THROWBACK: M2M - Top 5 Songs

Written by Jessica Klausing

M2M (from left: Marit Larsen and Marion Raven).

M2M (from left: Marit Larsen and Marion Raven).

M2M defined the bubblegum pop genre in the Y2K era. These young ladies wooed music audiences with their angelic airy vocals and sugary sweet innocent lyrics about teen love and heartbreak. 

The Norwegian pop duo comprised of childhood friends Marion Raven and Marit Larsen. Their debut album, Shades of Purple (2000) sold over 1.5 million units worldwide with the single, “Don’t Say You Love Me,” receiving critical and commercial success. Raven and Larsen wrote the lyrics and played instruments on their songs which set them apart from most pop artists.

Unfortunately, their commercial success and squeaky clean imagery were unable to compete with the likes of pop superstars, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. In 2002 M2M released their second album, The Big Room, which comprised of soft rock ballads and a less pop-oriented sound. Despite topping the Australia and Norway music charts, the second album only sold close to 100,000 units in the US. The duo disbanded the year of its release, with each pursuing a solo career.

Below is a top 5 list of the best M2M songs.

1.        “Don’t Say You Love Me” from Shades of Purple (2000)

“Don’t Say You Love Me” was M2M’s biggest hit in the US. The song first appeared on Radio Disney before its official release in October 1999. It was released on the Pokemon: The First Movie soundtrack and appears in the film’s closing credits. Lyrically, the song tells of a girl wanting to take things slow rather than rush into a relationship with, “We’re sitting there, you start kissing me, what’s that about?” There is a slight lyric difference in the Pokemon version, having changed the ‘kissing’ lyric to, “You said you love me, what’s that about?" for the younger audiences.

2.       “Everything You Do” from Shades of Purple (2000)

“Everything You Do” is an infectious pop earworm.  The pitch perfect harmonies interlaced with the hooks make it such a ridiculously good, catchy tune. With the success of “Don’t Say You Love Me” and “Mirror, Mirror,” this song was an underrated track on Shades of Purple. While the lyrics are simple, sound wise it compares to early Britney Spears and B*Witched.

3.       “Everything” from The Big Room (2001)

“Everything” was the first single for the second and final album, The Big Room. The song is aimed at Zac Hanson, who Marion Raven dated briefly while M2M was on tour with Hanson. According to Raven, once the tour ended he never contacted her, effectively ending the relationship. The Big Room aimed to show off a more mature, less bubblegum pop-oriented cutesy side of M2M. M2M dubbed their new style as “organic pop,” as the album featured all real instruments as opposed to using computerized sounds.

4.       “Mirror, Mirror” from Shades of Purple (2000)

“Mirror, Mirror” was M2M’s second biggest hit in the US. It was the second single off Shades of Purple, reaching 62 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is about sadness following a lost love, and a young girl’s despair after “saying the wrong thing to the right guy.” The song became a hit after airing on Nickelodeon's SNICK House and on an episode of Disney Channel in Concert.

5.       “Wait For Me” from The Day You Went Away: The Best of M2M (2003)

M2M did not disband without leaving a wonderful gift behind for their devastated fans: The Day You Went Away: The Best of M2M. The compilation album features all of their singles from their two studio albums, Shades of Purple and The Big Room, some acoustic versions of the songs, enhanced re-releases, and a few new songs. The real treat was the new song “Wait For Me.” The song itself is vastly different from anything on the previous albums. The guitar intro has a bossa nova feel before taking it into a country territory. 

SONG RECAP: The Brothers Johnson - "Strawberry Letter 23"

Written by Jessica Klausing


The Brothers Johnson's "Strawberry Letter 23" is one of my all time favorite love songs!

The song was written by Shuggie Otis for his second album, Freedom Flight in 1971. Guitarist George Johnson, who was dating one of Otis's cousins, came across the track and played it for producer Quincy Jones. The group recorded a more funkier version for their 1977 album, Right On Time. Their rendition hit the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number one on the Soul Singles chart in 1977. 

At age 17, Otis wrote "Strawberry Letter 23" as way to describe his romantic feelings for his girlfriend. Though the lyrics commonly refer to "Strawberry Letter 22," Otis explains that, "the song is about a love letter. The guy and the girl had written each other 22 love letters. And the 23rd one he writes is a song."

