The ubiquity of tribute bands isn’t anything new and this weekend provides us with ample evidence that they’re not going away anytime soon. We have four different tribute events (!!) from a variety of different genres happening around town.
It kicks off Thursday with Petty & The Heartshakers, a Las Vegas Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tribute act that features some all-star players (a common aspect among the bands performing this weekend) with some truly diverse resumes.
In a nice bit of musical chairs, bassist Les Warner was once the drummer in The Cult and drummer Andy Gerold was once the bassist for Marilyn Manson. Lead guitarist Chris Cicchino and the faux Petty himself, Dan Grennes, were both in comedian Jim Breuer’s band.
The Heartshakers’ sound is tight, if a bit hard rock-ish at times, and the musicians, especially keyboardist Brenda Fitz, nail their respective parts. Since Petty’s death in 2016, quality tribute acts like these are the best way you’ll be able to hear Petty’s signature songs like “Free Falling” or “American Girl” performed with the proper gravity.
The next event on Friday isn’t a tribute band, but a tribute night instead. Oakland-based DJ Blade has orchestrated a multimedia theme night revolved around the Canadian rapper Drake. Theme nights like this are growing in popularity, so get there early before the rush. Feel free to get decked out in your finest atheleisurewear -- or maybe a chain and turtleneck. What if you’re not a fan? Well, show promoter Eddy Santos of Numbskull Productions put it best: “Come observe and witness fans of this cultural icon get wild in their natural habitat.” Sold.
Also on Friday, the long-running (16 years) San Diego Johnny Cash tribute act Cash’d Out will be returning to Bakersfield to perform at Temblor Brewing Company. Right up the street from where the bronze statue in Cash’s image at the Crystal Palace stands.
Frontman Doug Benson’s voice uncannily, almost spookily, resembles the Man in Black’s famous baritone and he also carries the same haunted soulful pensiveness, as well. Cash’d Out is one of the hardest working and finer Johnny Cash tributes playing today and it’s recently found itself in the midst of a renaissance. Where the band once toured with a rotating cast of musicians, it’s locked into a stunning line-up of players with fantastic pedigrees.
Long-time guitarist Jimmy Muir played with the “Hillbilly Heartthrob” himself, Faron Young; bassist Jason Brown played with Hank Williams III, and drummer Scott Churilla played with the Reverend Horton Heat for the better part of two decades. Singers Heather Thelen and Laurie Rivera, aka “The Carter Belles,” will be playing the parts of the Carter sisters and June Carter.
The inclusion of the three has made what was already a solid outfit into a juggernaut live attraction covering Cash’s multi-generational career. They’ve kept their hot rod heart but with some streamlined modern engineering, or as Benson described it, “putting the engine of a ‘56 Corvette into a brand new Camaro.”
At the time of this writing, the show was almost sold out, so don’t end up cry, cry, crying and grab your tickets now.
“I’m looking forward to being back in Bakersfield,” said Benson via phone interview. "I love the people up there. We’ve always had really good shows and really good support from our fans up there and thank you very much for that.”
And finally, on Saturday, local musician Travis Byler has put together a new group to perform U2’s brilliant 1987 album “The Joshua Tree” in its entirety. Getting to hear the seminal album performed live by some of Bakersfield’s finest musicians, including Kyle Appleton on guitar, Ray Sadolsky on bass, Tony Rinaldi on Keyboards and Jason Blakely on drums will be a treat even for non-fans.
The rest of the evening will include even more U2 songs for good measure as well as some choice covers. Saturday is also Sadolsky’s birthday, so if you’re a friend or a fan — or like me, both — make sure to stop by and say hello.
I also want to mention some fine cover bands performing around town this weekend: Lipstick Revolver at the Old River Monte Carlo on Friday and Saturday; Blackman, Warfield & SWA with Randall Horne at the Lone Oak Lounge on Thursday; N$F and Rod P & Nu Standard (two separate bands with two separate shows) at Jerry’s Pizza on Friday; and Captain Morgan and the Fish at the Sportsman in Kernville on Saturday.
