Wednesday, May 25, 2011

David Lowery at Blueberry Hill, 5/24/11: Review, Photos and Setlist

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2011 at 10:03 AM

David Lowery at the Duck Room in Blueberry Hill - IAN FROEB
  • Ian Froeb
  • David Lowery at the Duck Room in Blueberry Hill
David Lowery/Johnny Hickman
Blueberry Hill
May 24, 2011

In February, after nearly three decades as the lead singer of Camper Van Beethoven and then Cracker, David Lowery released his first (excellent) solo effort, The Palace Guards. That album was the ostensible reason for his appearance last night at Blueberry Hill, but for those who filled the folding chairs in front of the Duck Room stage, a more appropriate touchstone would have been 300 Songs, the blog that Lowery began last year to chronicle, in highly discursive fashion, every song from his long career.

Lowery, it seemed, wanted to tell stories as much as he wanted to sing songs. It's a testament to his skill at both that the crowd, with very few exceptions, was happy to indulge him.

Johnny Hickman opened for David Lowery at Blueberry Hill. - IAN FROEB
  • Ian Froeb
  • Johnny Hickman opened for David Lowery at Blueberry Hill.
Johnny Hickman, Lowery's longtime Cracker bandmate, opened the show with a rollicking set drawn from his contributions to the Cracker catalog as well as his solo project (Palmhenge) and the Hickman-Dalton Gang, his shitkicker-country collaboration with Jon Dalton of Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.

Hickman is best known for the guitar-slinging that helped turn "Low" and "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)" into inescapable '90s alt-rock hits, but he also has a knack for writing catchy roadhouse pop, and the crowds' clapping and hollering suggested that the sedate seating arrangement might have been a mistake. Standouts included two new songs: a funny spurned-lover riff with the chorus "Holy my drink / while I kiss your girlfriend" and the Lolita-baiting "Papa Johnny's Arms," which trod that delicate line between insidiously sexy and downright creepy.

David Lowery arrived on stage looking like your favorite career-adjunct professor: bearded, black-frame glasses, thrift-store button down, faded jeans. He sat on a stool, strapped on his acoustic guitar and then, before strumming a lick of gorgeous Palace Guards highlight "I Sold the Arabs the Moon," using handwritten notes and (presumably) whatever was on the screen of his Macbook as reference, talked about the time that Cracker toured U.S. bases in Iraq.

There was a tangential link between these stories and the song (the clash of civilizations, etc., etc.), but mostly Lowery dwelled on the gallows humor of the soliders who shepherded him in country: their habit of announcing over the communication systems, "BOOM!"; the ominously named highway, "Route Baltimore," which Lowery later learned had led them straight through dangerous Sadr City; a soldiers' reaction, after returning to the U.S., to the backstage amenities of a music festival (tents, port-a-potties, steam-table food): "I can get this shit in Iraq!"

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