"Strawberry Letter 23" is a psychedelic transcendence into bliss. The lyrics paint a vivid, colorful imagery about the innocence of love. The heavenly harmonies swirl magically with the funky bass beats and hypnotic chimes. However, the real show stopper is Lee Ritenour's extensive trippy progressive rock layered guitar solo towards the end.

THROWBACK: Backstreet Boys Documentary Review & Top 5 Songs

Written by Jessica Klausing

Backstreet’s Back – Just in time for their 25th anniversary!  Alright! The band has just announced their 25th-anniversary world tour kicks off in 2018. No dates have been confirmed yet. Currently, you can catch their Las Vegas show, “Larger Than Life,” from November until February 2018.

With over 130 million records sold worldwide, record breaking tours and countless awards have earned Backstreet Boys the title of best selling boy band of all time. They have also managed to have all nine of their albums reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200. 25 years later and the boys show no signs of slowing down.  Here’s my review of their documentary.

"Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of" is more than just a film promoting their 2013 album, In A World Like This. This is a film that provides an honest look into the rise of their superstardom and its seductive dark side...

Director Stephen Kijack follows Kevin Richardson, Brian Littrell, Howie Dorough, AJ McLean, and Nick Carter on a nostalgic journey to their hometowns. This journey prompts plenty of laughs, tears, and hugs as the band tries to reconnect with each other for the new tour. Fans are treated with never before seen archival footage of the group's early days. We learn interesting tidbits like the boys used to watch porn as teenagers at Lou Pearlman's mansion.

Despite the lightheartedness, we learn about each of the boys' struggle with their inner demons. Brian suffers from vocal tension dysphonia, AJ is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, Kevin has just returned to the band after his leave in 2006, Howie wants more lead vocals, and Nick deals with ongoing family drama. Beyond their cheery music was a career of corruption that surfaces in the film.

It's a bit frustrating that the dark side is not fully explored. The eerie trip to Lou Pearlman's abandoned mansion could have answered so many open ended questions. The former manager was jailed in 2007 for running the largest Ponzi scheme in the US. Pearlman died of cardiac arrest last year. He cheated Backstreet out of millions of dollars while they toured nonstop. Later allegations surfaced that Pearlman was a sexual predator to his boy bands. Jane Carter (Nick’s mom) made a statement to Vanity Fair which leads to believe that Nick might have been a victim. Nobody ever confirms or denies these allegations in the film. The guys even seem to forgive Pearlman for scamming them all those years. In the end, the film focuses more on their career rather than Hollywood gossip.

Below are my top 5 picks for the best BSB songs.

1.       “I Want It That Way” from Millennium (1999)

The band’s biggest pop hit to date. That classic Max Martin midtempo ballad, confusing lyrical interpretation, and heavenly harmonies were the magic ingredients for a pop masterpiece. This was also a Brian Littrell spotlight song.  Brian, effortlessly, nails the high notes towards the end. The real showstopper though is Kevin’s solo. Kevin mostly backs up the band with his rich, baritone sound. He rarely does solos. Hearing his soothing and sultry voice as the lead was a real treat.


2.       “As Long As You Love Me” from Backstreet Boys (1997)

This song was the megahit predecessor to “I Want It That Way.” In 1997 this single dominated Total Request Live (TRL) and the US radio airwaves. We were introduced into the Backstreet world of dreamy vocals and slick dance moves. The chair routine in the music video became their signature dance.  Nick Carter deserves a huge shout out here. I never thought preteen Nick was a strong vocalist. Sorry. I never disliked Nick. I just think the earlier Backstreet songs never showed off his vocals properly until this one.


3.       “Incomplete” from Never Gone (2005)

2003 was a tough year for Backstreet Boys. AJ struggled with an alcohol and drug addiction during the Black & Blue tour. Nick was suffering from alcohol abuse as well. The band soon disappeared on a two year hiatus. Never Gone was their comeback album with “Incomplete” as the last song to receive commercial success. This track shows off the mature side of Backstreet rather than yet another upbeat love ballad. This is a slower, dreary bittersweet tune baring vulnerability. Beautiful!


4.       “Unmistakable” from Unbreakable (2007)

“Unmistakable” is one of the Backstreet bests despite Kevin’s absence. The album, Unbreakable, stayed within the pop roots but with more technological enhancements. I appreciate that it still sounds like pop without the oversaturated EDM usage. Our “boys” have all grown up. We hear them break out of their boy band cookie cutter mold with more dynamic vocals. The two octave harmonies on the chorus give the song more power.


