Friday Night Fun at the Tractor Tavern With Camper Van Beethoven & Casey Neill and the Norway Rats, By Holly Homan

Jonathan Segel, still a hottie after all these years

Jonathan Segel, still a hottie after all these years

The last time I saw Camper Van Beethoven was maybe six or seven years ago and prior to that, the late eighties — probably 1988. I listened to them endlessly in 1988 and 1989, but then they split up, singer David Lowery started Cracker who received moderate airplay in the early nineties, until Camper Van reunited. When I saw they were playing Seattle again, I decided to attend at least for a trip down memory lane. This show turned out to be more than just a nostalgia trip. Camper Van Beethoven has withstood the test of time beautifully. Their music is as fresh and relevant as it was twenty-five years ago. They’re all gray now except violinist Jonathan Segel. He’s barely aged. I had a crush on him twenty-five years ago and I guess I still do. A versatile musician, he played violin mostly, but also jumped back and forth between keyboards and electric guitar, often during the same song.

Camper Van performed many of their “hits” from the old Status Quo cover, “Pictures of Matchstick Men” to their famous “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” which has to hold the record of the most quirky lyrics of any pop song. Then there were songs like “Turquoise Jewelry” and “Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart” (a song written about Patty Hearst). Those songs still sounded great some twenty-five years after I first heard them.

There wasn’t a lot of audience interaction with this band, but that’s okay. Their music speaks for itself quite well. But when they did interact with this sold out crowd, they teased them about dancing like pine trees. They played a pretty long set that ended much too quickly and returned for a two-song encore that included the aforementioned “Sweetheart.” I hope I don’t have to wait as long for the next Camper Van Beethoven concert. I would gladly trade Train or Nickelback to have Camper Van Beethoven stick around. They’re one of a kind and very talented.

Opening the show was a band from Portland called Casey Neill and the Norway Rats. They had just come on stage when I walked through the door. I could hear them as I checked in and could already tell they were good. My instincts served me well.

Their music is very eclectic, at times sounding Celtic and often sounding similar to REM. Keyboardist Jenny Conlee gave the band their Celtic flavor when she doubled up on accordion, while singer/lead guitarist Casey Neill sounded eerily like Michael Stipe. This is not a copycat band by any stretch of the imagination. There’s enough uniqueness to make them an original sounding band. Most their songs were laid back and ranged from sultry love songs to observations of riff raff and the underbelly of society. Some songs were hand clapping and danceable and they totally brought the house down with a Scott McCaughey composition, “Lyrical Stance” (much of the band has played in The Minus Five). This is when Casey Neill & the Norway Rats proved they could rock out. There was barely a still body in the house. This is a band worth checking out. They’re fine musicians and put on a fun-filled stage show. I highly recommend Casey Neill & the Norway Rats. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Holly Homan

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