Though the band's old stomping grounds once included flophouse parties, dirty clubs and, for a brief time in the '80s, alternative-rock radio, Camper Van Beethoven have settled into a comfortable fixation on the openness of Northern California. The band's latest release, 2005's still-relevant New Roman Times, imagines a future battle between the seceded states of Texas and California in a thinly veiled comment on present national conditions; naturally, the Golden State earns the band's alliance.
While frontman David Lowery's "other" band, Cracker, continues to explore back-country Americana (itself peppered liberally with California references), New Roman Times is a blast of thunderous, swirling prog rock dead set on firing up new mental pistons and recharging old ones. It should probably be performed in a dank, soulless, underground factory befitting its themes, but luckily for us in Northern California, it comes to life this weekend at a beautiful open field near Pt. Reyes National Seashore at KWMR's Far West Fest.
Yes, the band still play "Take the Skinheads Bowling," "Pictures of Matchstick Men" and the poignant "Sweethearts," but expect potent new material such as the violin-driven "Sons of the New Golden West" and the scathing "I Hate This Part of Texas" to prove that, at 24 years and running, Camper Van Beethoven refuse to allow themselves--or their country--to be counted out anytime soon.
The Far West Fest is slated for Saturday, Aug. 18, at Love Field, Highway 1 and Levee Road, Point Reyes Station. Also appearing are SambaDa, Chrome Johnson, Bo Carper from New Monsoon and others. Noon. $20-$25. www.kwmr.org.
At the same time, peacemaking of another culture happens over hill and dale at the second annual West Marin Himalayan Festival featuring Tsering Wangmo (above) and Ang Tsherin Sherpa. One of the few selected to study in the Tibetan Music, Dance and Drama Society founded by the Dalai Lama in 1959, Tsering Wangmo in 1989 founded Chaksam-Pa, a troupe dedicated to fostering the ancient Tibetan tradition in response to its threat from Chinese occupation.
She has since been seen on ABC's Profiles in Excellence, performed with Philip Glass and David Byrne, and is widely recognized as a leader in the struggle to preserve an undistilled Tibetan culture. An all-day demonstration and hourly talks will be conducted by Ang Tsherin, a third-generation painter of sacred tankas whose work has appeared in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco--and sure, in the home of actor Richard Gere. Children's dance groups, Nepalese paintings, prayer flag making and Himalayan vendors round out the festival this Saturday, Aug. 18, at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, 6350 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Geronimo. 11am to 5pm. $8-$15. www.sgvcc.org.