The Third Annual Camper Van Beethoven Campout

Allen David

Posted September 28, 2007 in Music

There are two things you’ll find at sundown in Pioneertown–tumbleweeds that dance their lonely dance across sun-baked Mane Street, and Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, which bills itself as the rowdiest honky-tonk bar this side of the Mississippi. It probably deserves the title, with the pool tables, sawdust on the floor, cowgirls quaffing beer in midriffs and tight jeans, a real shit-kicker’s paradise. And sure, Pioneertown may seem like a pain-in-the-ass trek to BFE even by IE standards–a long dusty drive of interminable drabness, relieved only by the Morongo Casino looming like the Eye of Sauron, and then some beautiful patches of high dessert up around Joshua Tree that make the drive well worth it. But it is a country hoedown venue, albeit one with some heart, soul and intelligence–a place where good independent music is played every night and more so on one particular weekend in September.

David Lowery of Cracker/Camper fame is the man, an IE native and Indie God of Yore, the prime motivator in this shindig. This is the third year he has called together groups with various and sundry musical approaches that can still be comfortably umbrella’d under the ‘roots and rhythm’ vibe. Some of this year’s sights to see and sounds to absorb into your sweaty pores–in addition to Lowery’s own fine bands–are Joshua Tree’s own mystic hipsters par excellence, Gram Rabbit; and the sexy pipes of the Watson Twins (who backed Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley on their wonderful Rabbit Fur Coat). Tim Easton will be there, a fine singer-songwriter who also wields a Gibson ’47 like a Tommy gun, a cool bastard who writes from his heart. So what can you expect should you make the long journey to the badlands? Here’s a peek from a male/female vantage point

The Crowds

She says: Becoming the object of infatuation from a chain-smoking, pot-bellied beer-guzzling goon looking to score a night or two in my "tent." I can’t imagine a sight more beloved than Aragorn on his steed. Surely I exaggerate, but in the dark even without the glasses, the girth was undeniable. Middle-aged women in large flowing skirts gyrating to CVB’s fiddle guy notes. Fiddle guy flirting with twenty-somethings, midriffs exposed and camel toes hanging in plain view. As if!

He says: Na, you got it all wrong, Sister. This is the hippest crowd you’ll ever care to meet. With a collective sartorial splendor that has to be seen to be believed: sort of Gunsmoke meets the Salvation Army with a smidgen of the Rat Pack thrown in. And the crowd is about ten times more appreciative and mellower than the ‘seen it all’ LA turds.

The Food

She says: The veggie burger–a girl’s figure friendly fallback, eaten amongst Neko Case and Jesika Von Rabbit a few feet away? You can take your chances with the hot dog stand down Mane Street, but I’d stick with the Pappy’s.

He says: The best burger I ever ate. Great beer on tap. Funny, efficient waitresses. Great ambience, dark wood, tattoos, jean jackets, Americana at it’s best. Jack Kerouac and Woody Guthrie would dig this place; George W. Bush–not so much.

The Music

She says: Gram Rabbit totally rocks! Lead singer Jesika Von Rabbit’s (bunny ears and bushy tail in tow) atmospheric energy really mesmerizes the crowd. The bunny gals prancing on stage, throwing out freebies is more satisfying than a Playboy movie. Victor Krummenacher totally overpowered Lowery’s CVB lyrical set, but it didn’t beat Cracker’s rabble-rousing set that ultimately made the drive worth it.

He says: Dude loves the Von Rabbit, too. The Watson Twins sing like angels and darned if they don’t look like them. Victor Krummenacher is number two man in Camper but he has his own twisted county noir vision that is well worth listening. Thought he outdid his man Lowery last year. Magnolia Electric Company has one of the great indie songwriters around with Jason Molina. Guy is only 31 and he’s released over ten albums in one incarnation or another; he writes ‘em sad and sweet and isn’t a dickweed like Ryan Adams or dead like Elliot Smith.

Third Annual Camper Van Beethoven Campout, Sept. 6-8, at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace (53688 Pioneertown Road; take I-10 east to HWY 62 north. Turn left at Wamego Road (which turns into Pioneertown Road). Tickets, three-day pass, $62; Fri or Sat only, $27 each. For more info:


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