We sat down with Justin Jimenez–Urban Badlands curator and The Altons’ general manager–for a behind-the-scenes look at our upcoming program. Justin started out as part of our GP family, interning in Artist Relations with Director of Programming Leigh Ann Hahn. We’re delighted to have him back this year as he comes into his own, bringing Gemma Castro, The Altons, and The Steady 45s with him.
GP: Tell me a little bit about yourself–where you’re from, how you became interested in music.
JJ: I’m from southeast LA and I moved around there, mostly. I’ve also lived in Bell Gardens, Boyle Heights and Maywood. As far as music, I joined a music class in third grade and I’ve been here ever since.
Tell me about your connection to GP; how did you get involved here?
My friend–actually, all my friends–were pretty much in the arts. My friend Amanda worked at Grand Performances, so we went to the shows, and that’s how I learned about Leigh Ann. I interned there two years ago, in 2016. It was so interesting learning how to work a full-time job, because everything I had been doing was DIY, so learning that corporate aspect was different. There are more logistics, so it really opened my eyes about events and nonprofits. Leigh Ann is like an encyclopedia of stuff you need to know and people you need to know, too. I never really had a bad day, and I got to create amazing content that I was proud of as well.
When did you have the idea for Urban Badlands, and how did the show come about?
So I had just gotten out of high school–I saw in the LA times and it was going around the southeast LA circle that there was an open mic in Bell Gardens. I told my friend I had a similar idea, and my friend said she would talk to the mayor; we had a meeting, and he gave us permission. That was the first year we did the music festival. We played in the park, did all the sound, figured out how to promote it. Basically, we just wanted to do it, so we pulled it together. The festival ran from 2015 to 2016, so we’ve been on hiatus, but we’re back and at GP this year.
What is the link that ties Gemma Castro, The Altons, and The Steady 45s together in this program?
We’re all brown! And everybody plays a different sound. We have bolero, soul, rock, and ska; on paper everybody is a different genre. We’re all influenced by the same things, and we’re all growing up with the same experience in this little tight-knit community of musicians. We’ve been through being a brown person in America, and that reflects in our own takes on music.
What is your vision for the show, and what is it that you want to convey?
I want everybody to have a good time and not realize that every [band] is a different genre—we want people to enjoy music, and not marginalize us as Latin bands. We’re just bands.
Do you have any future plans for working with GP or with this show?
We’re doing another event, onstage at the first music festival at the LA River. That’s pretty much my future right now, to keep on helping out the community, helping out musicians who need it, and putting on amazing shows.
The biggest thank you to GP for helping me grow, and helping musicians of color grow and people grow by supporting us. Go to a local show and support your local bands!
Urban Badlands goes onstage at GP on Saturday, July 14—don’t forget to reserve your seats!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
By Celine Kiner