Started as an East Coast version of the Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven Campout—the long-running California festival featuring songwriter, guitarist and UGA music-business instructor David Lowery’s two influential rock bands—the fourth annual Camp-in happens in Athens Thursday, Jan. 19–Saturday, Jan. 21.
Nearly a dozen acts will hit the 40 Watt Club stage over the course of the three-day concert, including, of course, Cracker and CVB, as well as Crooked Fingers and Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann; Peter Case, known for his work with legendary bands The Nerves and The Plimsouls; long-running Athens rockers Daisy; and local Americana favorites The Darnell Boys. Early shows at Flicker Theatre & Bar and Hendershot’s on Friday and Saturday feature additional performers. (See the Calendar for complete listings.)
Though there’s no actual camping involved, the Athens series, like its West Coast counterpart, is a communal affair that blurs the line between performer and fan, a festive gathering of folks united in appreciation for the music of the event’s flagship groups. Below, three of this year’s Camp-in performers offer up odes to Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven:
Edward David Anderson:
“I love Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey. Every tune. [My band] Backyard Tire Fire toured a bunch with Cracker on that record, so I got to hear it live nightly. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, WXRT played them tons, and my first band covered “Eurotrash Girl,” so it was crazy to get to know them and play shows together years later. Their dedication to the craft is both admirable and inspirational. And they continue to write great songs and put out relevant records. Cheers, gents!”
Edward David Anderson plays the 40 Watt Club Thursday, Jan. 19 at 8:30 p.m.
“One minute I was at a party, and I heard the song ‘Jack Ruby’ by Camper Van Beethoven and fell in love with ‘Sweethearts.’ I didn't know the name of the band, but I felt connected to the voice and the words. I did not play guitar then. In the morning, a band named Cracker exploded out of the radio in Chicago. I recognized the voice, but now there were laser-like guitar riffs with that voice.
“Somewhere in between, I started to play guitar and write songs. Seconds later, I was in a bar with David Lowery in NYC discussing the production of my first album. Then, in a moment, I heard Cracker sing a song of mine called ‘Duty Free.’ They sang it into a tape machine.
“Just in the nick of time, I was on the road, troubadour style, setting fire to fast-food joints with Johnny Hickman. The next day, David and Johnny and I were in my old Ford doing donuts somewhere off Elston Avenue. We woke up in the parlor room of my place, and David, dressed in white, was reading a magazine, and black-shirted Johnny was charming my kids. Soon, in Athens, GA, I'll be singing with my heroes and friends.”
Ike Reilly plays the 40 Watt Club Friday, Jan. 20 at 8:15 p.m.
“I would have to say my favorite Cracker songs would be ‘Almond Grove’ and ‘Big Dipper.’ It is extremely hard to choose a favorite, because there are so many great songs. When we finished tracking ‘Almond Grove,’ I knew it was special. I am very proud to have been involved with that recording. ‘Big Dipper’ is just a fantastic example of rock music as fine art. That song is an audible painting.”
Bryan Howard plays the 40 Watt Club Saturday, Jan. 21 at 10 p.m. (with Cracker) and 11:45 p.m. (with The HEAP).
DAVID LOWERY AND JOHNNY HICKMAN The Cracker guitarists and songwriters play an unplugged set. See story on p. 12.
EDWARD DAVID ANDERSON Americana singer-songwriter from Illinois.
PETER CASE Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and producer known for his work with the Nerves and the Plimsouls.
CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN Fronted by local fixture David Lowery, this influential indie rock band performs a set of its hits. See story on p. 12.
THE DARNELL BOYS The three Darnell brothers play and sing country blues originals backed by upright bass, singing saw and junkyard percussion.
DAISY On-again, off-again Athens rock band.
IKE REILLY Chicago-based alt-rock singer-songwriter.
CRACKER Acclaimed rock group fronted by David Lowery that has explored many genres and sounds over its two-decade career. See story on p. 12.
ERIC BACHMANN Bachmann (Archers of Loaf, Crooked Fingers) performs his folky, evocative music.
THE HEAP Funky indie-soul band based here in Athens with a killer horn section and fronted by Bryan Howard's low, bass growl.
THE DRAPES Local '50s cover band from Nuci's Space's Camp Amped program.