This Saturday marks the 11th Buck Owens Birthday Bash at the Crystal Palace since his passing on March 25, 2006, and this year the powers-that-be are doing something a bit different than usual: They’re keeping it all in the family.
“This is the first time that we actually headlined without having a, for (lack of) a better word, a big act,” said Buck's son Johnny Owens.
“So this is the first time that we’re really just going to try to keep it ‘Bakersfield bound’ if you want to call it (that).”
Throughout the night, Owens and his Buck Fever Band will be performing not only songs by his father, but by other architects of the Bakersfield Sound, including Red Simpson and Merle Haggard, and additional artists that Owens remembers his father listening to.
During the first couple of hours, different guest performers will join the Buck Fever Band onstage to sing a song or two and share stories about their experiences with Buck. It's a roster of veritable “Crystal Palace All-Stars” including Tracy Peoples, Justin and Wendy McWilliams, Kadin Hernandez, and Lorenzo “Fatt Katt” Ybarra.
There will also be a large slideshow throughout the event projecting casual pictures of Buck with his friends, family and bandmates that range from silly and sentimental to, well, humorously mystifying.
“One of those pictures is Dad on (guitarist) Don Rich’s back and Don is on all fours and The Buckaroos are standing around them and we’re still trying, to this day, trying to figure out what they were doing.”
The whole event is designed to give the audience an idea of the man they’re celebrating.
“As much as he wanted to have fun ... (he was also) about work, and touring, and ‘Hee Haw,’ and radio stations and singing,” Owens said. “When he built the Crystal Palace he built it for Bakersfield. He built it for himself, but he built it for Bakersfield.”
The Buck Fever Band itself is a powerhouse of some of the best talent to ever set foot in Kern County. Joining Owens on vocals are Jennifer Keel (who recently celebrated a birthday of her own), Rick “Reno” Stevens on guitar and vocals, Ernie Lewis on fiddle and various instruments, Vern Monnett on pedal steel guitar, Kyle Appleton on guitar, Zack Arnold on drums and Ronnie Smith on bass.
“It took me a year to get this band together, to get the sound I wanted,” Owens said. “They do a great job.”
But at its core, the show is a family affair — not just figuratively. One song that Owens performs, “Hello Trouble,” is a favorite of his to perform, reminding him of a time he and his brother got into, well, trouble.
What happened? Well, you’ll have to see him tell the story to find out. It’s one of the handful of short stories that Owens shares at his shows.
“I always do ‘Act Naturally,’ I always do ‘Together Again,’ I always do ‘Love’s Gonna Live Here,’ I always do ‘Tiger By The Tail,’ I do all those songs that he did at every one of his shows,” Owens said. “But ‘Hello Trouble’ and ‘Gonna Have Love’ are my two favorites — at least to perform.”
I’d recommend reserving a table quickly and get there early to have dinner — the food there is outstanding — since these shows have a tendency to sell out.
“Once a year, we try to celebrate his birthday, and a bunch of people come out, have good food, and listen to some good music and have fun,” Owens said. “We’re gonna try to make it fun and make it a show.”
Buck’s Birthday Bash featuring Johnny Owens and the Buck Fever Band, 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, 2800 Buck Owens Blvd. Tickets are $31.50, available at 328-7560 or vallitix.com.
Truxton Mile’s new single
And speaking of sold-out shows at the Crystal Palace, this Friday’s listening show for local country act Truxton Mile has all tables spoken for but will release limited general admission tickets the day of the show. Get there early to snag one of the remaining seats.
For fans wanting to check out the band's newest single, “You’re Right,” it will be available Saturday on iTunes.
The song is a four-minute, mid-tempo ballad about the danger of hubris in love. When singer Ryan Coulter sings, “I’m alone, but look who’s lonely,” it’s both a statement of derision and sadness. The song is the flagship of their upcoming album due out later this year. Based on their canny promotion for this single —making fans guess what it is by delivering clues on social media — expect more to come.
Hard Fall Hearts, Surface Report and Plasma Cannon, 9 p.m. Friday at Riley’s Tavern, 1523 19th St. $5.
This Friday, Riley’s Tavern will serve as a sort of star-crossed hub for three different acts. The first is San Diego trio Hard Fall Hearts, which specializes in uptempo punk/rockabilly. But underneath the thumpa-thumpa stand-up bass, reverb-delay guitar and aggressive drumming, there’s a darker engine revving underneath that hood. There’s a lot more mood and gravity to their music than just the usual songs of heartbreak and hard times.
The second is another San Diego act, Surface Report. These guys are just straight-up fast, energetic Southern California punk rock meant to jump-start the Dickies shorts-and-Converse contingent. Here’s the kicker: Both of these bands are on separate tours that happen to coincidentally intersect here Saturday. It’s almost as it were meant to be.
And the cherry on top? Third act Plasma Cannon has a song called “Bedlam in Bakersfield," which they're sure to play.
Darkside presents The Goddamn Gallows, Barstool Buskers, Carcinogenz and DJ JoseX, 8 p.m. Thursday at Pyrenees Cafe & Saloon, 601 Sumner St. $5.
Definite Growth Entertainment presents The Artifacts & Bukue One with special guest Mic Bles, plus performances by Erosadis with DJ Odeed, Con.t.r.a., Disposable Heroes, All Heal, and a mic cypher session with live beats by Merge Beats, 8 p.m. Thursday at Riley’s Tavern, 1523 19th St. $10.
There are a lot of different shows to choose from Thursday, but two are of note. The first is the return of Michigan-based The Goddamn Gallows to Bakersfield at Pyrenees Cafe & Saloon. The GGs have been baptizing fans here with their combustable brand of fierce, gypsy-punk doom for a few years now.
The group is a nonstop force to be reckoned with. I am not underestimating this: These shows are not for the passive — if the name didn’t already clue you in. They’re dark, exhilarating, powerful and engaging and will remind people of how music can be dangerous. Not in the sense that the audience is in danger, but in the way you’ve seen and heard something that shook you a bit to the core — and left you a bit changed, all the while daring you to hang on and follow as they furiously dive down the rabbit hole.
Also on the bill is the three-piece Carcinogenz, which performs perfect blasts of pure punk rock energy — I seriously don’t think any of their songs last more than 90-seconds — and what they and the GGs do, they do very well.
Meanwhile at Riley’s Tavern downtown, The Artifacts will perform with an absolutely packed roster of local and out of town MCs and artists. The group was a seminal '90s underground hip-hop act that made a name for itself with the 1994 debut, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place.” That is reason enough to pay the cost of admission, but it’s the cypher session and rapper Eurosadis that put this show over the top for me.
For the unfamiliar, a cypher session is a revolving group of MCs taking turns delivering a set amount of verses, one after the other and usually in groups. They’re usually backed by a DJ or a live band (producer Merge Beats will provide the beats here). As someone who’s performed drums for a cypher session, I can personally vouch that they can be exciting to experience.
Eurosadis is an enigmatic local rapper who pops up now and again under different names and continues to stun with his skill, ironic humor and deft wordplay. Catch him with DJ Odeed before he disappears again for another decade or so.
There will be a free meet and greet with The Artifacts at the Free Wall by the Mercado Latino (2105 Edison Highway) at 2 p.m. Water will be provided and merch will be available to buy.