5.       “Show ‘Em (What You’re Made Of)” from In a World Like This (2013)

I love the inspirational message behind this song! The album, In a World Like This, shows the boys continuing to evolve with their pop sound.  Backstreet were more involved with the writing and producing on this album. As a result most of the songs reflect their own life experiences. “Show ‘Em (What You’re Made Of)” is more acoustic-driven than any of their other songs.  Of course, what Backstreet track would be complete without those smooth harmonies?

RECAP: "Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses"-Master Quest Regales Fans

by Jessica Klausing


Video game soundtracks hold a special place in my heart. This comes from being introduced to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) at the age of five. Countless hours in my youth were spent saving the princess in another castle in Super Mario Brothers, navigating an aircraft in Starfox, exercising my mad fighting skills in Mortal Kombat, turning sharp curves in Mario Kart, battling reptilian pirates in Donkey Kong Country and swearing at difficult final bosses in just about every game!

 With epic adventures comes epic music. Nintendo has composed some of the most beautiful soundtracks ever. One in particular that caught my attention was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The music had connected with me on an emotional level. The soundtrack had transported me into a renaissance world of sacred temples, mythological beasts and a sense of coming of age. My inner twelve year old squealed with glee when I saw that Nintendo’s most beloved franchise, The Legend of Zelda was getting fully orchestrated.

I stood in line with thousands of Zelda fanatics outside the Walt Disney Concert hall in Los Angeles. The concert had sold out months in advance. Many cosplayers proudly donned their best Link and Zelda costumes while others wore Zelda and Nintendo themed attire. I even met up with a few fans that happily showed off their Zelda inspired tattoos.

The Legend of Zelda: “Symphony of the Goddesses” was in its third installment known as the Master Quest tour. The Master Quest tour featured new inclusions from the Zelda series such as a re-mastered Majora’s Mask and A Link between Worlds, the most recently released game at the time. Music was also included from Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.


The symphony itself follows the same four movement setup from the previous tours. Scenes from various Zelda games were projected on a large screen overhead while the orchestra and the choir played onstage.

The show featured surprise video clips from series creators Shigeru Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma, and composer Koji Kondo. They talked about the history of the series. The games were designed for the fans to grow alongside Link during his adventures. The music was a major key element in making the games so successful. All of the fans did share a mutual bond over the beautiful compositions that night.

From the iconic theme opener to the tear jerking victorious finale, the entire production was a nostalgic journey. Fans trekked cautiously through the desolate Gerudo Valley, gasped excitedly at the infamous, “It’s too dangerous to go alone” line, laughed as Link got attacked by Cucoos, and cheered at the defeat of Gannondorf. The hall thundered in applause after each piece. Clearly, this was not your typical classical arts symphony!

The biggest highlight of the night for me was the “Creation of Hyrule” prelude. The heavenly vocals of the choir sent chills down my spine as the Great Deku Tree regaled us in a tale of the triforce.

The only downside was the orchestra would soundtrack hop between the games. For example, the orchestra would play a tune from Ocarina of Time then jump over to Twilight Princess then jump back to Ocarina of Time. This might just be the OCD in me talking here but I would prefer to hear an entire Zelda game soundtrack all the way through. No jumping back and forth.

I’ll admit, I was a bit saddened that my favorites, “Song of Storms” and “Temple of Time,” from Ocarina of Time were excluded from this performance. Hopefully, they will make it into future compositions. After all when young Link visits the Temple of Time was perhaps the most iconic scene in Ocarina of Time. The choirs’ vocals would have been deliciously haunting but I digress.

Overall, the show is a must see for any Zelda fan or video game soundtrack enthusiast for that matter. Even if you’re not into gaming, the synchronization between the clips from the games and the music being played was an uncanny experience. This is a great example of video game music played live in a brilliant and compelling manner.

The Legend of Zelda symphony is on the road again in 2016. This year will mark the franchise’s 30th anniversary. Who knows what exciting and over the top surprises the producers will have for the upcoming tour!

Act I
Gerudo Valley
Boss Battle Medley
Suite from Majora’s Mask
A Link between Worlds
The Symphony:
Prelude-The creation of Hyrule
Movement I- Ocarina of Time
Movement II- Wind Waker
Act II
Intermezzo-Great Fairy’s Fountain
Movement III- Twilight Princess
Movement IV- Time of the Falling Rain

I did a mini interview with Producer Jason Michael Paul after the show.

