All shows are at 8 p.m. at the Budweiser Pavilion stage.
Wednesday, Sept. 18
Given Kern County’s propensity for oppressively hot summers, Nelly’s 2002 single “Hot in Herre” should be in the running for Bakersfield’s unofficial party mantra.
With an astounding 21 million albums sold in the U.S. alone, the 44-year-old Nelly is one of the bestselling rap artists of the millennium. Listening to 2002's “Nellyville” is a refresher course in just how ubiquitous his music was in the mid-aughts.
Between “Hot in Herre” and his duet with Kelly Rowland, “Dilemma,” Nelly was undeniable. Not to mention, a Grammy Award-winner for both of those songs. At that moment in time, Nelly was on top of the world. On its opening day, fairgoers will have their chance to be reminded why.
His last release was the 2018 single “Freaky with You” with Jacquees.
KC and the Sunshine Band
Thursday, Sept. 19
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the days of “Disco sucks” are long gone. That funky, energetic style of music that epitomized the electric, hedonistic 1970s has snuck its way back into our pop culture landscape. More so, these days, for its inclusion in children’s movies starring trolls, minions and penguins than those starring John Travolta.
And, next to the Bee Gees and Chic, no band has held the boogie banner more consistently and more effectively than KC and the Sunshine Band — even if they’re a bit more funk than disco.
For their performance at the fair, expect classic songs like “(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty,” “That’s The Way (I Like It),” “I’m Your Boogie Man” and their signature song/mission statement, “Get Down Tonight.” It’s not all about nostalgia for KC and the Sunshine Band, though. The band has a new single, “Give Me Some More (Aye Yai Yai),” featuring Tony Moran and Chic’s Nile Rodgers, another disco mainstay who’s no stranger to the “Good Times.”
I envision a lot of boogie shoes and hopefully a leisure suit or two — maybe even a white one! Just don’t be surprised if your kids knows the songs better than you do.
Friday, Sept. 20
Has it really been a quarter-century years since the days of the “Watermelon Crawl”? In the mid-1990s, Byrd’s songs like that one and “Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous,” off Byrd’s 1994 album, “No Ordinary Man,” were all over country radio.
Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Byrd’s eponymous debut and its breakthrough hit song “Holdin’ Heaven," so the Texas native took to the road to celebrate that milestone. His appearance at the fair kicks off his current three-month string of shows culminating with a hometown finale in Beaumont, Texas.
Byrd’s style of country is remarkably consistent. The singer has a forte and he’s very good at it. His last release, 2016's enjoyable “All American Texan,” showed the singer at his most driven and his most frank. Especially on the song “Roll With It,” where Byrd sings plaintively about knowing when the party had to end.
Fans who might have lost track of Byrd since 2002's playful “Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo” will be pleased to hear that Byrd’s mojo is still intact. Indulge in it.
Saturday, Sept. 21
While KC and the Sunshine Band exemplify the more dynamic form of 1970s dance music, Pablo Cruise is its laid-back counterpart. Even the band's logo, all groovy lowercase letters overshadowed by a palm tree, screams California in the 1970s. If there ever was a band whose music you listened to while parked at a beach watching the sun go down, it’s Pablo Cruise.
The band had a one-two punch with 1977's “A Place in the Sun” (including its title track and the fantastic “Whatcha Gonna Do?”) and the 1978 platinum-selling “World’s Away.” The hit song off of the latter, “Love Will Find a Way,” is yacht rock incarnate: airy, sophisticated, grooving and so, so, so very smooth. I’m also a sucker for the overlooked 1981 album “Reflector” with the songs “Cool Love,” “Drums in the Night” and “Paradise (Let Me Take You Into).”
Pablo Cruise is so fresh and — yes — smooth that you can almost taste the mojitos and feel the ocean breeze listening to them — if you weren’t too busy dancing.
Los Rieleros Del Norte
Sunday, Sept. 22
This long-running El Paso, Texas-based Norteño band has been going since the mid-1980s and has a plethora of material from which to choose. From upbeat cumbias like “La Delgadina," to waltzes like “El Columpio” (“The Swing”) about life and love’s back-and-forth, to two-steps like “Te Quiero Mucho” (“I Love You”), which is as sweet a love song as you’ll find in Norteño or otherwise. Bring a date and be ready to twirl on the dance floor. A lot.
Monday, Sept. 23
Turner has had a remarkable string of successful albums since his 2003 debut, “Long Black Train.” All seven of them have reached No. 3 or higher on the U.S. Billboard country charts, with three of them hitting No. 1. His last album, the gospel-heavy “I Serve a Savior,” reached No. 2 on both the country and Christian album charts.
If any modern artist can blend that “Saturday night/Sunday morning” dichotomy in country music, it’s Turner. He wears his faith on his sleeve and even if he hasn’t lived a life as heavy as that of a man of redemption like Johnny Cash — or, at least, one that we know of — they both share the same weight of conviction as well as the same molasses-thick baritone. With hit songs like “Your Man," "Would You Go With Me” and "Why Don’t We Just Dance” as well as the superb title track to “Long Black Train,” expect your ears and your soul to find some satisfaction if not a bit of solace.
