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Camper Van Beethoven celebrates 30th anniversary in Davis

Camper Van Beethoven — front row, Jonathan Segel, left, David Lowery, Victor Krummenacher, and back row, Greg Lisher and Frank Funaro — performs in Davis on Monday, Feb. 18. Jason Thrasher/Courtesy photo

By
From page A13 | February 12, 2013 |

Innovative, indie rock originator Camper Van Beethoven is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a new album and tour.

For the first time in more than 25 years, the band will perform in Davis at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18, at the Odd Fellows Hall, 415 Second St. in downtown Davis. The Davis Live Music Collective is hosting this all-ages event. Tickets are $18 in advance at www.davislivemusic.com, or $20 at the door.

At 2 p.m. Feb. 18, Camper Van Beethoven will put on a free in-store performance at Armadillo Music, 205 F St. in Davis.

The band’s eighth album, “La Costa Perdida,” the first in nine years, is a musical road trip through Northern California.

“If you want a visual landscape of this album, start at Big Sur, go up through San Mateo, skip over to the San Francisco waterfront, leap to Marin, and up to Humboldt,” bassist and founding member Victor Krummenacher said in a recent interview. The band spent many years traversing the Northern California coastline. “We did a lot of time in Santa Cruz, about six years. We were the kings of weekend runs.”

“La Costa Perdida” translates to the lost coast.

“We’re looking at California with nostalgia and rose-colored glasses, but with an awareness that the idealized California is kinda gone,” Krummenacher explained. “We’re creating a musical and lyrical language of these lost places. There’s something about Camper that can be very happy and sad at the same time. It’s bittersweet coming down the coast.”

It’s the poignant aspect of Camper Van Beethoven that sticks with the listener.

“We’re at an age where we can get reflective,” he said. “There are a lot of parents in the band. Friends are dying. There’s a lot of light and dark.”

The gentle album opener “Come Down the Coast” perfectly captures the reflective nature of the band.

“It’s a much more traditional song,” Krummenacher said. “We’re trying to emphasize the delicate. That is the playing of guys in their 40s. If we did that in our 20s, we’d be playing all over each other.”

Don’t let the mellow opener fool you — Camper Van Beethoven has not gone soft. The punk rock energy remains. After all, the band practically invented alternative rock with its sonic hybrid of folk, punk, gypsy music, ska and psychedelic rock.

“Peaches in the summertime” perfectly encapsulates the band’s genre-hopping.

“I spent a lot of time listening to mid-‘70s Turkish prog-rock,” Krummenacher said. “I found a chord progression that I really liked. The drummer and I went in and bashed it out really quick. It has this syncopated ska rhythm guitar and a vaguely Asian-sounding guitar line. It’s a good example of what we do.”

“La Costa Perdida” recently hit No. 1 on the alternative charts.

“I’m stunned that after nine years we’d go straight to Number 1 on the charts,” Krummenacher said. “It’s a conundrum, but we do have a dedicated fan base.”

While the album is doing well, Krummenacher and his bandmates still have day jobs.

“In the mid-‘80s to ‘90s I was a full-time musician, but by 1996 I was tired of being poor,” he laughed. “I went off the road from ’96 to ’98 and didn’t tour at all.”

While not a full-time musician at the moment, Krummenacher said, “I can’t complain. I’m very fortunate to be pushing 50 and still able to play. I’m playing with really talented bands.

“Sometimes when I’m playing a smaller place on a weeknight, I think being home with the dog wouldn’t be so bad,” he added with a laugh. “But as I get older it’s easier to realize the grass is always greener. The traveling life is impossible to get away from. If you obsess on it, it will drive you crazy. You just roll with it.”

Why has the band waited so long to play Davis?

“I don’t know, it’s been a while,” he said. “I’ve played in Winters a lot on my own. I opened for Dave Alvin at The Palms. Jonathan Segal is from Davis. We wrote a good chunk of Camper’s third album in Jonathan’s mother’s living room in 1986.”

What’s next for Camper Van Beethoven?

“We have another record that’s about halfway done,” he said. “There’s five songs recorded that I think are great and a few more that aren’t recorded that I think could be done.

“I don’t intend to wait another nine years,” he said. “I don’t know how active Camper can be at any point just because of the weird economics of being middle-aged and doing music. But I don’t think we’ll stop until we’re in wheelchairs.”

— Reach Landon Christensen at [email protected]

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