California band returns to town Monday
If You Go
What: Steamboat Radio Presents: Cracker Unplugged
When: 7 p.m. Monday, June 6
Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.
Steamboat Springs — Fresh off the release of a new album, the alternative rock bank Cracker will be back in town Monday to give Steamboat Springs a sampling.
Starting at 7 p.m., the performance “Steamboat Radio Presents: Cracker Unplugged” will take the Chief Theater stage. Doors open at 6:30.
Led by singer David Lowery and guitarist Johnny Hickman, Cracker has been on the road since 1990 and continues to tour today.
Blending an assortment of influences and sounds, Cracker’s songs range include rock, punk, grunge, country, blues folk and psychedelia.
Known for hits such as “Low,” “What the World Needs Now” and “Get Off This,” the band now has a new list of songs to add its repertoire from the 2014 album “Berkeley to Bakersfield,” which is a double studio album with “Berkeley” being influenced by punk rock and “Bakersfield” leaning more toward the band’s country side.
Earlier this week, Steamboat Today caught up with Hickman to discuss Cracker’s influences and the process of creating a dual album such as “Berkeley to Bakersfield.”
Steamboat Today: Where does a band name like “Cracker” come from?
Johnny Hickman: It’s something we were toying around with early on. We had a bartender we really like who was African-American, and he would always say, ‘Here comes those crackers again.’ And we just thought that it would be a good name for us.
ST: You guys are known for creating songs that derive from a variety of musical influences. Where does that initially come from?
JH: We grew up on Air Force bases as kids and met as young guys in our teens in California’s early punk rock band days. During those early days, we would sneak off and listen to country music, too, because it wasn’t something that was mainstream at that time. As kids, a lot of music was played in our homes, like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard, who was like the Johnny Cash of southern California. There was also some southern rock, too, with Hank Williams and Willie Nelson and even the Beatles. We started Cracker’s sound as one big mix of genres and didn’t really worry about what people called it. That was during the grunge period of time. But we have an eclectic style of genre mixing. A lot of it contains those elements of things that influenced us as young guys. The soul, punk rock and British rock. Country has always been there, too.
ST: Why did you decide to do a double record — one with country, the other rock — on one album?
JH: It was an interesting approach to separate the two works of music. At first, we thought we would do each on its own, but then, six months into it, decided to do both in one. We thought that the crazier the idea, the more we wanted to do it. It turned out to be fantastic, and the reviews and response has been great. People will get something different from each album.
ST: What is the songwriting process like, and how did that go for “Berkeley to Bakersfield”?
JH: I tend to write with a sense of humor with the country music side, and some of David’s are a little more serious — kind of like a poor man’s folk music. But music, to us, is storytelling, and it’s traditional genres that we really like. Country, stylistically, the sound appeals to us — always has. It’s in our bloodstream and is a natural way for us to write. At the base of it, though, is our respect for the song. We’ve known that from the beginning and were able to push the ego out of the way to recognize what would make the song work best.
ST: The last time you were in Steamboat was in 2010 at the Ghost Ranch. What will be different about Monday’s visit?
JH: Well, we’ve had a bit of a line-up change. Cracker has always been David and I, and we’ve incorporated and performed with different bands and people. Every time we play, though, we try to represent songs from each one of our 10 records. This time when we will be in Steamboat, we have a full new record that we will perform with our pedal steel guitar player, Matt “Pistol” Stoessel. We are glad to be back in Steamboat and really look forward to coming back and seeing familiar faces.
Tickets for the show are $20 and can be purchased online at chieftheater.com.
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Steamboat Free Summer Concerts announced Friday that it will return live music to the Yampa Valley this summer in the form of two concerts scheduled for August and September.