Wearing a classic cowboy hat, lead singer David Lowery declared before CVB started their set, in true cowboy fashion, “We’re too drunk to play” — they’d already played a full set at Central Park’s SummerStage earlier in the night. Then the band launched into a prolonged instrumental track, and the audience could really feel the full force of Camper Van Beethoven’s unique brand of world-folk-jam-psychedelia. After ten years of solo projects (including Lowery’s successful venture with Cracker), the original Camper Van Beethoven line-up is basically back together, with Chris Pederson on drums, Greg Lisher on guitar, Victor Krummenacher on bass, and Jonathan Segel on various strings, plus a few sharp additions to round out the crew.
The band played a few instrumental tracks, and Segal’s mandolin playing stood out from the crowd of violin, guitars, and snare drum, and not just because he was sporting a sparkling bindi in the center of his forehead. After warming up, CVB played “51-7” from the band’s most recent album, last year’s New Roman Times. Kenny Margolis rocked a particularly soulful accordion throughout the set.
Then the Van got pensive, and played an old favorite. Lowery crooned the “Sad Lovers Waltz” from 1986’s II & III. Lowery’s blue eyes watered with appropriate melancholy during the “Waltz” as he strummed his acoustic. Both “51-7” and “Sad Lovers Waltz” have a more alt-country feel to them, and Lowery’s cowboy hat was tipped just so in keeping with the country vibe.
Exhausted towards the end of the set, Lowery parked himself down in the middle of Spin‘s stage with his acoustic guitar propped on his lap. “We’re wasted,” he chuckled before walking off stage with the band in tow. The rest of the band, sans Lowery, was coerced into playing an instrumental encore, and by then the audience was feeling as saucy as the band. Though Camper Van Beethoven has been around as a band longer than most members of Bloc Party have been alive, the band still rocks with the vigor of any young sprite.