There are so many festivals nowadays, each trying to be bigger and better than the next, that these often over-corporate special events just don’t seem, well, that “special” anymore. So the fourth annual Campout music festival in Pioneertown is welcome precisely because of its contrastingly understated bearing, eccentric setting, and authentic come-together aura.
First off, Pioneertown (about 26 miles north of Palm Springs, close to Joshua Tree National Park) happens to be a former live-in Old West movie set. It’s all there, down to actual bullet holes in the signage and hitching posts for horses. Campout’s held at the semi-legendary Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, which bills itself as the “best honky-tonk west of the Mississippi.” Even without any music, the place is worth a visit. Oh, but there’s plenty of music. The very fact that Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker co-host/headline the Campout adds to its cozy vibrations: the two bands are incestuously entangled (no, not literally) and both currently feature David Lowery (vocals/guitar) and Frank Funaro (drums). Furthermore, Cracker recorded their signature album, Kerosene Hat, in 1993 in Pioneertown’s now-gone soundstage; and Camper Van Beethoven formed in not-too-distant Redlands in 1983 (before relocating to Santa Cruz).
Things ease in on the Thursday night this year, with an indoor acoustic set from David Lowery and Cracker’s Johnny Hickman and a performance by CVB’s Greg Lisher, Victor Krummenacher and Jonathan Segel. Over the weekend there are both indoor and outdoor stages. Camper Van Beethoven headline on the Friday, with a bill completed by Built To Spill, Quasi and The Dangers. On the Saturday it’s Cracker’s turn, with local luminary Brant Bjork (and his band The Bros.), Citay and others rounding-out the day. (Paul Rogers)
4th Annual Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven Campout at Pappy & Harriet’s Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown, (760) 365-5956, www.crackersoul.com. Thursday, September 11–Saturday, September 13; All ages.