When done well, the best bands — tribute or cover — will make the listener reevaluate and gain a newfound respect for the source material. It’s a skillful mixture of reverence, craft, attention to detail and nostalgia. And you can dance to it.
Petty & The Heartshakers (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers tribute) 7 - 9 p.m. Thursday at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame, 2231 R St.; Tickets: $35 VIP (front row seating) GA: $30 (each before fees); ticketing.us.veezi.com; 864-1701
Drake Night - “Tribute to the 6 God,” 9 p.m. Friday at Prohibition at 1933 Event Center, 7900 Downing Ave.; Tickets: $5; ticketweb.com; 21 and over
Cash’d Out (Johnny Cash tribute), 8 - 11 p.m. Friday at Temblor Brewing Company. 3200 Buck Owens Blvd. Ste. 200; General Admission tickets: $20; eventbrite.com; 18 and over unless with a parent
U2’s “The Joshua Tree” Show, 8 -10 p.m. Saturday at Lengthwise Pub, 2900 Calloway Dr.; free admission; all ages
Mainsail (from Oceanside), Post-26, Monte Cristo, Mindless Society (from Reedley), Ariel Dyer, These White Pigeons, 6 p.m. Saturday at Bruised Reeds, 1660 S St.; $5; all ages
Local audiences might recognize Mike Liorti, from his previous one-man act Rosedale, where Liorti would sing and play guitar or keyboards along to music he recorded all the parts to. Synced footage of him recording those parts projected on a screen behind him as he played, in essence making him his own virtual backing band. He made it a point to stop by Bakersfield on his tours.
“I love Bakersfield, man,” Liorti said via email. “I tell any Californian who rags on Bako (including the locals) the same thing: you're failing to realize how much better Bakersfield is than 95-percent of just North American cities.”
“Sure, it gets hot, but it's better than freezing in, say, Winnipeg! And when you look at the big picture what are you really missing by living in Bakersfield? It's almost like LA but without the hipsters and ridiculous traffic! You could probably get to the beach quicker there than if you lived in Riverside!”
Liorti's perpetual work ethic was Herculean; producing, performing and planning everything backing his brand on his own. However, even as focused, talented and ambitious as he was with Rosedale, he never managed to break through to the larger audience he deserved.
Last year, after 14 years, Liorti bid goodbye to Rosedale with a farewell tour and then moved from Toronto to San Diego. He’s now playing bass for the Oceanside quartet Mainsail that will appeal to fans of early-aughts pop-punk bands like Blink 182 and New Found Glory. They’ll be playing an all-ages show at Bruised Reeds this Saturday as part of their “Blue Skies” tour. (Their song of the same name is fantastic.)
“I'm always stoked to go back to Bakersfield,” Liorti said. “A lot of great memories and friends. Music scenes and nightlife rise and fall in every city. I've been finding the more the locals appreciate and respect their city and all it has to offer, the rise of the music scene follows very quickly and organically. So I'm trying to raise some chins in Bakersfield and get rid of the stigma surrounding it.”
Ninth Anniversary Cattle Call Jam, 3 - 7 p.m. Sunday at O’Hennings Bar, 1312 Airport Dr.; free admission; bass amp, keyboard and drum set will be provided; 21 and over
Founded by promoter KayKay Jagger, the Cattle Call Jam has been a quality meeting place for musicians of all styles for almost a decade. From its small beginnings at Vinny’s, a four-and-a-half year run at the Branding Iron, to its current home at O’Hennings, the vibe has been casual and respectful. With the audience usually just as game as the musicians who sit in.
This Sunday’s Cattle Call Jam looks to be a special one: it’s the jam session’s ninth anniversary. If you haven’t been to one, I highly recommend making this one. For newer musicians looking to network, it’s an invaluable opportunity to make connections.
The gear is there, just bring your ear, your sticks, your axe and your guitar amp. Or just go and soak up the ambience — and lovely air-conditioning! — in one of the most uniquely designed bars in town. Either way, you can beat the heat or keep the beat. It's up to you.