Dig through David Lowery's body of work with Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, and you'll hear recurring references to poppies and Cleveland, which Cracker named a live album after in 2002. The punk-folk Camper Van Beethoven helped establish college rock as a genre in the mid-'80s with the alt-novelty hit "Take the Skinheads Bowling," and in 2003, Cracker's "Low" helped modern-rock radio congeal into an institution. The blissed-out smash single referenced the opium-yielding plant, and the flower cropped up again in last year's Camper reunion album, New Roman Times, a folk-rock concept album with a conspicuously Santana-influenced solo in "The Poppies of Balmorhea."
"I'm not sure why poppies come up," Lowery explains. "Other than it's just sort of a classical, romantic-poet image. And it's in The Wizard of Oz. And 'Hello, Cleveland' is from Spinal Tap. We just needed to call a double-live record that, even though it was recorded in Chicago."
The phrase also closes the first disc of Camper Van Beethoven's bent-Americana cover of Fleetwood Mac's entire Tusk double LP, most of which the band recorded in 1987, abandoned, then later finished for a 2002 release. For this tour, Lowery is breaking out material from both groups, but leaving most of the band at home. He and Cracker/Camper guitarist-singer Johnny Hickman are playing unplugged, with opening act the Hackensaw Boys backing them for much of the Camper material. This'll be one sincere "Hello, Cleveland."