Live and Local: Dwight Yoakam

click to enlarge Honky tonk man. - Travis Buffkin
Travis Buffkin
Honky tonk man.

Ahhh ... the jeans were tight. The hat; tall, prominent and white. The voice swung up, like a hillbilly hiccup, from the iconic hick up on stage. I had never seen Floore's so packed, actually. Not even for Willie. Punks, bikers, rednecks, tattooers, rockabilly folks ... all gathered under the banner of the balding bard of the trailer park.

Yoakam took the stage and flew right into the country standard, which I recently learned is about the famed Blackboard bar and venue in Bakersfield, California, "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)." It was a solid performance, however, the vocal mic and/or Yoakam's guitar kept feeding back, sending a shrill hiss out into the crowd every time he strummed with gusto or belted out a line. This glitch was never corrected and led me and several of my fellow picky-as-fuck sound sticklers to to assume that Dwight mustn't travel with a sound engineer but rather a preset that is plugged into the digital board to insure the same levels every night. Otherwise, he needs to fire his sound person. 

The hit single "Little Sister" had everyone locked in. We're seeing Dwight Yoakam, gang! You could hear the women coo when he got to the fabulously erotic "Ahh suk-ey!" line, reminiscent of the great Roy Orbison. His band, consisting of a drummer, an impeccable lead guitarist, a multi-instumentalist who switched between no less than six different instruments as the songs dictated and a bassist, all looked like they were no older than 25. They could have passed as a boy band, if you ignored the bedazzled glitter and rhinestone suits. Nevertheless, they were pros.

click to enlarge Yoakam and his crack band of adorable teeny-boppers. - Travis Buffkin
Travis Buffkin
Yoakam and his crack band of adorable teeny-boppers.

One of the biggest questions, at least on my mind, was what will Dwight do for the recently-deceased Merle Haggard. Dwight did not disappoint and seemed sincerely choked up as he had everyone take a moment for the late country legend before launching into "Silver Wings," "Swinging Doors," "Today I Started Loving You Again," " Sing Me Back Home," "Mama Tried," "The Fugitive" and "Hungry Eyes."

At first, after flubbing several of Haggard's lyrics, I was slightly disappointed. "How you gonna screw up his songs when he's not even in the ground yet, Dwight? Get that shit on point!" But, I was eventually won over as a companion pointed out that he, in fact, dug the impromptu vibe, given the band, who handled Haggard's material supremely, have had less than a handful of days to get it down as Haggard passed on Wednesday, April 6.

Then, how it slipped my mind I'll never know, especially since they have collaborated before numerous times and Dwight awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award to him recently, but Yoakam brought out local legend Flaco Jimenez for several songs, including "Streets of Bakersfield" and "She Wore Red Dresses." The crowd went apeshit (as they should). 

click to enlarge Honky tonk man. - Travis Buffkin
Travis Buffkin
Honky tonk man.

At this point of the concert, with recent single "Second Hand Heart," a reworking of "Ring of Fire" and "Long White Cadillac" Dwight and co. hit their stride. His voice, a little raspy at first, sounded warm and clean, gliding over the top of the pristine band as they switched from country to rockabilly to Brit-pop and back again. Dwight was at full-force and it sounded excellent.

All in all, Yoakam played a solid two hours, even giving the adoring crowd of city slickers, shit kickers and everything in between two encores. It was an exceptional night of guitars, songs of Cadillacs and that sweet, sweet hillbilly music. 


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