It’s September, so that means it’s time for the Campout at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
The ninth annual Campout will be on Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 12-14, and will feature good barbecue, good music and good times.
The history of the Campout begins with Camper Van Beethoven. The members of the band started playing together in Redlands, Calif., in the early 80s, under the name Camper Van Beethoven and the Border Patrol.
“There were a lot of great musicians who came out of Redlands, but there just weren’t a lot of places for us to play,” lead singer David Lowery said during a recent phone interview. “We never really played in Redlands. We played in Los Angeles and sometimes in Riverside. Backyard parties in Riverside were actually all you could do: People would have a big backyard party, have a band over, and invite the neighbors over. We played at some sort of biker party in Muscoy in San Bernardino County, and things like that.”
In 1985, the band shortened their name to just Camper Van Beethoven, with the original lineup of David Lowery (vocals), Chris Molla (guitar), Jonathan Segel (violin, keyboards, and guitars), Victor Krummenacher (bass) and Anthony Guess (drums). Chris Pedersen eventually replaced Guess.
The band released their debut album Telephone Free Landside Victory the same year, which featured the hit single “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” along with a folk-style cover of Black Flag’s “Wasted.” The band’s mix of folk with ska, pop and several different types of world music has gained them a diverse audience, along with the acclaim of music critics.
Lowery said the eclectic style is both a blessing and a curse.
“It makes it easier that we don’t really have a specific sound, and it’s actually kind of helpful,” he said. “In another way, it’s kind of hard, because it’s not necessarily easy to make a wild, eclectic collection of songs. When we make an album, we’ll record a lot of songs, and we’ll pull out a couple of songs that don’t work with the rest of the batch. Ultimately, I think it makes it a little easier for us.”
In 1990, Camper Van Beethoven went on hiatus, and Lowery went on to form Cracker with his childhood friend Johnny Hickman. Cracker released their debut self-titled record in 1992, which featured the single “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now).”
“(Camper Van Beethoven) had the usual creative differences,” Lowery explained. “Victor Krummenacher, Greg Lisher and Chris Pedersen went off to do Monks of Doom, and I started doing Cracker. We ended up basically taking about a decade break, and we didn’t make an album for another three years after we got back together. We just kind of went our separate ways for a while, and then eventually came back together.”
Lowery said the band now has a different approach.
“To this day, there’s something about the pace of the band that makes us work in a part-time fashion,” Lowery said. “We’ll get together and write some songs; we’ll go off and do other stuff; then we’ll get together and write more songs, and then put out an album. It’s not like we go out and do a big world tour. We play a few shows here and there; we don’t burn ourselves out. It’s generally been a good thing for the band. It’s not good to treat a band like a full-time job.”
What would go on to become the Campout was not intended to be an annual event. David Lowery and Camper Van Beethoven have ties to the Pioneertown area and the high desert. In fact, Cracker recorded an album in one of the buildings located on the Western movie set in Pioneertown.
“The original intention behind it was that (it was during) my birthday, and a few people who work for us have birthdays around that weekend. We were going to have a combination of a show and birthday party in Pioneertown,” Lowery said. “We have a long history with Pioneertown. We’d rehearse there; we went there to hang out and write songs. It started out in 2005 as this idea that it’d be a birthday party for all of us, but there was also the strategic reason that there was never really a great venue for Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven to play in, in L.A., and we always got shoved into venues we didn’t like. We thought we’d play in what we considered our ‘home turf’ in Southern California and basically have people come to us.
“It just started out by accident and then turned out to be a regular festival event. We didn’t really expect it to become a tradition, but it did.”
While Pappy and Harriet’s is a small venue, Lowery said it’s a great place for this type of event.
“I think it’s a very beautiful spot. It’s the high desert, so it tends not to be as hot as it would be if we played down in the Coachella Valley,” said Lowery. “I don’t really want to play down there in September. With the high desert—the climate, the terrain—the place has a cool vibe. I hope it continues, because it’s a lot of fun.”
Lowery explained what sets the Campout apart from other festivals.
“It’s based on friends and family. It’s either people who have played with us, people who are friends of us, and it’s the side bands that have come out of Camper Van Beethoven,” said Lowery.
The lineup for the three-day event includes some great names, including Gram Rabbit; Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett and his band, the Dead Peasants; Jackshit, featuring members of Elvis Costello’s backing band; and, of course, Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, and the Victor Krummenacher Band.
The ninth annual Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven Campout takes place Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 12-14, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $27 for one-day passes, or $68 for a three-day pass. For tickets and more information, visit www.crackersoul.com/fr_home.cfm.