Brokedown in Bakersfield gets up close and personal with classic country fans
We’ve been taught to save the best for last—and in the case of Brokedown in Bakersfield, the old adage could not be more true. The band finished its set to a standing room only crowd at Moe’s Alley on Nov. 17 with “Luxury Liner,” a fast-tempo country shuffle popularized by Emmylou Harris in 1977. Then, as lead guitarist Scott Law’s Telecaster began to cool and the band stepped offstage, the audience boomed like the recoil of a shotgun.
“The audience is what makes it happen,” says vocalist Nicki Bluhm. “If they’re not here, the magic doesn’t happen.”
With the encore, the six-piece took the stage once again—but this time, the band members hefted their instruments, then proceeded to walk through the audience, and into a side room. The crowd followed, unsure of what was happening. Sans stage, the band delivered a stirring and sad rendition of Gram Parsons’ “In My Hour of Darkness.”
The impromptu performance alchemized the evening from exuberant to bittersweet, with audience members’ voices blending and amplifying the band’s.
“It’s so fun to do that, to get the whole crowd to quiet down so no one’s talking—everyone’s dead silent,” says co-vocalist and rhythm guitarist Tim Bluhm. “All the attention is on the musicians. It’s really a special time.”
But really, Nicki says, the focus is on the music. “You’ll see people crying, you see people hugging. It’s just a really human moment where everybody comes together, appreciating a song that has been on the earth for 30 years.”
Think of Brokedown in Bakersfield as a Million Dollar Quartet on a budget: All of its members are from established California bands that have come together to celebrate the classic California country sound, pre-“She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.”
“We’re not trying to sell the songs; we’re just trying to honor them,” says Tim.