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Photo by Melanie Rutledge

Bakersfield country singer Dillon James and Texaco Country Showdown California state finals winner Suzanne Harper of San Diego are seen at Knott's Berry Farm on Aug. 17.

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Photo courtesy of Grant Langston

SoCal roots rocker Grant Langston appears at the Gardens at Mill Creek on Saturday.

Dillon Galanski -- who goes by the stage name Dillon James -- represented Bakersfield last week against some fierce competition at Knott's Berry Farm for the Texaco Country Showdown state finals.

He didn't win -- that honor goes to Suzanne Harper of San Diego -- but he gave it his all before a crowd of 300-plus country music fans.

"I was very nervous," Galanski said in an email Wednesday while he was killing time in an airport en route to Nashville, Tenn. "It was the first time to play at such a large venue with a live band. (The winner) had great songs and sang her butt off."

Galanski said he's headed to Music City to perform in a showcase before industry professionals and to record two of his original compositions. He sang one of his own songs, "I'm a Changed Man," for the Showdown finals, which featured seven performers. Nervous or not, one local fan said Galanski had the audience in the palm of his hand.

"In my opinion, Dillon did great," said Melanie Rutledge, a radio personality with 92.1 KIX Country, which sponsored the Bakersfield leg of the national competition.

"He did perform right after the girl who ended up winning. You could tell he was nervous, but once he got in the zone, he was just fine. Lots of applause, whistles and screams. It was great to have Bakersfield there to represent him. Every seat in the house was full."

Rutledge said that judging by the buzz surrounding the 20-year-old singer, he'll probably be popping up on the radar from time to time.

"I was able to go backstage before and after the competition to see Dillon. The vibe was so awesome. All the musicians were talking with each other, joking around, having fun. I was so proud of Dillon making it that far. He definitely has a bright future in music."

The success of the Texaco Country Showdown in Bakersfield benefited local artists and helped introduce KIX FM as the new kid on the Bakersfield radio dial, Rutledge said. The station has plans for the competition to return next year.

"We can't wait to do it again. I feel that it was a big success because we focused on local talented musicians who feel that they actually have a chance to go somewhere if they just get a chance to be heard. We like to be that platform. This competition definitely helped to get the word out about us."

As for Galanski, he's grateful for the opportunities that have come his way and hope this is the beginning of big things.

"I want to thank the fans that I have for their support now and in the future. I hope they all know how much I appreciate them."

Grant Langston & The Supermodels

After a successful pair of live music offerings at the new Gardens at Mill Creek facility in downtown Bakersfield, singer-songwriter Grant Langston will make his return Saturday -- this time with his full band, the Supermodels.

When you're born and raised in a small town in Alabama, chances are you're fed on a strict diet of deep-fried turkey and country music. So what do you do? Embrace it and strap your bulging belly into a tight pair of Wranglers, or do you get the hell out of dodge to discover your inner vegan and rock 'n' roll?

Well, Langston may not have discovered the joys of tofu and soy, but he knew he loved a good power chord when he heard one, and headed out west to make his name in Los Angeles.

"Growing up where I did I was force-fed a steady diet of very slick Nashville stuff. As a result, I hated country music, or at least I thought I hated it until I heard the real deal," said Langston, 47. "I didn't want to make music that was formulaic. I wanted to step outside that and have lyrics that are sassy and written from a modern perspective. I wanted to be free to throw in a Led Zep riff if I wanted to, to poke some fun at the genre, but at the same time pay homage to that style."

The "real deal" was Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam and Merle Haggard -- country artists who were busy upsetting the Nashville elite while Langston was still in diapers. The music resonated with Grant, and he set about fusing it with his love of contemporary rock music.

Langston has been a visitor to Bakersfield many times over the years, making several appearances at the legendary venue Fishlips, where in 2007 he made a live record, appropriately titled "Live in Bakersfield." Langston's shows became such a popular draw he was invited to perform for the club's final blow-out in December 2011.

Langston's latest release, "Working Until I Die," is an album steeped in Bakersfield Sound tradition that should easily translate well in a live setting. Backed by the Supermodels, Langston puts on a show guaranteed to please the crowds, offering an interesting glimpse into the Southern California country scene.

"The crowd there had a good time for the last show," said property manager Edith Gibson, of the new outdoor venue downtown. "It is forecast to be a lovely evening, so hopefully people will remember that the Garden is completely shaded and breezy. It is truly lovely to be there in the evening for a concert, even on a hot day."

All proceeds from the event will benefit Bakersfield Garden Pathways mentoring and education programs. Food and drink vendors will be selling alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Doors open Saturday at 7 p.m., showtime at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance at Gardenpathways.org, Metro Galleries in Bakersfield or at the door. Also appearing is country troubadour Vince Galindo.The Gardens at Mill Creek is located at 712 19th St. All ages admitted. For more information visit gardenpathways.org or grantlangston.com.

According to the show's organizers, anyone who "likes" the Garden Pathways Bakersfield Facebook page will be given free admittance. A list with your name will be available at the door.

No Bako Blues Fest in 2013

Bad news for local blues fans: The B-Town Blues Festival will be taking a year off.

"It is with great reluctance that we are taking a year off from the blues fest so we can put all our energy into the Dream Theater," said World Records owner Pat Evans in an email blast this week. "The 19th annual B-Town Blues Fest will be Saturday September 13, 2014."

Evans' Dream Theater is a community-oriented "brick-by-brick" project being constructed inside World Records. Upon its completion, the Dream Theater will host regular concerts and programs with an emphasis on music education and history. We'll have more information on the status of the project in an upcoming column.

World Records is located at 2815 F St. For more information, call 831-3100.