1. How do you go about choosing/piecing together the different compositions for each Zelda game?
We try to be mindful of what the fans want, so we of course try to add in the fan-favorites. But we also try to tell a larger narrative throughout the evening, so we include some lesser-known scores that really help take the audience to certain moments in time with the game. We also obviously try to include any new releases, for instance this year we have music from the new Majora's Mask 3D.

2. I heard that you were involved with the Zelda merchandise this year. Can you talk about your influence and thought process with it?
Again, we want to give fans pieces of merch that they'll love and connect back to the performance. Most of the influence comes from originator Zelda merch and is all approved by Nintendo to ensure its meeting brand guidelines.

3. How is the Master Quest tour different than the previous Zelda orchestras?
Master Quest reflects the newest music that is out there for Zelda - which means new Majora's Mask inclusions as well as music from A Link between Worlds.

4. Do you believe other popular Nintendo video games (Mario, Starfox, Donkey Kong, etc) will have their own orchestra tour in the future?
That'd be great! I think the other franchises would be successful of course, but I also think that Zelda reaches a broader and more deeply loyal audience. The Zelda franchise is nearly 30 years old and the music surrounding the game resonates with many people on an emotional level.

5. I know you were saying that the Zelda shows continue to evolve over time. Can you talk about what possible future plans you would like to incorporate for the next tour?

We like to keep it interesting! At the moment we're putting all of our effort into making Master Quest the ultimate Zelda experience - but we do have some future plans up our sleeves!

RECAP: Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker Campout X 2014

Written by Jessica Klausing

I have been a big fan of both Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker for many years.

Well, I started out listening to Monks of Doom first and worked my way back to Cracker and then Camper Van Beethoven . So, I'm a little out of order with things. I had heard of this allege “Campout” in a place called Pioneertown. Listening to Counting Crows' This Desert Life, I had become pretty familiar with Pioneertown and Pappy and Harriet’s through the song, “Ms. Potter’s Lullaby.”

 In fact, it was listening to a Counting Crows bootleg that inspired me to want to make it out there someday. During a live version of "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby," Adam Duritz talks about wanting so badly to escape so he spends the night out in the desert. Adam's description of Pioneertown had really intrigued me. I wanted so badly to escape the confinement of the life I was living as well. I had spent most of my life in my dull hometown and was ready to escape like Adam.

At the time, I was living in a small rural town in Georgia, between school and work; I never had the funds or time to fly out there. The closest thing I had in attendance was watching the first ever Campout on DVD. It was not until 2014, when I moved to Los Angeles that I would finally be able to attend my first three day annual Campout extravaganza.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Day 1: Crumb Initiation

Yucca Valley

Yucca Valley

On September 11, 2014, I drove out to the high desert for a weekend I would never forget. Yucca Valley has a very chill vibe to it. Despite the dry desert heat, a sense of serenity washed over me as I stepped out of the car. The desert itself was beautiful. Nothing but sand, cactus, blue skies, rocks and Joshua Trees that stretched on for miles. This was the picturesque inspiration for any country western lyrics. I especially loved the fact that the little town was quiet all day and night! It was a much welcomed escape from the hustle and bustle of metro life in LA! Once I checked in to my respective hotel and was settled, I immediately wasted no time in getting to Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

Pappy and Harriet's bar photo by Arie Haze  

Pappy and Harriet's bar
photo by Arie Haze

The palace is a little restaurant and bar in the middle of nowhere complete with an intimate indoor and outdoor stage. It does not look like much at first but it has plenty of personality. This place is literally a gem buried deep within the desert. Robert Plant, Modest Mouse, and Vampire Weekend are just a few of the many all star talent that performs on these stages. The food is even really good! In fact, I ate there all three nights for dinner. I personally recommend the pulled pork sandwich. Around 6PM, all of the Campout attendees were to line up outside the palace for their festival bracelets. It was at that time I was introduced to many of the other fans in line.

Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker have a tight nit community of fans known as “Crumbs.”  The Crumbs consider each other more like family. I couldn’t agree more. Attending the festival alone, I was quite intimidated at first. It seemed like all the fans knew each other, except me. But  I was immediately introduced and literally welcomed with open arms into the group. It’s always great meeting other die-hard fans at various shows but the Crumbs are flat out the nicest, most welcoming bunch I have ever met.

