By Valley Ag Voice Staff
A new honky tonk is breathing life back into Bakersfield — the heart of the Central Valley’s agricultural hub — through the nutriment of vibrant, local artists. Rooster’s Honky Tonk, founded by David Brust, is setting the stage for a country music revival, re-establishing Bakersfield as “Nashville West.”
“I think Bakersfield and Kern County is really hungry for a honky tonk,” Brust said. “For a place people can go and listen to some live music, dance, have some good drinks, and feel safe and comfortable.”
Brust’s mission is clear — bring back the city’s identity as “Nashville West” and nurture the unique connection between agriculture and country music.
“You know, agriculture and country music go together like peas and carrots. They’re one and the same,” Brust said. “The life of a farmer and growing things is a major theme throughout country music, and it’s part of what makes America, America.”
Bakersfield and Kern Country’s agricultural community is one of the largest producing areas in the world, Brust explained, and the symbiotic relationship between farming and country music underscores the importance of having a haven for the genre.
“I think what sets Rooster’s apart is our dedication to reviving country music and doing it in downtown Bakersfield,” Brust said.
The honky tonk is investing in an advanced sound system with the help of a talented sound engineer to advance that goal. Rooster’s saw two acts from Nashville in its opening week, and Brust noted that becoming a mid-week stop for newer acts is one of the music hub’s intentions.
Along with hosting new country music artists across the nation, Rooster’s hopes to play a crucial role in supporting local artists. Creating a safe place for that community is among Brust’s aspirations.
“We have a strong music scene and such incredible artists — they all know what’s going on with each other, they all know who’s playing where and not playing,” Brust said. “It really is a community, and we’re just a small part of that community…giving them an opportunity to showcase it in a place like ours is not only important to our community, but it’s also important to the artists to give them a place where they can get together.”
Within the year, Brust hopes to invite artists across all genres to a songwriter’s festival for new talent to perform on Rooster’s stage. He noted that calls have come in from artists and groups around the United States, ready to come play at Rooster’s.
The response from the community has also been overwhelmingly supportive, Brust explained.
“Our opening night far surpassed anything that my partner and I thought would happen. The amount of people that came out to support our honky tonk and country music in Bakersfield was awe-inspiring,” Brust said.
Lauren Appleton, Rooster’s booker and lead singer for local band The Appletons, has played an essential role in the honky tonk’s success with bands. Brust explained that Appleton’s connections and assistance aided in his vision — to create a foundation for emerging artists. He also acknowledges the dedication of his staff, who pulled together a great opening night.
As Rooster’s Honky Tonk continues to make its mark on Bakersfield and revive Nashville West, Brust’s long-term goals remain ambitious for both his business and the community.
“I would love five years from now to have some major act performing at Mechanic Bank Arena and to say that when they were getting started, they had played at Rooster’s,” Brust said. “What I would like to see is several more people or several more groups doing what we’re doing. I would love to see 5,6,10 more honky tonks open up in Bakersfield and do what we’re doing and truly make this Nashville West.”
Rooster’s Honky Tonk is open Wednesday-Saturday, located at 1531 19th St.