The Root of the matter
California Roots Union presents Grant Langston & the Supermodels — and a hopeful model for change — at T. Boyle’s
By Bliss Bowen 06/19/2014
Grant Langston is not one to let problems go unaddressed. Neither is David Serby. Earlier this year the two lifelong musicians teamed with longtime booker Robin Young to form the California Roots Union, after extensive discussions about frustrating local club scene conditions that prompted numerous other artist friends to relocate to Austin and Nashville. Their goals with CRU are multiple, and pragmatic. The group’s core mission is to build community as well as audience and media awareness of quality music being made in our midst — and, not incidentally, a business model that allows artists to be compensated fairly. What they’re striving to achieve is nothing less than a cultural sea change at the grassroots level.
“People play music here in LA, and they’re good, but they come to the conclusion that there aren’t as many places to play and people aren’t as into country music here, so they go to Texas hoping to make a better living,” says Langston, a marketer by day who points to lack of media coverage as one key reason for the disconnect between artists and potential audiences. “This whole business of not being able to make money playing country music in California is alarming. It seems like the kind of problem that we could have an effect on. Really, it’s as much of a marketing problem as anything.”
He isn’t speaking from a vacuum. California’s country and blues history runs deep, and LA is currently home to a vibrant Americana/roots-music subculture. The community gathers regularly at weekly showcases like the Grand Ole Echo in Echo Park and Honky Tonk Hacienda at El Cid in Hollywood, among other places, away from media radar.
CRU’s long-range ambitions involve multiple media platforms, and in July they’ll host their first Northern California show. Locally, they’re staging monthly events at T. Boyle’s Tavern. Serby played CRU’s boisterous first show in March, a packed, twanging bash that also featured Rick Shea and I See Hawks in LA. Last month’s CRU show offered a more expansive display of “roots,” with rocking sets from Jimmer Podrasky, Ted Russell Kamp and FunkyJenn. CRU’s third-Saturday residency continues this weekend with native Alabaman Langston’s country band as well as bluegrasser Cliff Wagner and Mick Rhodes & the Hard Eight.
“California has a tradition of great country music that isn’t talked about and isn’t promoted,” Langston says. “I play a lot in Bakersfield, which has an unbelievable country music tradition, and a lot of younger people there don’t know about it. The fact of the matter is a lot of people who come to hear me say, ‘I don’t like country music but I like your music.’
“Exactly. If you come and hear this music, you’re gonna like it and be a fan.”
The California Roots Union presents Grant Langston & the Supermodels, Mick Rhodes & the Hard Eight and Cliff Wagner at T. Boyle’s Tavern, 37 N. Catalina Ave., Pasadena, at 9 p.m. Saturday, June 21; $5. Info: (626) 578-0957. Grantlangston.com, californiarootsunion.tumblr.com, tboylestavern.com