By B. Noel Barr, Music Writer Dude
Originally posted in the print edition of Random Lengths News on May 17, 2012
The Nevada sun is relentless even in the spring. In a town that never sleeps it is always great to hear about some hometown boys making the move to larger audiences. Seatbelt is making that transition from local bar band to main stage.
The Orleans Hotel hosted the 25th annual “Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend,” where fans from all over the world came to enjoy a style of music that was born 60 years ago. Just inside, away from the clamor of the slots and the hurdy gurdy cacophony of the casino was a righteous noise. On the final afternoon of the four-day event the rockabilly group Seatbelt was on one of the main stages, playing to a sizeable crowd of hard core 50s revivalists.
The band Seatbelt is based in the Harbor Area. They are known for being part of the San Pedro music scene. At the end of their set; autographs were being given by guitarist, vocalist Scott McLean, bassist Jim “The Kid” Matkovich who plays the upright bass and vocals, and drummer John “Lenny” Lenkeit.
On May 19th, Seatbelt will be opening for blues-rock based band The Hellhounds. In an evening of roots oriented blues, rockabilly and good time rock ’n’ roll. We spoke with Scott McLean, primary songwriter and founder of the group Seatbelt, from his home in Long Beach by phone.
We asked about the upcoming show the Grand Annex on May 19.
“Sean Lane (leader and founder of The Hellhounds) is someone who I have enjoyed listening to since way back at the old Sacred Grounds (Niko’s Pizza current location),” McLean said. “The two bands played together back when our band first started out. We stayed in touch and thought we would like to share the billing again.
“I often find our group in a multi-billing with other bands playing the same thing. I like having different styles being played in a show, rather than just one style or genre. Just because I play rockabilly doesn’t mean I don’t like other types of music.”
The late music impresario Bill Graham did a lot of this type of booking, where jazz, blues, rock or whatever would be heard on the same bill in one night. The show at The Grand Annex falls into this category with the rockabilly sounds of the early 50s played against blues of the same time period.
Sean Lane has scheduled the show to open with Seat Belt followed by the Hellhounds doing their nod to 50s blues, early rock ’n’ roll and their current work.
“This is The Hellhounds show we are just opening for them,” McLean said. “I know I’ll be sitting in with The Hellhounds for at least one number later in the show. We are going to be playing music from our latest CD Pour Me a Traveler for our set.”
Blues guitarist Dave Widow, and harmonica player Darren “Mojo Slim” Lancaster to help deliver more classic blues during the latter half of the show. Earlier in the day McLean will playing with Jerry Butera’s surf group The Reef Rammers, at the 25th Annual Los Angeles Wood show starting at 9 a.m.
We had to ask about the name change, when we first met the band while they were promoting their CD Modern Sounds of Pagan Love Songs. The group was formerly known as a Seatbelt and the Pecking Order.
“It was a long name,” McLean said. “Most people call us Seatbelt. That was another band.”
The group had changed around McLean as former members were replaced by current members.
“When we made the new record we decided to call the group by the shorter name. Doing this, we separated [ourselves] from the former group,” McLean added. “When we played Las Vegas last month, they still had us billed under the other name, but the MC announced the change from the stage so that was cool.”
Mclean told us about the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend.
“That was fantastic,” he enthused. “We got to play on Sunday afternoon, we had a good crowd. It sounded great it was the best show we have ever played. It was better than the first time we played we were on a bigger stage as opposed to playing in the lounge.”
As fans clamored for autographs, Seatbelt’s latest CD Pour Me a Traveler and other merchandise were being sold to fans hungry for new music of this genre.
Seatbelt started writing new material as the players in the band found their musical voice in the group.
“We started to have a ton of songs to record,” McLean said. “We were real happy with the results. In fact, we had started on a follow up to Pour Me a Traveler. We have a bunch of new songs for that.”
Mclean told us of a new cover they have added to their set list.
“We get a funny reaction to this, but we have a rockabilly version of ‘Over the Rainbow’. We do it as a fast song, everybody knows it as a ballad,” Mclean said. “It works really well that way.”
The current CD talks about the good and bad sides of drinking.
“It was part of what I was going through, with all this serious stuff,” he said.” Nobody wants to be serious when you’re supposed to be playing music to have a good time. The next record is going to be different from that. It is going to be happier.”
Seatbelt has been a busy group playing some local gigs like at Godmothers Saloon in San Pedro and Pete’s Place, an English Pub in Lomita. The group now is playing festivals like the upcoming Rockabilly Showdown at the Orange County Fairgrounds in early June. They are scheduled in August for The Rockabilly Fest in Oceanside. Like the headliners of the May 19 show, The Hellhounds, Seatbelt is on a trajectory that is taking them out to bigger shows out and away from the Harbor.