last call. The world may not need another folk singer; maybe just more David Lowery.
Cracker will continue their tour through January. Berkeley to Bakersfield drops December 9th on 429 Records! And for podcast listeners: Check out David Lowery’s insightful interview with Marc Maron on Maron’s WTF Podcast!
Cracker at the Varsity Theater, Minneapolis (04 Dec 2014)
photo by Amy