Getting down and staying busy
The Get Down Boys start up at Glendale's Neat Bar while continuing their Kings Row residency
By Bliss Bowen 02/16/2012
Pick a banjo or twang in Los Angeles and, if you’re good enough, at some point you’re likely to hear, “You oughtta try your luck in Nashville” or “Have you thought about moving to Austin?” Guitarist Andy Keathley, frontman for Los Angeles-based bluegrass outfit the Get Down Boys, has heard it often.
“People always tell us, ‘You should move to Nashville or Austin,’ but then we would lose our whole edge,” he explains. “We wouldn’t be the lone bluegrass band in town. That’s really helped us — being in a place where it’s new to a lot of people and people are excited about it.”
Formed barely two years ago, the Get Down Boys are Berklee College of Music alums Keathley, banjoist/harmonica player Matt Bruer, bassist Evan Winsor and, as of last month, fiddler Etienne Cremieux, who turns up the heat under the band’s already hard-charging sound. Dedicated to traditional bluegrass, à la Bill Monroe and Jimmy Martin, they were swiftly embraced by Westside clubgoers more attuned to funk than Flatt & Scruggs. During their first year as a band, they were ensconced in a West LA apartment, but with half the band now in Echo Park, they perform more often in downtown and Eastside venues — including Kings Row Gastropub in Old Pasadena, where they’ve been playing a Sunday residency on and off for the past six months. Next week, after returning from a brief East Coast tour, the Get Down Boys will set up around their microphone for a Thursday residency at Glendale’s Neat Bar.
“When we tour the rest of the country,” Keathley says, “we see a lot more of the diehard bluegrass community. But at most of our LA shows, it’s a lot of people who are new to the style, which is pretty cool.”
Here, they spice bluegrass classics with Tom Petty, Spinal Tap and Beatles covers done in a bluegrass style. They’re working up original material before making a recording they hope will be available in March. As musically inspired as they are, the GDBs are also unusually pragmatic about business. “Like us on Facebook” is a regular mantra.
“It’s been a way for us to just accelerate a lot of processes that would normally take a lot longer,” Keathley says. “We get calls for weddings and parties and bars, practically solely because of reminding people about stuff on Facebook.”
The group is part of a lively community of other string bands across the Southland, including Dustbowl Revival, with whom they’ve shared some co-bills. “It’s just similar enough but just different enough from our sound,” Keathley says. “We’re trying to just lock in on an identity, on our character. So far it’s worked out pretty well.”
The Get Down Boys play the Neat Bar, 1114 N. Pacific Ave., Glendale, at 9 p.m. Feb. 23. For information, call (818) 241-4542. They return to Kings Row Gastropub, 20 E. Colorado Blvd., Ste. 102, Old Pasadena, from 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 26. For more information, call (626) 793-3010. Thegetdownboys.com