Traveling music and culture bloggers, Elizabeth McFadden, Stepanie Fryslie Nicora and Lindsey Trowbridge visit Bakersfield
Backroom bars and alleyways in cities across America whisper their secret histories. What were once centers for music and culture may not carry the same power today, but the memories remain and the legacies inspire.
For those who were born and raised in Kern County, the history of the Bakersfield Sound and the country stars that rode the wave is common knowledge. Outsiders, though, have a very different view of our town and its influence on the rest of the world.
"Bakersfield has this reputation for being no big deal," said Stephanie Nicora co-founder of the music blog Wayfarenotes.com. "It's just this town you pass through when you're driving to L.A."
But Nicora and her web-partner-in-crime, Lindsey Trowbridge, are a different breed of outsiders. The women have been friends for more than five years, and, although Trowbridge is based out of San Francisco and Nicora is out of Los Angeles, the two have remained friends as they share a passion for music and its history. Hence, the launch of Wayfarenotes.com, a blog that chronicles their visits to cities with a musical history they feel need to be shared.
The blog launched Friday with the debut entry detailing their trip to Bakersfield. Nicora said she picked the city as their first official stop because of her love for performer Red Simpson and the great musicians from Kern County that came after him.
She, Trowbridge and friend Elizabeth McFadden arrived in town on a hot Saturday night in July. I escorted the ladies around town, and we made stops at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace, Narducci's, Sandrini's, B. Ryder's, Guthrie's Alley Cat and The Mint. In our six hours on the scene that evening, we saw the Buckaroos, blues act Whiteboy James and The Express, the ska and Latin beats of Mento Buru, and Latin alt rock favorites Velorio.
"It was amazing that there was so much going on that we couldn't get to it all in one night. That's what really impressed me about Bakersfield," Nicora said.
Not only were they impressed with the music itself, but Trowbridge and Nicora were impressed with the atmosphere in the downtown area.
"You go to these California towns and you just find yourself in these strip malls and places like that. The time and care that's been put into the venues that we went to was amazing. Sandrini's and Narducci's blew me away. It was like we were in some little place in North Beach in San Francisco; it wasn't what I expected at all."
In addition to their Saturday night out, the two took advantage of Bakersfield's vintage shops, the Padre Hotel and the newly opened stage at Riley's Tavern on Sunday. Their stay was rounded out Monday with a trip to Oildale, where they got a true taste of the Bakersfield Sound at Trout's and The Blackboard Stages.
As they traveled across the city, meeting bartenders and musicians who spanned the cultural divide, Nicora said they felt a real sense of community when it came to everyone involved.
"Even going and talking to Rockwell at Trout's, he's a country music guy but the way he talked about the young musicians in town, it really seemed like he knew them and appreciated them. I got this sense that the music community in Bakersfield is a tight-knit family."
Beyond their love of music, the women started the project as an excuse to explore the American countryside. On their travels across the country, they realized each getaway had a common theme.
"We hadn't really seen a lot of this country so we'd pick random cities and would just go. After a couple of trips, we realized we were music traveling," said Nicora.
On the way will be an entry from Charlotte, N.C. once a thriving music recording mecca. Also coming up is a trip to Minneapolis, Minn., a thriving Latin music community.
The pair hope that by shining the light on the country's various musical centers, that they'll revitalize interest among readers in their own hometowns.
"Bakersfield is an amazing thing," Nicora said. "The bars, the musicians and the people that go to the shows. It's very precious."