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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cracker Performs an Intimate, Stripped-Down Set at Euclid Records: Review

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 5:17 AM

Cracker, performing at Euclid Records. - MIKE VANGEL
  • Mike Vangel
  • Cracker, performing at Euclid Records.

Cracker was always one of those bands that my dad sort of used to like. Meaning that in my iTunes under "Cracker," there are just a few songs off the band's debut album and its follow-up, Kerosene Hat, whose name I only know for sure because I Googled it. There's nothing listed in the "Album" field, which means those tracks probably came from our brief stint with Kazaa. (Sorry, David Lowery & Co.)

Because he'd introduced me, I invited my dad to come along to Cracker's performance Saturday afternoon at Euclid Records.

"You excited?" I asked as we drove to Webster Groves.

"Eh...not really. I guess," he replied. To be fair, it can take a lot to get a rise out of him.

Arriving a little after three, we ducked inside out of the cold. Gold and red tinsel hung above the windows, and the record store was warm and inviting compared to the gray December afternoon.

MIKE VANGEL
  • Mike Vangel

One or two guys flipped through the rows of LPs, and since the band hadn't yet arrived, we joined them. Over the next half hour, more and more middle-aged couples trickled in, visibly anxious for the band to get there.

Cracker swung through St. Louis this past weekend for an engagement at the Duck Room on Saturday night, one stop on a tour to support the upcoming release of its tenth studio album, Berkeley to Bakersfield. The album is a double-disc affair which, as Cracker frontman David Lowery told Rolling Stone, "sums up our history, our career."

The first disc, Berkeley, draws mostly on the band's alternative-rock roots, which inspired bigger hits like "Low." The second disc delves into the group's country origins, and was recorded with a host of guest musicians from Athens, Georgia.

In the sort of calculated twist usually reserved for low-budget films and my life, Athens is also home to R.E.M., whose album Fables of the Reconstruction started playing over Euclid's stereo shortly after we walked in. "That's where I saw them!" my dad announced later. Finally, it clicked -- he'd seen Lowery's first group, Camper Van Beethoven, open for R.E.M. here back in the mid-80s, likely touring for that same album. Talk about coincidence.

I left him to reminisce about Camper's heyday with one of the store's employees while I continued to browse. In an era when record store appearances are increasingly rare, I'll speculate that Cracker's appearance had at least something to do with Lowery's crusade against music-streaming companies such as Pandora, which has garnered him some national attention over the last few years.

The store was filling by that point, but for the most part no one was buying records, just waiting for the show. It occurred to me that I should get an album and have the band sign it, ideally a copy of Kerosene Hat or Cracker, since that was really the music I knew. I checked the new rock LPs first, then the new CDs, followed by the used LPs and the wall of used CDs. Not a single disc.

It wasn't until the band's white minivan taxi pulled up at 3:37 p.m. that a box of new CDs appeared. The room bristled with excitement. Lowery strutted in wearing a black fur coat and Bono-esque blue shades, followed by co-founding guitarist Johnny Hickman, whose cowboy boots clacked on the store's wooden floors.

Continue to page two for more.

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