Tuesday, Sept. 24
Christian music singer Francesca Battistelli has a voice that is almost crystalline in its clarity but solid as stone in its delivery. On the Grammy-winning “Holy Spirit," from the 2014 album “If We’re Honest,” it swoops and soars and nails every emotional nuance the song requires. Seemingly effortless.
“The Breakup Song,” off her 2018 release “Own It,” is a killer song: a doo-wop tinged, self-empowering anthem about saying goodbye to fear. The entire album bursts with a youthful, positive energy. Battistelli's latest single, “Defender” (the Neon Feather remix is recommended), is a straightforward testimony that a singer doesn't need vocal gymnastics to showcase how strong of a vocalist they are. What’s necessary is a focused sense of what they’re trying to say and the determination to say it, feel it, with unwavering, honest purpose.
Wednesday, Sept. 25
Speaking of lush-baritone country singers, Scott McCreery used his voice to become the winner of the 10th season of “American Idol.” His latest release, 2018's “Seasons Change,” is a straight-up meat-and-potatoes modern-country album with polished production and airtight songwriting. It does achieve a sense of poignancy with the track “Five More Minutes” where McCreery asks for a reprieve from the persistence and consequences of time.
I get a bit giddy imagining McCreery teaming up with local singer and season three "American Idol" finalist Amy Adams. The two of them trading stories of their respective competition gauntlets, leading up to them singing “Islands in the Stream.” Hey, it might never happen, but it’s one heck of a daydream.
Creedence Clearwater Revisited
Thursday, Sept. 26
For five years, between 1967 and 1972, Creedence Clearwater Revival blazed a career that very few bands could ever achieve in a lifetime. It also led to an acrimonious split, a lasting animosity between band members and shady business decisions that musicians still use as cautionary tales, almost to the level of ghost stories: “Watch what you sign! Woooo!”
The band also encompassed a catalog of classics like “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Fortunate Son,” “Born on the Bayou,” and their cover of “Susie Q,” that have retained their potency as well as multigenerational recognition.
Since 1993, CCR has been split into two main factions. The first being CCR's main musical architect John Fogerty's solo career and the other being Creedence Clearwater Revisited, formed by CCR's original bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford. (CCR's original guitarist, and Fogerty’s brother, Tom Fogerty died in 1990.)
However, there won’t be two for very long. This year marks the end of the road for Creedence Clearwater Revisited, which will be calling it quits later this year. It’s officially last call for fans to catch Cook and Cosmo play live the beloved songs that they helped create.
From playing Woodstock 50 years ago to playing Bakersfield this year, that’s a lot of mileage for fans to enjoy.
Friday, Sept. 27
Led by brothers Brad and Curtis Rempel, High Valley is a Canadian country music group whose sound is so polished you could practically see your reflection in it. But within all that order lies some ragged hearts yearning to break free.
They’re kind of hard to pin down: They have a twangier approach to their music than, say, The Avett Brothers, but with a commercial sensibility that rivals pop music like Taylor Swift. When it comes to following country music’s propensity for wordplay in lyrics, look no further than their latest release, “Single Man,” where the duo shine. The song's title refers to both a man's marital status and how many men “who’d take a pick a keg of whiskey” over his girl’s kiss. Answer: not a single one.
Their sound is right at that sweet spot where pop production and country grit meet with some occasional Mumford & Sons euphoric kick-drum-and-”Heys!” thrown in. Their 2016 album “Dear Life” and the songs “Make You Mine” and “I Be U Be” are right up that alley.
Bell Biv Devoe
Saturday, Sept. 28
Bell Biv DeVoe might be victims of their own popularity. Their 1990 album “Poison” and especially its title track catapulted the trio into multiplatinum success and pop culture permanence.
But while “Poison” saw Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe stepping into their own after their exit from the 1980s boy band New Edition and embracing the same new jack swing style championed by their former bandmate Bobby Brown, they were much more than that album.
They’ve put out four studio albums in 27 years and each of them is unique in its own way as well as to the times they were released. They’re all artifacts of their times, but still quite enjoyable. More “The Arsenio Hall Show” than Crystal Pepsi. Just kidding. I loved Crystal Pepsi.
Their last release was 2017's “Three Stripes” and, spoiler alert, it’s quite good. For those of you who only know them for “Poison,” stream the group's albums online. You might be surprised. This is also the second time they’re playing Bakersfield this year, having played the Spectrum Amphitheatre with Bobby Brown in June. So they gotta have something up their sleeves, right? Watch it be crates of Crystal Pepsi.
Sunday, Sept. 29
Sinaloa-born accordionist Fidel Rueda will close out this year’s fair supporting his latest release, this year’s “Tengo Ganas" ("I Want"). The 36-year-old is quite a talent and has some solid material, regardless of genre.
I quite like his 2012 song “Tu Ya Eres Cosa Del Pasado" (translated to “You’re Already a Thing of the Past"). It’s a straightforward break-up-no-chance-for-a-makeup tune with a killer chorus, that, given the subject material, is more matter-of-fact than vindictive. Well, not totally.
He's got confidence and charisma and time will tell if he could be a possible worthy heir to pick up the mantle of the late "Rebelde de acordeón," Celso Piña, who died last month. That is, if Rueda even wants to.