"Soul is the music people understand," he said. "It's honest."
Those lines ring true for Foster Campbell and Friends, Bakersfield's purveyors of "high-octane rhythm and blues." Performing classics from Wilson Pickett and Joe Cocker, to the Temptations and James Brown and beyond, this horn-heavy show band has been bringing down the house at high-profile locals event since bursting on the scene six years ago. Now this funky family of musicians is about to take the stage for a huge gig: opening for legendary bluesman B.B. King Saturday at the Fox.
"It's very exciting for all of us, that's for sure," said lead vocalist and guitarist Foster Campbell. "A lot of anticipation and eagerness."
The group was assembled as a favor to Village Fest organizer Rick Peace, who had approached Campbell about forming a group to perform at the annual beer, wine and food festival. The response to their debut was overwhelming.
"Rick asked us what the name would be and I just told him plainly, 'Foster Campbell and Friends.' We had such a good time, we decided to keep going and one thing led to another."
Since then, the mammoth 15-piece band has been entertaining crowds at the Bakersfield Jazz Festival, The Marketplace, Buck Owens' Crystal Palace and even organized their own party cruise to Ensenada, Mexico. Joining Campbell in the huge lineup are: Tanner Byrom, drums; Chuck Seaton, guitar; Brett Seaton, bass; Chris Neufeld, keyboards; Mac McClanahan, tenor sax; Dennis Wilson, alto sax; Dave Sands, baritone sax; John Hollins, trumpet; and back-up singers Geri Campbell, Amerie Seaton, Karrie Sands, Tracy Peoples, Tracey Levens and Leslea Rousch.
"These are a great bunch of cats to play with," said McClanahan, who handles the horn arrangements for the group. "The term we like to use to describe most of the players in this band is 'seasoned.'"
In preparation for this weekend, Campbell said the band has been stepping up the normal rehearsal routine.
"We try to make rehearsals accessible for everyone to attend, including families. It's not really as much work as it probably is for other bands. We're a pretty early group, so we start about 6 p.m. and end by 8:30 p.m., with a barbecue mixed in. Amazingly it comes together pretty well most of the time. I'm so thankful for texting. It can be a lot like herding cats."
When he's not testifying to the healing power of music onstage, Campbell works as a family practice physician. It's an occupation that does have its privileges. After all, he is the leader of the band, and whatever he prescribes is usually the best medicine.
"I have some flexibility to start and stop with my schedule. If it gets to be too much like work, I kind of back off. Then, when it starts getting better, I start to book more gigs."
That philosophy works for bassist Brett Seaton.
"That's pretty much what this band is all about. Everyone has a good time, and that energy goes into the audience. They see us having a blast and they end up having a good time too."
The younger Seaton said playing alongside guitarist/dad Chuck Seaton can get a little unnerving, but he's happy to share the stage, especially considering the recent announcement that his pop will be performing regularly with the Buckaroos at the Crystal Palace.
"I know he's kind of a big name around here. It's awesome."
But that mutual respect doesn't end with the father-and-son duo, McClanahan said.
"Foster is smart enough to get this caliber of musicians and let them do their respective thing. He's not a dictator type and he leaves space for everyone. We all sing and play an instrument. It's not the Foster Campbell show; he showcases the whole band."
Another of the group's highlights is the inclusion of the all-female backup singing section, called The Tasty Vocals, featuring Campbell's wife, Geri.
"She's doing great and actually has some very precise pitch. ... Her joke is she got into the band by sleeping with the band leader," Campbell laughed.
For Geri, getting involved was too hard to resist.
"My husband was pretty smart. He put me in the band so I wouldn't complain about practice," she said. "The girls in the band are good friends of mine, too. People that really know me can't believe I'm up there, but my friends told me, 'Aren't you the one that says, "You can do it?" It's great for a mom to have a hobby. Men always have hobbies, but for women it's not very easy. I'm addicted."
For Saturday's show, the band wants their hometown crowd to be prepared for a post-Thanksgiving party they won't soon forget. Plus, fans can expect a few original songs mixed into the playlist.
"We do give it our all, and we are a high-energy band," said Campbell.
The Pixies sell out Fox
Last Friday's sell-out concert at the Fox with the Pixies attracted one of the liveliest crowds I've ever been a part of, and I've been to a lot of shows in this town. Winding up their current "Lost Cities" tour in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of their landmark album "Doolittle," members Frank Black, Joey Santiago, Kim Deal and David Lovering entered the stage to a storm of applause before launching into a short set of b-sides that included "Dancing the Manta Ray," and "Bailey's Walk." Introduced by bassist, Deal, each song was presented note for note. No onstage banter, just music.
That was followed by "Doolittle," presented in its entirety, beginning with "Debaser," Black's ode to 1929 surrealist film "Un Chien Andalou." The band projected a series of bizarre clips from the film behind them, which got the attentive and jubilant fans on their feet. The band was in fine form, smiling, even taking a miscue in stride.