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Break out the Pucker shots and vomit bags: Camper Van Beethoven is turning 21

Wednesday, May 12 2004
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More often than not, 21st birthdays are graceless disasters. Nine out of 10 of us suffer the final passage into adulthood with ghastly alcoholic binging, just to wake the next morning with a cotton-mouth hangover and the hazy recollection of a couple of gratis Pucker shots. That said, put on the party hats kids: Camper Van Beethoven is turning the big two-one!

When CVB charmed college radio audiences back in the '80s, the band was an oddball front-runner in the altrock groundswell, dishing up wacky pop ditties the enjoyment of which required a master's degree in humanities (albeit from a shitty school). Stalwart supporters and music scribes couldn't get enough of CVB's self-categorized "surrealist, absurdist pop." But dumb ol' John Q. Public never caught the drift. When it broke up 13 years and six records later, the Santa Cruz troupe of cult heroes had yet to cross over. Frontman David Lowery hit the charts with his next band, Cracker (remember the "Hey, hey, hey, like being stoned" chorus on "Euro Trash Girl"?), while the rest of the Campers hit the bong and waited for the phone to ring.

It finally rang about two years ago, when Lowery was putting together Cigarettes and Carrot Juice, a box set of CVB's first three LPs that included a collection of previously released oddities and a disc of spontaneous live jams. Is the set remarkable? Hardly. But somehow it provoked a Camper Van Beethoven reunion -- which snowballed into a couple of overseas tours and a renewed interest in these lesser indie godfathers. When they cut loose for their 21st at the Warfield, the place will be crammed with graying mercenaries of the alternative revolution. Daughters, lock up your fathers.

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Nate Cavalieri

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