By MATT MUNOZ, Californian columnist firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week's visit by Latin singer Juanes was no average tour stop.
The Grammy-winning artist, who kicked off his "Loud & Unplugged" tour before a full house at Rabobank Theater on Friday, spent a number of days rehearsing and doing press below the radar.
But Juanes isn't the only megastar attracted to Bakersfield.
"Rehearsal requests are about one to two times a year," said Ed Dorsey, Rabobank Arena assistant general manager, of the frequency of inquiries into renting the venue.
"Whether they happen or not depends on venue availability. There are other venues that do a lot more than we do. We have hosted Elton John, Jewel, Trey Anastasio from Phish, Neil Diamond, Korn, Britney Spears, Incubus (twice), Journey, Foo Fighters (twice) and Juanes. We have also hosted two-week rehearsal periods with Disney On Ice."
A number of factors account for the city's appeal, Dorsey said.
"One reason is Bakersfield is close to Los Angeles, but not too close. Neil Diamond and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) stayed in Los Angeles and commuted up each day to rehearse. The other -- and more important -- reason is because we are reasonably priced and they can get their work done," said Dorsey of the rehearsal fee, which starts at $1,500 a day.
"We provide what they need and leave them alone. They usually have a lot to do in a very short period of time."
While most artists have a tight schedule, others block out personal time to explore the city, Dorsey said. During Foo Fighters' last visit, Grohl was spotted shopping at the Valley Plaza, with fans posting photos online as proof.
"If they want to see or do something, we will provide options. Most frequent requests are setting up a golf outing or going to the Crystal Palace. Some people know about Bakersfield and what we have to offer. I have a production friend who every time he comes through, he has to go to Wool Growers, period. And then there are others who couldn't care less."
In addition to rehearsing and meeting with press from around the globe last Thursday, Juanes made time for several lucky members of the United Farm Workers of America, who were treated to an hourlong rehearsal performance and meet-and-greet with the performers at Rabobank.
Cali Roots Festival
The award for coolest gig of the year -- so far -- goes to Bakersfield reggae rock trio Dub Seeds.
The easygoing brethren of all-things-irie are headed to the sold-out California Roots Music Festival this weekend in Monterey, considered the Woodstock of the state's reggae scene.
Dub Seeds guitarist and vocalist Chris Taylor said he and bassist Gary Rink and drummer Anthony "Gizmo" Rodriguez have been savoring every moment since being notified by festival organizers.
"It feels amazing, like this is a peaking moment as a band," said Taylor of landing the coveted spot, determined by an online voting contest. "We've been trying to get in the past two years. We finally got in touch with one of the organizers, who said he might be able to get us in. About six months ago, we were put into the contest, and our fans voted us in."
The lineup of the three-day outdoor festival, which kicks off on Friday, features a who's who of the genre, including: Slightly Stoopid, Rebelution, Dirty Heads, Expendables, Matisyahu, and others who've helped expand the hybrid reggae, rock and punk sound from a niche audience into a wildly popular musical subculture. Dub Seeds will take the festival stage on Sunday afternoon.
"We have a 45-minute set, so we've been practicing. Most of it is a lot of mental preparation. We're playing the same day as Matisyahu, so we wanna make sure we bring our A game. Everyone that's everyone is going to be there."
Rink and Rodriguez, along with a posse of friends who've been planning to attend for months, will head up today to set up camp. Taylor will take off for Monterey Saturday morning.
"Just to be invited to play is kind of like a pinnacle for us. Anything that comes out of it, a few more fans or more gigs, is icing on the cake. This is the biggest show we've ever been a part of and has already given us a lot of new exposure."
The festival is sold out; however, fans can stream the show live all weekend at californiarootsfestival.com.
Upcoming local shows
Add this pair of shows to your calendar:
Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett appears with his country side project, the Dead Peasants, at a free show at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace on June 13. Shiflett, who formed the idea for the band while on tour for the Foo Fighters' album "Wasting Light," learned as many classic honky-tonk songs as he could. He already has made a number of live appearances with his honky-tonk sextet, most recently at the Stagecoach music festival in Indio. The group's new CD, "All Hat and No Cattle," is a collection of some of his favorite country classics, including Buck Owens' "King of Fools," Merle Haggard's "Skid Row," Waylon Jennings' "Are you Sure Hank Done It This Way," Don Rich's "Guitar Pickin' Man," and others. The album won't be released until July, but fans can download two free tracks at chrisshiflettmusic.com.
The show is free, and space is limited. For more information, call Buck Owens' Crystal Palace at 328-7560.
Also coming up: Former Mars Volta lead vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala will be bringing his new band, Zavalaz, to Elements Venue on June 26. After parting ways with longtime Mars Volta partner Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Bixler-Zavala remains his eclectic self, posting cryptic messages online as to the nature of their music. According to the Zavalaz Facebook page, the all-star band will feature various Bixler-Zavala on vocals and guitar, Mars Volt bassist Juan Alderete de la Pena and other notable musical comrades. Tickets for the all ages show are $13 and on sale now through timgardeapresents.com. Elements Venue is located at 3401 Chester Ave.
Monty Byrom and the Road Pilots at Julie's Branding Iron, 1807 N. Chester, Saturday, 9:30 p.m., free, 399-3237. After disbanding his Zen Road Pilots, Bakersfield singer-songwriter and honorary Buckaroo Monty Byrom has assembled a loose new group of all-star jammers. You never know what Byrom will pull out of his ax when he hits the stage, but I can guarantee the place will be a crash course in rock, blues, country -- even reggae.
The Aviators at B Ryder's, 7401 White Lane, 9 p.m. Saturday, $5, 397-7304.
This rowdy pack of young classic rockers have been really pulling them in lately. Mixing covers of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and more plus their own originals this show is poised to be the ideal after party for the Bakersfield Craft Beer Festival crowd.