Many bands get called “eclectic,” and some of them actually are, like Camper Van Beethoven, who played an intimate, wildly eclectic show at Zoey’s Cafe in Ventura on Monday night, nearly three decades after they first formed.
But what would you expect from a band that has songs titled “ZZ Top Goes to Egypt,” “The Poppies of Balmorhea,” “R ‘n’ R Uzbekistan” and “Mao Reminisces About His Days in Southern China”? And those are just some of the instrumentals that they played.
The band — David Lowery on vocals and rhythm guitar and celebrating his 52nd birthday, Greg Lisher on lead guitar, Jonathan Segel on violin and guitar, Victor Krummenacher on bass and Frank Funaro on drums — was revving up for their annual Campout in Pioneertown, which takes place this weekend.
They were also trying out some new songs that presumably will be included on their first album in eight years, La Costa Perdida, which will be released in January. (The band joked that both political parties had asked them to push back the release date so it wouldn’t distract from the election.)
One of the new songs was “Too High for the Love-In,” a surreal acid trip that starts with the noticing of a bird in the kitchen, detours through flying ambulances and ends with the repeating of the phrase “bring to me the anti-venom, make me a sandwich.”
Another new one was the cool bluesy “You’ve Got to Roll,” with lyrics such as “The river is high / Baby so am I.” Afterward, the band joked that they used to be fronted by John Mayall.
The band also played a healthy sampling of tracks from their days of yore, including a country waltz, songs that sound like what I imagine Eastern European pub rock would sound like, and a bit of ska. Some highlights were “Tania,” “Good Guys & Bad Guys,” “Tina,” “Shut Us Down,” their classic cover of Black Flag’s “Wasted” and their best-known original song, “Take The Skinheads Bowling.”
The main set closed with “Opi Rides Again / Club Med Sucks,” which includes a dose of hard-core punk rock for good measure. For an encore, the band played their hit cover of Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and an energetic cover of the traditional folk song “Shady Grove.”
As the band is approaching their 30th anniversary, their eclectic nature continues to shine through, much to the audience’s delight. Long live Camper Van Beethoven!
ZZ Top Goes to Egypt
Eye of Fatima
Too High for the Love-In
Sad Lover’s Waltz
Good Guys & Bad Guys
The Poppies of Balmorhea
White Riot (The Clash cover)
Wasted (Black Flag cover)
Shut Us Down
R ‘n’ R Uzbekistan
When I Win the Lottery
You’ve Got to Roll
Mao Reminisces About His Days in Southern China
All Her Favorite Fruit
Take the Skinheads Bowling
Opi Rides Again / Club Med Sucks
Pictures of Matchstick Men (Status Quo cover)
Shady Grove (traditional)
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.