The historic Bakersfield Bell Tower Club downtown will be showcasing the building’s pristine acoustics when it hosts a trio of intimate concerts.
Titled Guitar Masters at the Bell Tower, the summer-to-fall music series will feature acclaimed guitarists Peppino D’Agostino, Doyle Dykes and Laurence Juber. The Bakersfield series opens Aug. 9, 2012 with D’Agostino.
Bakersfield promoter and show organizer Rick Kreiser said he was inspired to produce the shows after seeing Juber last year at a house concert down south.
“I heard about these house concerts with about 30 to 40 people in a person’s living room or backyard, and that’s exactly what it was,” said Kreiser, president of Carney’s Business Technology. “When I got to the location, it was a little tract home in Thousand Oaks.”
Following the show, Kreiser said he contacted Juber and asked about the possibility of bringing a similar type of event to Bakersfield.
“I don’t have a living room like (the hosts in Thousand Oaks), but I probably knew more people that may enjoy this type of presentation. I always support local events like the jazz festival and blues festival, so why not add something like this to the list?”
Kreiser stumbled on the Bell Tower Club and after a successful pitch to management, scheduled his first show last fall, featuring Juber, which attracted 135 paid attendees.
“The Bell Tower was all over it,” he said. “It was a unique situation for them since they’re normally only open to members at lunch. There’s very little overhead involved. They dress up the place, set up the chairs and handle the food. I provide the sound, dim the lights, do a little intro and off we go.”
Bell Tower general manager Amy Lewis said the restaurant is always open to new ideas about how to bring attention to the venue.
“I’m willing to try everything once, and it’s really nice to offer something new. We have weddings and special receptions all year long. The shows are really intimate, very entertaining. Rick has done a great job.”
All shows are $30, which includes heavy gourmet appetizers and desserts provided by the Bell Tower, a no-host bar, and two generous sets of music with a break. No pre-sale tickets or reservations are involved, and all shows are open to the public. Limited seating is theater-style, at a capacity of 160.
“If we sold tickets, it changes the whole economics of the event. This is purely to offer something different to people that I happen to know, and people that like music. In keeping with the house concert concept, I make no money from these shows. All door revenue goes towards the artists with the exception of a small fee to cover use of the facilities. Another nice thing is there’s never an entourage. It’s just the artist.”
First up, on Aug. 9, is D’Agostino, hailed as one of the best multi-dimensional guitarists in world music. D’Agostino’s blend of Brazilian, Irish, country, blues, ragtime, and classical styles have taken him around the globe. Often described as a master of the “fingerstyle” technique, his highly technical methods include hammering on and pulling off with the guitar fretting hand, and using the body of the guitar percussively.
Over the course of his career, D’Agostino has released eight critically acclaimed solo albums and instructional guitar books and videos. D'Agostino is a featured guitarist in the United Guitar Ensemble, a group composed of seven of the world’s top classical guitarists and D’Agostino on steel string.
On Sept. 20 the series continues with American acoustic artist Doyle Dykes. Cited along with guitarists like Australia’s Tommy Emmanuel as among the best finger-style guitarists in the world, he also is known for his capability of playing proficiently with a wide range of different guitar tunings.
Dykes has released eight full-length albums. Among some of his best-known works and inspirational interpretations are “Wabash Canonball,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Amazing Grace.” In 2011 he also released “The Lights of Marfa,” a semi-autobiographical book documenting his spiritual travels as a devout Baptist.
Rounding out the trio of shows will be Laurence Juber, who returns Oct. 25. As a young working musician in London in the 1970s, Juber got an life-changing break when Paul McCartney handpicked him to become the lead guitarist for Wings in 1978.
Juber’s playing can be heard on the group’s final album “Back to the Egg,” a performance that also earned him a Grammy for the instrumental single, “Rockestra Theme.” After Wings folded in 1981, Juber embarked on a career as a solo artist, composer and arranger, and developed a reputation as a guitar virtuoso, voted No. 1 by Fingerstyle Guitar magazine. He has released 20 solo albums and has been heard on numerous TV and film soundtracks.
“I do this to just look out over the audience and make my friends smile,” said Kreiser. “These guys aren’t household names, but you look at some of the players they’ve played with, it’s just phenomenal. I’d like to continue this series.”
2012 Guitar Masters at the Bell Tower series
Aug. 9: Peppino D’Agostino
Sept. 20: Doyle Dykes
Oct. 25: Laurence Juber
Doors for all shows open at 6:30 p.m. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
Where: Bell Tower, 1200 Truxtun Ave. (Truxtun & L Streets)
Admission: $30 includes heavy appetizers, dessert, no host bar.
Information and reservations: 661-204-7685
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Also printed in the 8-2-12 issue of The Bakersfield Californian