Frank Funaro (middle) surrounded by the Crumbs   Photo by Arie Haze

Frank Funaro (middle) surrounded by the Crumbs
Photo by Arie Haze

Talking with the Crumbs, I became more familiar with the Campout customs. Each Campout day has a particular costume theme. Today was Funaro day. Everyone was to wear their Funaro shirts in honor of Cracker drummer, Frank Funaro. Frank suffered a severe arm injury that kept him from playing the drums this year. He was still there in attendance for Campout to support his fellow Camper/Cracker family. It was a real pleasure getting to chat with Frank. He’s a big flirt and such a delight to be around.

Cracker Duo with Greg Lisher   Photo by Arie Haze

Cracker Duo with Greg Lisher
Photo by Arie Haze

At around 9PM, Johnny Hickman and David Lowery opened Campout as the Cracker Duo with Greg Lisher. The Duo mostly performed stripped down acoustic versions of some of their hits such as "Low," "Dr. Bernice," and "Teen Angst." I really perked up as soon as Johnny crooned into my all time favorite Cracker song, “Another Song about the Rain.” Johnny’s haunting “Ahh Woo” vocals blend deliciously into the clash of his guitar. I can't get enough of this beautiful song. 

This Campout was a particular special one because both CVB and Cracker had new albums. Cracker’s new double album, Berkeley to Bakersfield was not available until December but the Duo played several songs from the album.

My favorite of the night was “King of Bakersfield.” This song has a nice old school Conway Twitty western sound with bittersweet lyrics. David explained that the Berkeley side is influenced by punk and garage while the Bakersfield side is more California country. It’s a nice record that showcases the band’s talents with both alternative rock and country. However, I tend to favor the Bakersfield side more. Maybe because it’s pure and gentle pace makes me yearn for the desert life?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Day 2: I Live in LA

Rose and Buster's Wine Bar

Rose and Buster's Wine Bar

Jonathan Segel – 7:30pm- 8pm (outside stage)
Paul Chesne Band – 8:30pm – 9:15pm (outside stage)
Camper Van Beethoven – 9:45pm (outside stage)
The Dangers w/ Johnny Hickman – midnight – 12:45am (inside stage)

After an incredible first night, I was beyond ready to continue on with my Campout adventures.  During the day I walked through the small town of Yucca Valley to check out the scenery, which included a stop in Rose and Buster’s Wine Tasting Bar. The owner, Buster is a local to the Mojave desert and just happens to be a Crumb. The bar is decked out in a swanky hippy desert style. Do the wine tour if you have a chance. Buster will treat you to an assortment of delicious cheeses and rare organic wines that can't be found in stores.

It was also a pleasure bumping into many other Crumbs throughout the little town. Everyone was regaling last night’s performance and was hyped about the other bands for tonight’s lineup. Tonight’s costume theme was New Wave and Punk. I think Team Punk pretty much dominated the costume category for the night.

New Wave and Punk Crumbs   photo by Arie Haze

New Wave and Punk Crumbs
photo by Arie Haze

Later that day, I returned to Pappy and Harriet’s for my dinner before the festivities began. As luck would have it, some of the guys from Cracker and CVB were having dinner there too. The cool part was I actually got to sit at an adjoining table with David Lowery and Jonathan Segel. Such great guys! I chatted briefly with them and Greg Lisher about music until our food arrived.

Pioneertown   photo by Arie Haze

photo by Arie Haze

While the bands were setting up, I took a walk through the old abandoned Roy Roger’s western movie set, which is now Pioneertown. During certain parts of the day, some of the shops are open to the public. I found out that Kerosene Hat was recorded in the now closed movie soundstage. I like all of the Cracker albums but Kerosene Hat is my favorite and most listened to out of the bunch. It’s such a surreal feeling for me to just take in this area that was the inspiration for many of my favorite Cracker songs.

Jonathan Segel and Victor Krummenacher   photo by Arie Haze

Jonathan Segel and Victor Krummenacher
photo by Arie Haze

Around 7:30PM, everyone gathered to the outdoor stage to watch Jonathan Segel. I don’t know really how to describe Jonathan’s set other than 'hippy trippy instrumentalpalooza.' I can dig it! Everyone else seemed to as well; as the smell of weed sure lingered on throughout the entire set.

