This small south Arkansas city was once one of the top oil producers in the nation.
Multi-instrumentalist and singer David Lowery, founder of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, calls Richmond, Va., home, but he feels comfortable when he’s in Arkansas, which most fans will say is not often enough.
Lowery, who along with Cracker partner and buddy-since-childhood Johnny Hickman will play an “acoustic” concert at Juanita’s Cantina Ballroom on Thursday, Oct. 27, has relatives on his father’s side strung throughout Arkansas, from Foreman in the southwest part of the state to Little Rock to Pine Bluff. When he reformed Camper Van Beethoven last year for a record — the alt-rock masterpiece “New Roman Times” — and tour, Lowery says he was hoping promoters would schedule a stop in Fayetteville, but to no avail. “We have a big Camper following up in Fayetteville, and when we would play up there in the past we’d spend several days in the Ozarks,” he said.
“We like coming to Little Rock, we just don’t seem to get there that often. The agents who book our tours don’t always look at Little Rock as a place for us to tour,” Lowery said.
When Lowery, Hickman and the full Cracker accompaniment played Juanita’s in the summer 2000, they packed the place and many fans were turned away at the door. This wasn’t long after the release of “Garage d’Or,” a two-disc set of Cracker hits and some “oddities,” as he called them.
A couple of years ago, Cracker did a one-off with Cross Canadian Ragweed as the openers for Lynyrd Skynyrd at Alltel Arena. Skynyrd fans who had probably never heard Cracker roared their approval for the six-song set, which included such hits as “Low,” “Eurotrash Girl” and “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now).”
“I couldn’t believe they gave us a standing ovation, for an opening act,” Lowery said. “The Skynyrd guys said they’d never seen that before.”
Though dubbed an “acoustic” show, Lowery emphasizes that Thursday’s concert will be as much “electric” as anything, with him and guitarist Hickman performing instead of a full band. “People are surprised at how it rocks,” Lowery said.
“It will be a mix of old favorites,” Lowery says of the unplanned setlist. “It tends to get pretty broad. We’ll do some Camper things, we may be doing some new stuff. Our new record we’re working on is more hard rocking than the usual Cracker. We’ll see how many songs work in that setting.”
Look for a new independent Cracker CD in the spring (Virgin Records handled most of the earlier Cracker work). “It’s weird, we have a record deal with the rest of the world, but not in the U.S.,” Lowery said. “Cracker never did well in Europe, but we caught on five years ago.”
Along with Cracker tours or recording days, Lowery says he enjoys getting the Camper gang together occasionally as well. Cracker works about six or eight shows a month, sometimes with a complete band.
“We started doing this acoustic thing for the first time maybe a year and a half ago and our fans really seem to like it,” he said. “The songs are just in a different context, and we were surprised when we started at how well the shows did, so we kept doing it.
“It doesn’t stop us from playing with a full band, it’s just different.”
Experience a different Cracker on Thursday. Tickets are $15 for ages 18 and up. Showtime is 9 p.m.
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