By Kim Grant
This Sunday (Dec 13) in Los Angeles, The Grand Ole Echo (the spring/summer Americana music series) will hold a winter dance party honoring the era of the birth of rock and roll. The idea came about when Matt Farber, half of the GOE booking duo, was on tour with musician, Brian Whelan. Whelan was a sideman for Dwight Yoakam for many years and just this year struck out on his own touring in support of his new album, Decider. “We were traveling through Wyoming to get to Colorado and listening to Jerry Lee Lewis on the CD player,” said Farber, “and I told Brian that I wanted to organize a show around early rock and roll music.”
Whelan jumped on board and put together a house band of stellar musicians including Dwight Yoakam band mate and producer/drummer for Whelan, Mitch Marine. Whelan’s San Jose high-school buddy and bass player for the past 4 years Lee Pardini was recruited for keys—He has played keys with Dawes, Shelby Lynne and Jonathan Wilson, while well-known rockabilly musician Russell Scott (Russell Scott and His Red Hots) said yes to playing upright doghouse bass. Joining Whelan on guitar is Travis Daggett, a young rockabilly phenom who works with both Whelan and Russell Scott and tours regularly with Scot Bruce who performs A Tribute to the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis.
Calling themselves Brian Whelan and the The Rockin’ Roachas, the band will play behind the best and brightest artists of the Los Angeles country and Americana scene. Matt Farber will be the emcee, and each artist has chosen 2-3 songs to perform from the golden era of rock and rockabilly. Ben Reddell, Farber’s Grand Ole Echo booking partner will be wearing his musician hat that night and will be singing the Johnny Ace song, “Pledging My Love” and Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”. Other artists scheduled to perform include the King of the Los Angeles roots music scene, Ronnie Mack, Foo Fighter guitarist and country music fan, Chris Shiflett, Dave Alvin collaborator and solo artist, Rick Shea and Merle Jagger guitarist and founder of the live roots music show, Ranch Party, Mark Christian (full list of musicians below).
The winter dance party will have an air of melancholy to it, as it will be Farber’s last show as a member of The Grand Ole Echo booking team. “I’ll still be around,” explains Farber, “people will see me just as often, I just won’t be booking the show anymore.” After four years of booking both the main stage and back porch stage, he wants to take the time to enjoy the music as an audience member. “I’m a really big fan of this music and I just want to get back to totally appreciating it.”
Full disclosure: I am one of the founders of The Grand Ole Echo (alongside Pam Moore, aka Madame Pamita and Liz Garo, booker for the nightclub, the Echo)—and as a booker of the show for eight years, I can understand the need for getting back to the basics as a fan. “My experience with The Grand Ole Echo was awesome,” continued Farber, “I came from a dairy farm in Minnesota and grew up with country music, so it was great to connect with this music scene. Most of my friends in Los Angeles I’ve met through the show and it’s really defined me as a person. It’s sad to walk away, but the show will go on with Ben and I will appreciate the memories we’ve both shared.”
Reddell will take over The Grand Ole Echo bookings and is hoping to bring in others to help with this show and to begin booking shows all over Los Angeles. I first met Ben Reddell as a booker for the show when he was playing with his first L.A. band, The Welldiggers Banquet. Coming from Kerrville, Texas to Los Angeles, Reddell was 24 years old when he started WDB. “Back then, I would say to my friends, ‘yeah I’m going to play country music’ and I’d get an eye roll and a ‘good luck with that’ response,” said Reddell, “Now it’s not seen as such a crazy thing to do. The roots music scene is thriving across the country and in Los Angeles and kids now are saying, ‘shit! Country music is fun.”
The Grand Ole Echo Winter Dance Party will be held Sunday, December 13th at 7:00 pm. Admission is $10 and people are encouraged to “dress to impress” so make sure to spit shine those cowboy boots! At The Echoplex 1154 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Download the flyer. Artists performing: Ronnie Mack, Chris Shiflett, Austin McCutchen Jaime Wyatt, Eugene Edwards, Little Lonely, Fairbanks, Rick Shea, Mark Christian, Elijah Ocean, Ben Reddell, Natalie Carol (of Valley Queen), Lee Briante (The Far West), Ruby Force, Rod Melancon, Johnny Elkins, Kat Myers, Marc Orrell, Katie Stratton, Alex Troup, Michael Ann Azoulai and with DJ “Johnny La Rocha” Spinning the Hits