Paul Chesne Band   Photo by Cathy Merriman

Paul Chesne Band
Photo by Cathy Merriman

The Paul Chesne Band was next up and managed to build on the psychedelic atmosphere with some grungy desert rock. “Wet Dog Man” is a gritty dive bar anthem for the rebels. I prefer the more old school piano based "Pink Champagne." The band has a solid blues meets twang sound in the lyrical style of Gram Parsons and Jeff Tweedy. It takes quite a bit to impress me when it comes to country. I will say that Chesne knows how to give a strong delivery.

The much anticipated Camper Van Beethoven took the stage next. CVB had just released their new duel albums, El Camino Real and La Costa Perdida. Similar to Cracker, each album takes you on a musical journey through the different parts of California. El Camino Real focuses on the darker sound of southern California, while La Costa Perdida has the more trippy northern California sound. Their music has always interfused psychedelic rock, ska, folk, European dance and pop. Expect the random. What else could you really expect from them?

Camper Van Beethoven   photo by Arie Haze

Camper Van Beethoven
photo by Arie Haze

The band played quite a few of their new songs. My favorite of the set was "I Live in LA." Having just moved to LA, the lyrics reminded me of the bittersweet goodbye I gave to my friends and family before I left. Another favorite was  “Northern California Girls,” which is a sequel to the Beach Boy’s “California Girls.” Of course, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it was a treat getting to hear the surfy hit "Take the Skinheads Bowling." Jonathan's violin styling complimented Greg's Telecaster along with Victor's bass, holding up the rhythm. These guys were in top form for the night.

After the set, I managed to chat with Victor Krummenacher. I love and respect all of the guys for their hard work and talent, but Victor has a special place in my heart. As I stated earlier, I am a big Monks of Doom fan. I gotta admit I was a little bummed they weren’t on the bill this year, but Greg did confirm to me that a new album was in the works! I told Victor how much his music meant to me and that I just moved out here. He gave me a hug thanking me for coming along with a hearty welcome to California! It was definitely the highlight of my night for sure.

The Dangers with Johnny Hickman Photo by Arie Haze

The Dangers with Johnny Hickman
Photo by Arie Haze

At midnight, we headed to the inside stage for Johnny Hickman and the Dangers. Chris LeRoy and Johnny Hickman gave a powerhouse performance of pop hits such as "Lucky," "Stranger," and "Radio City." Their energy was contagious. This is the kind of music you expect to hear waltzing into a saloon. I was already wiped out from the previous bands but their esteemed brand of Honky Tonk rock kept me on my feet til the end.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Day 3: Crumbs, Crows, and Cracker OH MY!


Meet N Greet poster signing   photo by Arie Haze

Meet N Greet poster signing
photo by Arie Haze

Los Rios Rock School – 7pm – 7:45pm (outside stage)
Brant Bjork and the Bros – 8pm – 9pm (outside stage)Cracker – 9:30 pm (outside stage)
The Hickmen – 11:30pm – 12:15am (inside stage)
Victor Krummenacher Band – 12:45am (inside stage)

The last night of Campout. Just when I thought nothing could top the first two days, tonight just got better! 

Around 5PM, the Campout bands held a special Meet N Greet session. By special Meet N Greet it's basically you buy the official Campout poster, and the bands all sign it in an assembly line fashion across the table. I defiantly wanted some token to commemorate this weekend, so I participated.

Los Rios Rock School photo by Cathy Merriman

Los Rios Rock School
photo by Cathy Merriman

At 7PM, the Los Rios Rock School opened the show. Los Rios Rock School provides programs to help teach kids to play instruments and record professionally. The owner, Tyler Marolf is such a nice guy and you can tell he is really passionate about helping his students. They covered many Cracker hits such as "Low," "Movie Star," and the crowd favorite, "Eurotrash Girl." I was amazed at the talent. I could see that the Cracker guys felt the same way. They stood off to the sidelines happily cheering the kids on. These kids really got into the music like seasoned professionals. One Crumb even exclaimed, “these guys are gonna be the headliners for Campout 50!” 

Brant Bjork

Brant Bjork

Next up was Brant Bjork and the Bros. I can’t give you my actually review of them that night because I couldn’t hear anything! I had made it up to the front row at this point. Once Brant hooked up his double stacked amps, instinctively, everyone started putting on their ear plugs. I had never heard their music so I didn't think it would be such a big deal. Geez, was I ever wrong! Sure enough the bass was melting the skin off my face. All I could hear was BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, the entire set. I couldn't make out any words! One of the Crumbs felt bad for me and went to get me a pair of ear plugs. Even with the ear plugs, I still couldn't make out anything. Next time I see these guys, I will remember to stay in the far back row!!

