By B.Noel Barr, Music Writer Dude
On March 20, I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite, local, rockabilly bands perform.
I have known Seatbelt for quite a while. I watched its progress through two CDs: Modern Sounds in Pagan Love Songs and Pour Me A Traveler. To say that I’m a fan is an understatement.
Last summer, I premiered on my old Internet radio program Lunch at the Barr, a wicked cool tune titled, “My Ship Came In… But I Sank Her.” It’s part of an upcoming collection of Seatbelt songs, but the release date is yet to be determined.
The leader and main songwriter, Scott McLean, plays a mean rockabilly-country guitar, with a vocal style to match a classic 1950s sound. His songwriting is always tongue-in-cheek. McLean loves infectious, rhythmic, 2- to 3-minute ditties that get you up and dancing.
Playing upright bass is Jim “the Kid” Matkovich, who also sings lead on occasion, but acts as backing vocalist. Laying down the beats is John “Lenny” Lenkeit on drums and percussion.
I caught the first set of their show at the Eldorado Bar and Grill in Long Beach, Seatbelt had the full house percolating from the first note to the last. To be honest, the band reached so many high spots during the show, it would be impossible to name everything they played.
Here are some highlights:
After the first song, “Lonesome Tears,” they had the crowd roaring with “Five O’Clock” (an anthem for hard drinking). A little later, McLean led the band into the aforementioned “My Ship Came In…”, which is a brilliant standalone hit. Another fan favorite, “Up in Your Grille,” from Pour Me A Traveler, kept the fire stoked. From the group’s first album, they performed a song called “Catfight,” followed by a country favorite originally recorded by “Cherokee Cowboy” Ray Price, titled, “Crazy Arms.”
Some of the other covers I want to mention are Bobby Fuller’s “I Fought the Law,” which segued into a medley of surf classics, like “Pipeline,” “Walk Don’t Run,” “The Munster’s Theme,” “Misirlou,” and several others whose titles I could not remember at the time.
But one of the biggest kicks of that set was when McLean introduced a song that was like something the late Slim Whitman would have done. I grew up on country and Western music, listening to KFOX out of Long Beach with my dad. So when I heard that song, I tried but couldn’t pin it down. Midway through it, the arranger in my head was saying, “This song needs some legs, to push it along.” Then: BAM! The tempo changed, and it became Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.”
The room was in hysterics and erupted as the group played this metal classic, true and hard, everyone loved it. This was followed by an inspired version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”
Seatbelt rocked the joint, and everybody at the Eldorado was having lots of fun. By 10:45 p.m. the room was still packed.
One other note: I had not been to the Eldorado in northeast Long Beach in quite a while. The room is very nice now and well-appointed for a restaurant-bar-concert venue. The food is spectacular and the drinks are served in healthy portions. The sound and lighting are very good–what you should expect in a venue like this.
Seatbelt will have a standalone performance April 25 at Godmothers Saloon. Showtime is 9 p.m. The group will return the following month on May 8, opening with Lazy Lance and the Longhorns for Deke Dickerson at Godmothers, with the downbeat kicking off at 7 p.m.
Also, Seatbelt will be playing the Port Nationals Car Show July 18 and also the New Blues Festival II over Labor Day Weekend. Sept. 5 and 6.
Band Details: seatbeltrockabilly.com
Venue Details: The Eldorado Bar and Grill, , Ste C, 3014 Studebaker Rd, Long Beach, (562) 421-4590; the-eldorado.net
Venue Details: Godmothers Saloon, 302 W 7th St, San Pedro (310) 833-1589; godmotherssaloon.com
Venue Details: The Port National Kustoms and Bobbers Show, portnationals.com, facebook.com/PortNationals
Venue Details: The New Blues Festival, newbluesfestival.com, facebook.com.theNewBluesFestival