David Lowery holds a special place in my book of rock.

The singer-songwriter was a co-founder of not just one but two of my favorite alt-rock bands. He first came to prominence with Camper Van Beethoven, a legendary college-rock act that rose out of Santa Cruz in the mid-1980s. Then he found multiplatinum success with Cracker in the '90s.

Camper Van Beethoven is the more experimental and artsy of the two bands, offering up such bizarrely appealing indie numbers as "The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon," "ZZ Top Goes to Egypt," "The History of Utah," "Joe Stalin's Cadillac" and, of course, "Take the Skinheads Bowling." The band's style seemed to evolve with each song, moving through ska, world music, punk, alt-country and pretty much everything in between. (That passion for sonic exploration can be heard on the recently released "La Costa Perdida," the band's first studio album in nine years.)

COURTESY OF CAMPER VON BEETHOVENDavid Lowery (second from left) and his band Camper Van Beethoven play the Santa Cruz BOardwalk on Friday.
COURTESY OF CAMPER VON BEETHOVEN David Lowery (second from left) and his band Camper Van Beethoven play the Santa Cruz BOardwalk on Friday. ( cvb )

By comparison, Cracker was a straight-ahead rock band -- and certainly one of the finest to emerge in the grunge. The trio delivered so many great anthems during its early '90s heyday, including "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)," "This Is Cracker Soul," "Movie Star," "Get Off This" and the smash hit "Low," which remains its biggest calling card. (All of those tunes were fueled by the incredible riffs of Johnny Hickman, who ranks high on my list of greatest unsung guitar heroes.)

Which of Lowery's bands would I rather see in concert? That's a tough call -- and fortunately one I don't have to make right now. That's because the Amazing Mr. Lowery will pull double duty and perform with both Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven on Friday at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Showtimes are 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Admission to the concerts is free (but it will cost you if you want to ride the rides). For more information, go to www.beachboardwalk.com.

BACK TO BAUHAUS: Back in 1978, four aspiring musicians came together in Northampton, England, and formed a band called Bauhaus 1919.

The group soon expunged the 1919 from its name and then ventured out to write the rule book for what would become known as goth rock. Bauhaus accomplished that feat, really, with its very first single -- "Bela Lugosi's Dead," a chilling and darkly mesmerizing epic that ran more than nine minutes. It was not, by any means, radio friendly -- or, for that matter, friendly at all.

Yet, it cemented Bauhaus' significance in the emerging goth rock scene. More than three decades after its release, it still stands as the genre's defining moment and is cherished by fans worldwide. In other words, "Bela Lugosi's Dead" simply won't die.

The group went on to deliver other memorable singles -- including "Kick in the Eye," "Spirit" and a cover of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" -- during a career that originally lasted just five years. A few encores followed, with reunions in 1998 and from 2005 to 2008, but they weren't enough to satisfy the hunger for Bauhaus material.

Thankfully, here comes Peter Murphy to help out.

The group's legendary lead singer, and the genre's greatest poster boy, is marking the 35th anniversary of Bauhaus' birth with his Mr. Moonlight Tour. The set lists consist entirely of Bauhaus material.

The tour stops Tuesday at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Show time is 8 p.m., and tickets are $27.50 (www.livenation.com).

SO SMOOTH: Smooth jazz fans can look forward to KBLX radio station's Sunset Jazz Festival, which takes place Saturday at Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord. The lineup is chock full of big name smooth jazz and R&B talent, including trumpeter Rick Braun, saxophonists Boney James and Kirk Whalum, vocalist Will Downing and vocalist-multi-instrumentalist Patrice Rushen. Acclaimed gospel act Mary Mary is listed as a special guest for the show. The all-day affair kicks off at noon. Tickets are $48.75-$109 (www.livenation.com).

Follow Jim Harrington at Twitter.com/jimthecritic, Facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.