Once I got home I did give these guys a proper listen before I made an opinion. I'm really glad I did because what happened next was unexpected.Their particular brand of stoner rock is the type of chill music you want to just listen to while laying on the floor staring up at the ceiling. It sounded a lot more aggressive in person.

Cracker   Photo by Mike Sausser

Photo by Mike Sausser

Everyone cheered as soon as Cracker took the stage. Tonight’s final theme was “I want out of this circus,” where the Crumbs and the band were all dressed in assorted circus attire. The stage was even decked out with creepy clown dolls. Everyone went all out for the last night of Campout. Tonight was my favorite theme of all. Everyone wore the most creative assortment of costumes and it felt more like a Halloween show than an indie desert rock festival.

Circus Crumbs photo by Arie Haze

Circus Crumbs
photo by Arie Haze

Cracker brought it home with some soulful country rock. The band played many of their popular hits, "Low," "Teen Angst," "Sweet Potato" and "Big Dipper" Johnny never fails to amaze me. A seasoned guitarist that can shred it during "Eurotrash Girl" and then change dials into a soulful blusey "Take Me Down to the Infirmary." Most fans have a favorite preference between Cracker and CVB. I really couldn't begin to decipher my favorite. Just like their double albums, they both represent different genres but compliment each other so well.

Ben Mize dressed as a clown   Photo by Mike Sausser

Ben Mize dressed as a clown
Photo by Mike Sausser

The biggest treat of all was seeing that Counting Crows ex drummer Ben Mize filled in as the drummer for the night! It was a mix of Cracker/CVB and Counting Crows music that had convinced me to pursue my lifelong dream of moving to California and coming to Pioneertown. Being here to witness the best of both worlds was beyond a dream come true for me. After Cracker’s set, I made a beeline to talk to Ben. He was such a nice, down to earth guy (as all of the guys are). We bonded over the fact that we are both Georgians, in fact; Ben nicknamed me “Georgia” for the rest of the night.  It was particularly cool getting to chat with Ben about This Desert Life (which is my all time favorite Counting Crows album).

Johnny Hickman photo by Arie Haze

Johnny Hickman
photo by Arie Haze

We both went inside for a few drinks and to check out the Hickmen. Johnny kept the party going with more electrifying Honky Tonk rock. After the Hickmen, I got a chance to chat with Johnny. He was such a sweetheart! He saw that the air was making me chilly so in an attempt to warm me he gave me several big hugs and a kiss.

Victor Krummenacher Band   photo by Arie Haze

Victor Krummenacher Band
photo by Arie Haze

Victor Krummenacher Band closed out Campout. Being a huge fan of Victor’s music, I was very excited about his hearing his solo work. Victor's music is a cross mix of old fashioned country with a twinge of Irish folk. It's on a much darker side of the spectrum than the sarcastic CVB. Much like Cracker and CVB, Victor was also celebrating a new album release. His ninth studio album, Hard to See Trouble Coming was released earlier last year. "If I Could Only Close My Eyes" has Leon Helm type vocals with an emotional brooding of drums and pedal steel. Amidst the gloomy tracks, "If You Wont Break My Heart, I Wont Stand a Chance," has a slight early rock N roll feel that stood out for me.

Porch Stock 2014   photo by Arie Haze

Porch Stock 2014
photo by Arie Haze

After Victor’s set everyone headed outside for the traditional Campout closer of “Porch Stock.” Porch Stock is basically Johnny and a couple of musician friends’ improvised sing-a-long jam session outside the Pioneertown hotel. This was quite a celebratory way to close out the 10th annual Campout!

 “Last of the great Pioneertown bars”

Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace

Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace

Campout X has been very special to me. I have made lifelong friends and am very blessed to have spent three wonderful nights listening to incredible music in a breathtaking atmosphere. All of this made my hectic move worth it in the end. I can guarantee this will NOT be my last Campout! I look forward to more shows and making more Crumb friends. Thank you fellow Crumbs and to the CVB/Cracker extended family for memories that I will always cherish. If you are a music fan and want to get the hell out of the city then I encourage you to check out Pappyand Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. You will be glad you did! They always have talented musicians that perform there. Campout is usually held every September, unless otherwise noted. Tickets for Campout can be purchased onCracker or CVB's websites.