Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: Cracker Acoustic Duo at Ashland Coffee and Tea

So, I saw the Cracker acoustic duo again the other night at Ashland Coffee and Tea – AKA David Lowery and Johnny Hickman of the band Cracker.  I saw them there 2 or 3 years ago as well.  Both shows were great, although I think I liked the first time better simply because of the novelty of it.
Cracker (Johnny Hickman and David Lowery L to R) on 8/16/13
I’m not really even a Cracker fan.  I was barely aware of their radio hits in the 90’s (Low, Teen Angst [What the World Needs Now], Get Off This and Euro-Trash Girl).  I was a Leftover Salmon fan, so when Leftover collaborated with Cracker on what was sort of like a Cracker’s greatest hits album (Oh Cracker Where Art Thou), I got that CD and it remains one of my all-time favorites.  But that’s pretty much the extent of my Cracker listening.  I have listened to some Camper Van Beethoven though!

I don’t really have any association or history with the versions of the songs that Cracker recorded on their actual albums; if it wasn’t on that Leftover Salmon album I am probably not familiar with the song at all.  Basically, my main impression of Cracker and their songs is from what I’ve been exposed to in these two live performances in a very small room, which I suspect is different than the experience of most Cracker fans who owned their early albums like Cracker and Kerosene Hat and/or who have been there for multiple decades. 

Because of this, it seems sort of weird that I would have liked the two shows so much.  Stripped down to just the two of them on stage, without any apparent baggage of their past rock n’ roll life or fame, my experience was just of a couple dudes ready to deliver some really great songs.  David Lowery’s cynical lyrics are deceptively wise - I like where he's coming from, and Johnny Hickman’s guitar playing is remarkably good, even if it is a little show-offish for my typical taste.
David Lowery and Johnny Hickman of Cracker
I guess the point I’m trying to make is these could have been any two guys up there on stage, giving their songs a shot.  The fact that these guys happen to be relatively famous rock stars who were playing in front of sell out crowds both times, doesn’t really change the fact that they still had to prove their worth on the spot to me, a guy unfamiliar with their work, same as two unknowns playing for a few bucks at the bar across the street would have had to do. 

From the instant I first saw them I could tell these guys were pros, which made me want to go back the next time they played this local venue, even though I never got around to listening to any Cracker albums in between.  I can't remember if they did Loser last time - the Garcia/Hunter song that Jerry performed in the Grateful Dead - but they did it this time as the 3rd song out and it was awesome!

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