Interview with Anthony on Turnstyled Junkpiled

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Hillgrass Bluebilly SoCal

By Gerry Gomez

Anthony Arechiga is the spark plug for local promoters known as Hillgrass Bluebilly SoCal. Over the past couple of years, Arechiga and Hillgrass Bluebilly have put on an array of shows in local watering holes, Escondite, the Wayfarer, Detroit Bar, Alex’s Bar, Memphis Cafe, as well as the Long Beach Folk Revival Festival which drew a large crowds to it’s second annual event held at the Rainbow Lagoon Park this past November. Their aim is to carry the torch and further the traditions of roots music and bring it to the masses.

Effectively presenting roots, Americana, country, punk, folk and rock with bands like The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, RT n’ the 44′s, Billy Joe Shaver, Whitey Morgan and the 78′s, Blind John Pope, Possessed by Paul James, Moonsville Collective, Sam Outlaw, the Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit, Rose’s Pawn Shop and many, many more, their mission is well underway. This January, they will continue to bring Saturday night shows along with The Kings Inn to downtown LA’s Escondite and also embark on 4th Fridays beginning January 23 at Alex’s Bar kicking off with Leon Virgill, RT n’ the 44′s, Sam Outlaw and Soda Gardocki.

Turnstyled Junkpiled got in a few minutes with the busy Arechiga and discussed his passions.

You’re into Honky Tonk, Bluegrass, Punk, Roots music, Americana, Blues, Psychobilly. With those lists of genres of music, does that just about cover the types of music you get behind and promote?

That’s about right. We just call it roots music. Although we don’t do much psychobilly stuff. Nothing against psychobilly, but like most modern blues bands, although i enjoy some of the music, I just don’t particularly feel that psychobilly and modern rockabilly are all that genuine sometimes. There of course are exceptions but rockabilly for example was something that represented a lifestyle during a specific period of time. Today if you sing about going to the hop or playing mailbox baseball or whatever it is rockabilly bands sing about, it seems contrived and psychobilly is just an offshoot of that. It’s very pigeonholed I think. There are some folks who are genuine about it though of course and that music stands the test of time like Jd Mcpherson or Big Sandy for example, although, you probably wouldn’t consider either of those rockabilly.

What is important to me about the roots music we promote is that it’s genuine.. something that makes you feel something when you experience it.

You moved out here from Texas or where exactly? Hillgrass Bluebilly SoCal is related to Hillgrass Bluebilly Records out of San Antonio is it? Explain the connection.

I am from Chicago originally. My family’s been living in Texas for 10 years or so but not me personally.

The record label, Hillgrass Bluebilly Records and Entertainment is based out of Austin, Texas. My buddy’s Keith and Ryan started Hillgrass Bluebilly in Phoenix, Arizona about 10 years ago, primarily to promote roots music. Keith moved to Austin and eventually decided to start putting out records so the outfit morphed into a record label. We’ve put out records by Possessed By Paul James, Tom VandenAvond, James Hand, Restavrant, Left Lane Cruiser, and a lot more. Also a great compilation that everyone should check out called “Hiram and Huddie” which is a double tribute to Hank Williams and Leadbelly. Each contributing artist covers a song by each.

So you grew up around twangy music?

Just all types of music really. I’ve been a fan of music since I was a small child. I bought tapes as early as 5 years old. I gravitated towards a lot of the rootsier stuff in high school. My grandpa was a fan of Johnny Cash so I was exposed to him early on but my friends and I were a little different as we gravitated towards older music. When most kids were listening to hip hop or slipknot in the late 90′s, we were listening to Hank Williams.

How long have you been promoting music in SoCal?

I’ve been putting on shows and hosting events specifically for a little over 2 years. Before that, I was managing the band Restavrant and was a radio dj on 2 stations in Orange County for several years. My show, Freedom Radio focused on showcasing roots music. All in all, it’s been 7 or 8 years that i’ve been involved one way or another.

What’s the toughest thing you find in promoting a show?

The type of music that I choose to promote, I do it because I feel that the concert goers can walk away feeling like they are alive. Like we woke something in them because they got to experience something real and genuine. I love it when someone who is not familiar with the artists we host hear them for the first time because that’s what it’s all about – exposing someone to something they never knew existed and waking them up. The best example of that is a Possessed By Paul James show or a Willy Tea Taylor show. Go see one of these guys live and you’ll know what i’m talking about.

That’s obviously not the tough part. The tough part is finding these types of artists that are one of a kind. That’s why we keep the Hillgrass Bluebilly So. Cal shows to a select amount. We don’t do the shows just to put on shows for a specific genre. We want to make sure it’s a unique experience every time and we want folks to know that they can expect to see something that can almost be life altering every time. We never want it to get redundant.

You were right in the middle of promoting the Long Beach Folk Revival Festival, what is it about that festival that makes it so embraced, having gone from a moderate show two years ago to the significant size of this year’s show?

We were pretty amazed ourselves at how successful it was. It seems like people are gravitating towards a lot of this music. I think it’s because people are tired of what’s being fed to them via mainstream radio or television. Additionally, the Long Beach crowd in particular is a pretty alternative thinking group of people. That’s why we love it.

What were the successes of the LB Folk Revival Fest?

The feedback seems to be that the festival was an overall great experience. The music was loved by many, the local vendors and the overall organization.

What were the things you all will do differently next year?

If we do it again next year, we’ll probably reduce the number of performing artists. We had over 25 artists on 3 stages in just one day. Although the feedback we received about the music was all great, I think one of the only complaints was that there was just too much to see.

With Hillgrass, you put on an incredible amount of shows, how many did you do last year?

I started hosting shows and events in October 2012. That first year we did a lot of shows – probably over 30 we hosted or were involved with. This past year, we’ve probably only done about 10.

Anything new to report? Pitch? In the works? Shows in the works? Expansion of Hillgrass SoCal?

We’ll have a new website next year which we’ll have articles related to roots music, as well as show updates.

I’ve been helping my friend book some shows for something he hosts called “The Kings Inn” at The Escondite in downtown L.A. Some of those will be hosted by Hillgrass So. Cal. We’re also going to start doing a roots music night at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach one Friday a month starting in 2015.

I’m also in talks with some partners about doing a roots music festival next year which is something i’ve been working on for some time, so look out for that. Lastly, we’re working on planning for the 2015 Folk Revival Festival.

Your five favorite acts?

In no particular order: RL Burnside, Willy Tea Taylor & The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit, Waylon Jennings, Guy Clark and Sturgill Simpson..

Artists of today you recommend to look into?

Possessed By Paul James (His new album is great but see him live especially), The Hooten Hallers, Willy Tea Taylor, The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit, Daniel Romano, Tom VandenAvond, The Weary Boys, The Tillers, RT N’ the 44′s, Snakearm, Ruby Force.

If you can describe the music you promote through a few bands/artists from the past or current, who would they be?

Doorag, The Hooten Hallers, The Weary Boys, Left Lane Cruiser (listen to the song “Hillgrass Bluebilly”), The Gun Club, Rl Burnside, Fred Mcdowell, Lightnin Hopkins, Waylon, Cash, Hank Sr., Townes Van Zandt.