Sometime in 1999, probably in May or June, I saw an ad for a show in the Village Voice. Or more likely it was a show listing, for a group called Camper Van Chadbourne. This was at least part of Camper Van Beethoven playing with a visionary and reclusive guitarist and banjoist and instrument maker from North Carolina, Eugene Chadbourne, at a place called something (and I’m making this up but I think it fits) like The Marxist Hall. Or the Center for Marxists. You get the idea.
So, a Marxist concert hall in Chelsea NY in 1999? A block from our house was the People’s Party book store, downstairs from the headquarters of the Communist Party USA. I expected an auditorium.
My forebearing wife agreed to stay home with our infant, and I went to the show of Camper Van Chadbourne with my longtime friend Sheryl, who has always been a game and adventurous soul. But this didn’t seem adventurous until we got there.
The so-called Hall was small. Maybe 50 folding chairs in an office waiting room. The stage was small, but replete with Chadbourne’s guitars and banjos, but also his handmade instruments. He’s famous for putting pickups on a rake. For instance.
Small room, one of my favorite bands, playing with an eccentric guitar/banjo genius, in a space the size of a doctor’s office. It was weirdly intimate and fantastically odd, in other words unforgettable.
Afterwards, Sheryl did not mock me. I hope she remembers the night fondly. I remember the music more than fondly, it was wild and odd and aggressive, except when it bowed toward pretty. But that is what made the other stuff seem more powerful.
For educational value, and my own memory, here is the King Crimson version of this song: