SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Founding member and guitarist of rootsy alt-rock outfit Cracker Johnny Hickman plays a rare solo show in San Francisco Saturday, playing songs from his latest effort Blood Moon at the Make-Out Room.
When pioneering college-rock band Camper Van Beethoven dissolved in the spring of 1990, lead singer and songwriter David Lowery moved to the small SoCal town of Redlands reconnected with childhood friend and guitarist Hickman. The pair began to write songs together and, after relocating to Richmond, Virginia, recorded demos of the country-tinged songs that would score the band a record contract with Virgin and later become familiar fan favorites.READ MORE: Teen Driver Inured in Crash on Route 84
Cracker made an immediate impact with the release of their eponymous debut in 1992 and its lead single — the snarky, instant MTV-favorite “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)” — catapulted the band to a far wider audience with its more traditional rock sound than the eclectic experimentalism of Camper Van Beethoven ever had.
With the mix of Lowery’s acerbic lyrics and hard-rocking modern update of country-rock sounds, Cracker hit on a formula that won the band legions of followers. Their sophomore album Kerosene Hat was an even bigger hit than their debut thanks to the popularity of the single “Low.”
Cracker would continue to find success through the ’90s with Lowery and Hickman co-writing much of the material. The guitarist also penned some tunes solo and sang lead on handful tracks. When Lowery unexpectedly reconciled and reunited with his Camper Van Beethoven bandmates in 1999, Cracker’s activity was reduced as the singer split time between the bands. However, even as CVB worked on its first album in 15 years (the acclaimed New Roman Times in 2004), Cracker managed to release several albums.
In 2000, the Garage D’Ore compilation featured greatest hits, rarities and a few new songs (their , while the band issued a new album of original material entitled Forever two years later. In 2003, Lowrey and Hickman collaborated with acoustic jam band Leftover Salmon for a collection of bluegrass versions of Cracker tunes before the band issued a selection of mostly country cover songs, Countrysides.READ MORE: Homeless Man Found Dead with Gunshot Wounds Near Creek Trail
The break also allowed Hickman the time to record his first solo effort, the stripped-down countrified effort Palmhenge he released in 2005, as well as the collaborative folk EP by the Hickman Dalton Gang recorded with Jim Dalton of the Railbenders in 2007.
While Lowery’s reunion with Camper would occupy some of his time, it also allowed CVB and Cracker to embark on what would become regular co-headlining tours featuring both bands as well as their weekend “Campout” festivals on both coasts that would include performances by the two groups as well as affiliated solo projects and other acts.
While Hickman had not released a solo album in nearly a decade since his 2012 disc Tilting, earlier this summer he put out Blood Moon on his own Campstove Records imprint. Written amid the pandemic lockdown, the heartfelt tunes on the album find Hickman ruminating on isolation and mortality.
For this intimate show celebrating the release of the CD at the Make-Out Room in the Mission District, Hickman will be playing some solo tunes as well as performing songs backed by local all-star multi-instrumentalist Doug Hillsinger (Enorchestra, The Barneys, Waycross), Michelle Cernuto (Tarnation, SF Seals, Virginia Dare, Westward Ho) and Kristin Sobditch (Westward Ho, The Hollyhocks, Fantasy). Cernuto will also be reading from her new book “You Used to Know Me,” a self-described “Las Vegas punk rock ghost/young adult love story” put out on Poison Fang Books, the publishing house run by Flesheaters singer and writer Chris Desjardins. Local roots-rock favorites Macerator also appear.MORE NEWS: Repairs Finish Early on Ramp Between I-80 and Highway 101
Johnny Hickman Blood Moon CD Release Party
Saturday, Aug. 7, 7 p.m. $20
The Make-Out Room