Camper Van Chadbourne | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Camper Van Chadbourne


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North Carolina's Eugene Chadbourne is the outer limits of absurdity's leading rocker, and San Francisco's Camper Van Beethoven were always rock's leading absurdists. Guitar wizard and free-lance eccentric Chadbourne and a few of the more adventurous members of the now-defunct Camper come together like slightly askew sound waves: their more peculiar tendencies sometimes combine, sometimes cancel each other out. When the two tendencies combine, you get very long, very noodley, and sometimes grating excursions into something that might be described as avant-folk-fusion, or insane country-jazz, or maybe balalaika bluegrass. But when they cancel you get an almost coherent (almost), somehow touching song-based hybrid of Chadbourne's cranky but right-on politics and the Campers' off-kilter but still formidable rock chops. Chadbourne's been ranting for a decade about all the things that bugged him in the 80s; most notably, he takes on the Iran-contra crew in a pretty funny rewrite of the PeeWee's Playhouse theme: "It'll be cute / It'll be covert / At Ollie's Playhouse!" The strange music eases the polemics and makes both the tangential originals and the dizzying array of covers--"Born on the Bayou," "Reason to Believe," "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" (get it?)--easy to take. On a good night, Chadbourne pulls out his famous electric rake and gets real, real wild. There're two shows tonight at tiny Lower Links; it's probably smart to get there early to guarantee a seat for either. Tonight, 7:30 and 11, Club Lower Links, 954 W. Newport; 248-5238.

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