Swinging good times at the Pozo Stampede

May 6, 2011

Dwight Yoakam – Photo by Amy Joseph


The great thing about seeing a show at the Pozo Saloon is that it takes you straight back to 1979, that is if you’re willing to be transported. It’s gotta be the most unique concert venue in the county if not the entire state. Imagine a large house party in the backyard of your favorite bar and that’s Pozo.

Every show has it’s own particular vibe, but there’s no doubt that a country music festival and Pozo go together like biscuits and gravy. Throw in a popular honky-tonk headliner like Dwight Yoakam, nice warm springtime weather and plenty of good-looking cowgirls and the party is on.

The seven-band extravaganza last weekend got an early start around 11:45 am but, did not really hit its stride until local faves the Devil Makes Three hit the stage.  The hard-to-categorize trio from Santa Cruz have played countless shows in San Luis Obispo County and are fast becoming a regular at the annual stampede. Think of an edgy, country-flavored Stray Cats with a folky punk sound.

Next up Texas-based Jack Ingram led the increasingly exhilarated but happy crowd in a series of sing-alongs, capped by the classic ‘Barefoot and Crazy’.  Aside from being a bit too chatty, Ingram did his best Kenny Chesney imitation and cemented the day’s party-hard atmosphere.

Easton Corbin, an up and coming country star and his solid backing band offered up confident, catchy but safe country ditties for a littler over an hour. Musicians like Corbin represent a new generation of singer/songwriters. Most of them look like they could be fronting an emo rock band at a dingy night club but when you close your eyes they sound as country as ever. Corbin is especially popular among the younger female demographic, with many of them dancing and singing along to his songs word for word.

Finally, Bakersfield legend Dwight Yoakam hit the stage about 7 p.m., seemingly anti-climactic after nearly eight hours of live music under the sun  But the crowd grabbed their final beers and eagerly pressed against the fence that surrounded the seated VIP section up front.  I guess that’s a sign of the venue’s evolution: no more rushing the stage, or parking for free along Pozo Road.

And Yoakam didn’t disappoint, moving easily through his few hits like ‘A Thousand Miles from Nowhere’ and ‘Guitars & Cadillacs’ and various covers. He’s probably the only country star who ever cut his teeth playing ‘cowpunk’ with Los Angeles-based punk stalwarts like the Blasters and X back in the early 1980s.  Also influenced by norteno music in Mexico, Yoakam’s musical stylings are truly unique.  It’s almost harder to be the last act of a day-long festival and keep it together but the Pozo patrons had enough staying power and enthusiasm for Yoakam to keep the party vibe going well past

There’s no doubt the saloon has bounced back from their 4/20 debacle last year and have a series of shows lined up for the remainder of 2011, including Willie Nelson on June 25 and Gary Allan on Sept. 18.  While I’m not a big country music fan, it seems to be a winning formula at Pozo. Throw in a few southern rock bands like the Allman Brothers and that will seal it.