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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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David Lowery in his Wisconsin wool sweater during his Tuesday night gig at Shank Hall.
David Lowery in his Wisconsin wool sweater during his Tuesday night gig at Shank Hall.

Camper Van Beethoven relives it, kicks it forward

When OnMilwaukee.com contributor JC Poppe mentioned the Camper Van Beethoven show earlier this week, he predicted it would be a trip down memory lane. Indeed, for those of us who were fans in the '80s and '90s, it was.

The show, which took place at Shank Hall, was a mix of back-in-the-day favorites along with new songs that will most likely appear in the band's upcoming album predicted to come out later this year.

It was not the band's first trip to Milwaukee; it had prior gigs many years ago at the now-defunct Toad Cafe, Cafe Voltaire and the still-very-much-alive Bastille Days.

Tonight, the five-piece sounded very in sync and had a cool-but-present vibe. Camper opened the show with "All Her Favorite Fruits," and went on to hammer out old faves like "Sweethearts," "Good Guys and Bad Guys," "Eye of Fatima," "When I Win The Lottery," "Turquoise Jewelry," "Pictures of Matchstick Men," "Take The Skinheads Bowling" (of course) and a gaggle of new songs. (I yelled out "She Divines Water" three times but nobody seemed to notice except maybe the bass player who squinted in my direction after one shout out.)

"Take The Skinheads Bowling" remains an anthemic college radio hit today and was featured in the Michael Moore film, "Bowling For Columbine."

As usual, Jonathan Segel, violin player (and guitar player) added so much to the show, proving, once again, that the violin is totally punk rock.

Most of the members of the band have worked on individual solo projects, and yet, since 1999, have frequently rejoined to perform as a group. Lead man David Lowery fronted the more traditional rock band, Cracker, and released his first solo record, "The Palace Guards," in 2011.

The 51-year-old Lowery, wearing a wool sweater both ironically and not ironically (since he is, after all, from California and not used to Wisconsin winters), has aged gracefully and has a confident presence. His voice, however, has changed and it's now lower than it was 20-plus years ago. For the first ha…

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Masked and ready to plunge.
Masked and ready to plunge.
Token man with trumpet.
Token man with trumpet.
Proof I did it. Thanks to my kid for assisting me.
Proof I did it. Thanks to my kid for assisting me.
Samurai guy stayed in the water for about 15 minutes.
Samurai guy stayed in the water for about 15 minutes.
She has always been a supportive friend to me.
She has always been a supportive friend to me.
An early plunger.
An early plunger.

One more polar bear plunge

I said I would never do it again.

I did the Polar Bear Plunge in 2006 and 2008 and decided twice was enough. After all, a single plunge is enough to join the storied club that, according to unwritten and completely unofficial rules, requires one to go to Lake Michigan's Bradford Beach at noon on New Year's Day and dive into the icy waters with about two thousand other nuts. (And, for the record you have to go completely under to gain membership to the "club.")

But this year, I did it again. This year, I did it to be with Anita, my dear friend and the mother of three beautiful daughters who suffered a serious brain injury after being hit by motorcyclist while riding her bicycle home from the fireworks on July 3.

It's truly amazing that she is ringing in another year (although she is one of the strongest women I know) and arguably even more amazing that her surgeons gave her the go-ahead to take the plunge.

And so when I learned Anita was going to do it again, that she was going to dive under to wash off some of 2011's pain and loss, I decided I would do it, too.

Funny thing is, Anita talked me into doing it in '06, and again in '08, but I did it again this year not because she talked me into it, but in solidarity to a true friend. So here's to new memories in 2012, Anita, and mark my words, I am never, ever doing this again.