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Lulu’s Downstairs launches with impressive July lineup 

click to enlarge Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker both coming to Lulu’s Downstairs could be a sign of exciting things to come. - JASON THRASHER
  • Jason Thrasher
  • Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker both coming to Lulu’s Downstairs could be a sign of exciting things to come.

Next month brings an exciting new entry into Manitou Springs’ music ecosystem, when new venue Lulu’s Downstairs kicks off on July 11 with its launch party. The initial lineup of acts shows that it’s looking to be a robust addition to the musical offerings in Manitou (and Colorado Springs), with appearances from Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Sasami, local favorites Spirettes, Boulder alt-country standouts Gasoline Lollipops, and the Massachusetts-based, self-described “circus punk” act Bella’s Bartok.

One upcoming Lulu’s show is particularly eye-popping: the July 17 one-two punch of musician David Lowery’s two wildly acclaimed projects, Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven.

Lowery himself is a bit of a modern renaissance man — a mathematician and financial analyst, holder of a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, producer, and a tireless advocate for artists’ rights in the digital era, taking on the likes of Pandora and Napster (in its streaming, Rhapsody-era incarnation).

That’s all, of course, on top of his esteemed career as a performer and songwriter. Lowery was a founding member of Camper Van Beethoven in 1983, and the group experimented with a wide-ranging sound that dabbled in American folk and alt-country (before that term had found any sort of mainstream purchase), punk rock, ska, progressive rock and psychedelia, and worldwide folk traditions. Or, as the band described itself, “surrealist absurdist folk.”

Postmodern musical pranksterism aside, Camper Van Beethoven found critical acclaim and, for an independent band of the era, a degree of commercial acceptance. 

Their early single “Take the Skinheads Bowling” became a college radio favorite, and their first three LPs, released in a mere 18-month span, all were selected for the Dean’s List of the 1986 Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll.

Lowery formed Cracker with guitarist Johnny Hickman in 1991, and it acts, again, as an ensemble led by genre fusion — albeit more streamlined and frequently oriented around alternative rock and rootsy country — and Lowery’s ever-eccentric, irreverent songwriting. Cracker’s 1993 LP Kerosene Hat was certified Platinum and featured the hit single “Low,” while more recent efforts such as 2009’s Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey and 2014’s Berkeley to Bakersfield have received critical accolades as the band has continued to expand its sonic territory.

Since Camper Van Beethoven’s unexpected revival in 1999, Lowery has split time between both bands, with members of each sometimes joining the other, depending on which act is touring at the time. The joint appearance of the two projects hints that exciting things could be in store. Be sure not to miss this one.

Elsewhere, on the hip-hop front, the Black Sheep has its own one-two punch this week, with shows of note on June 21 and 22.

On Friday, June 21, Las Vegas-based emcee Dizzy Wright makes his return to the Black Sheep stage. Wright’s experience in show business started early, finding inspiration from his uncles, who happen to be none less than Layzie Bone and Flesh-N-Bone of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. He signed to Hopsin’s Funk Volume record label in 2012, and released his debut LP, SmokeOut Conversations, appropriately, on April 20 of that year.

Wright’s 2015 sophomore LP, The Growing Process, was both a chart success and garnered critical praise for its effective synthesis of Wright’s influences and decidedly future-minded approach. His latest effort, Nobody Cares, Work Harder, was released in March 2019.

The following night, June 22, Boulder-based emcee Xiuhtezcatl takes the Black Sheep stage, with Fort Collins’ Write Minded in support. While Xiuhtezcatl is still a young artist, the rapper and activist already boasts an impressive résumé. He performed with Immortal Technique and Nahko at the Standing Rock encampment, has performed in front of the United Nations General Assembly, has acted as a leader in the Youth v. Gov. lawsuit against the United States government concerning climate change, and written a best-selling book, We Rise. You can hear Xiuhtezcatl’s unique sound on his debut LP, Break Free, and a new single “Cell Phone,” which dropped in May 2019.

Send news, photos, and music to collin@csindy.com.

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