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Camper Van Beethoven @House of Blues/SSMF 6/26/08

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Camper Van Beethoven/Photo by "Friends of Camper Van Beethoven" via their website

By Roger Park

This June marks the 25th anniversary of one the most unique bands still rocking the sonic cosmos: Camper Van Beethoven. On Thursday, Camper Van Beethoven performed at the House of Blues in Hollywood as part of the Sunset Strip Music Festival (SSMF). On the same bill that night was Soul Asylum and Everclear.

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Combing elements of rock, Celtic, ska, punk, raga, blues, country, experimental and just about every eccentrically-matched genre, Camper Van Beethoven played a blistering, tight and dynamic 45 minute set. Opening with a thunderous rendition of Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” Camper Van proved their legendary status of one of alternative-rock’s (we just called college rock in the 80s) pioneers. Camper Van's lineup consists of original band members David Lowery(lead vocals / guitar), Jonathan Segel (violin / keys / guitar / vocals), Victor Krummenacher (bass) and Greg Lisher (lead guitar), along with drummer Frank Funaro (Cracker / Joey Ramone / The Dictators).

The band played to an enthusiastic crowd of “the youth” (all ages show, under 25) and “old heads” (35 years and up) – and folks in between. Whether it was the country bounce and retelling of the mod/ska mythic hero of “Where the hell is Bill?” or the searing trippy blues rock and Zeppelin-boom of “Eye of Fatima pt. 1 and pt.2” or the Velvety-drone and sing-a-long of “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” Camper Van shifted genres with precision and grace. The youth dug the huge and clear Camper Van sound as indicated by their head bobbing. And the old heads? Well, we were dancing and singing along with almost every song.