Bakersfield Sound brought back home

Joseph Coley Jr., Online Editor

Bakersfield music fans were given a special treat when Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants paid a visit to Sandrini’s on April 19.

Not only were the fans who are in the know of Shiflett’s vast musical background allowed to be close in a small, intimate setting with rock ’n’ roll royalty, but they were also able to enjoy a bit of the old hometown sound that helped make Bakersfield famous in the country western music genre.

Shiflett is best known for his role as lead guitarist for the multi-grammy award-winning and platinum album-selling band Foo Fighters.

The band Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants is not the Foo Fighters in any way. This is 100 percent country western honky-tonk.

Though it is not your modern day poppy, bubblegum country, it is country western in its truest form, even paying homage to the Bakersfield Sound itself, with the band doing true covers of Bakersfield’s two best-known musicians and innovators of the Bakersfield Sound, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.

“That’s the primary influence on what we’ve been doing the last couple of years,” Shiflett said, regarding the inspiration of the band’s style and sound. “Bakersfield is kind of the birthplace of my favorite era and sound of country music.”

Shiflett has an energy about him that shows on stage and it reflects off of his bandmates too. The energy that he naturally performs with adds an extra edge to the country songs he plays in both his original songs and covers. Some of these songs are 50 to 60 years old and they are true to the originals, but it is his style and energy in which he performs that adds an electric dynamic to these classics. That, in a way, makes even the cover songs somewhat his own to an extent.

Local fan Mike Stutesman said he enjoyed the show but really liked the covers of Owens and Haggard the most.

Local country western band Country Deluxe opened the show for The Dead Peasants, and the crowd started rolling in. By 9 p.m. the bar was at capacity and the good times had started. Fans young and old were on site to support the efforts of both bands, with much applause and dancing.

An older couple was dancing hand in hand to Country Deluxe, doing their two-step dance, gazing into each other’s eyes and kissing as if they had gone back in time to their youthful days.

The Dead Peasants set, scheduled for 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., went the distance and when the last song was done Shiflett was feeling the energy of the crowd.

“I feel like doing a few more,” he said, to which the crowd responded with overwhelming applause and agreement.

“I’m not even a country music fan, but I enjoy live shows and this was a really good one,” said Carrie Blind, another local resident on hand for the show.

In what ended up being a 27-song set with both original songs from the band and expertly done covers of some of county western’s greats – “King of Fools” by Buck Owens, “Guitar Packin’ Man” by Don Rich and “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard – the show was an enjoyable time and success. This proved true by the overwhelming applause and love the crowd showed both bands as the night came to a happy end.

“The show was amazing and it felt like everyone had a good time,” Shiflett said. “Plus, I got to go sit in for a few songs with the Buckaroos over at the Crystal Palace. All in all, it was an incredible night.”

Shiflett has had a long career as a musician playing in several punk and rock ’n’ roll bands including No Use For A Name, and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. He is also a member of the band Chevy Metal along with fellow Foo Fighter drummer and bandmate Taylor Hawkins.

The Dead Peasants, however, is his solo side project of love. He has always had a love for country music. In 2010, the band released its self-titled debut record and its second release, “All Hat No Cattle,” followed soon after in 2013.

The record features true covers of Bakersfield’s own Haggard and Owens, and other country greats such as Waylon Jennings, Don Rich and Faron Young.