Sunday, May 3, 2009

Feeling The Blues With Paging Beto

Paging Beto (Blues Band)
Next Show: Sat. May 9, 2009
The Vibe, Riverside, CA
Five Scoops of Bosco

By Allen Bacon, Editor, The Daily Bosco

A few months back I really got into the film and accompanying albums based on the story of the legendary Chess Records out of Chicago. The movie, Cadillac Records, really captured my imagination because of the legendary blues artists that were portrayed. Folks like Little Walter, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf. It made me wish that I could somehow go back in time and actually be sitting there in those smoky clubs where these legends got their start..experiencing the blues first hand.

Imagine my delight when I heard about this new band, Paging Beto, that is basically a throwback with deep roots to those legendary blues performers. The group has just finished an exciting two month residency at the Redwood Club in Los Angeles and will be performing next Saturday night (9 PM) at the Vibe in Riverside, CA.

The only way to experience Paging Beto is to see them live. Not only because of the effect that you feel from hearing authentic powerful live blues up close and personal but because save for five tracks on their My Space page they haven't released anything recorded yet.

The music of Paging Beto comes at you in waves of sound. It's great to just let those waves wash over you and feel the music...and feel the power of the blues. But then you realize the incredible craftsmanship of the members of the band. These guys were born for the Blues and they seem to be channeling the aforementioned legends.

It starts with the incredible bass rifts of the Mighty Gil "T" who also is the vocalist and instantly makes you want to draw comparisons to Big Sandy or John Popper. But Gil stands on his own and carries his own weight as an authentic bluesman. It continues on to the skillful drumming of Bill "Buster" Bateman and the wicked harmonica playing and vocals of Pat "Frenchie" French (who can go toe to toe with the likes of Little Walter) and the lead guitar work of Jonny Wickersham and the rhythm guitar work of Justin "The Killer" Slater.

If those names sound familiar to you...It's because these five gentlemen are legends in their own right going back to the late 70's in the Southern California music scene. Bateman is from the Blasters. French comes over from among other groups The Joneses. Wickersham is the lead guitarist for Social Distortion. Gil "T" is from Top Jimmy and Ryhthm Pigs. The members have also been in and out of bands the Cramps, Thelonious Monster, the Red Devils, D.I., Cadillac Tramps, Youth Brigade, U.S. Bombs and so many other legendary So Cal bands it would be hard to fit in this space.

The only member not from Southern California is rhythm guitarist Justin "The Killer" Slater. "Have you seen this guy?", Frenchie French laughs, "I mean his name says it all - Killer. We don't know where he actually comes from. I heard Northern California. He doesn't say much. He's kind of scary. But he plays a mean guitar. We don't ask any questions."

“There are a lot of good bands in Los Angeles,” says Bateman, “But I feel that we fit right in with the top elite blues bands that are currently playing, recording and making a living.”

Says French, “We’ve played everything from punk and rockabilly, to swampy blues and it was time to put all that energy into one place. We’ve got more fire and brimstone than you’ll hear anywhere.”

Beto debuted at Dave Alvin’s “Dog and Pony” benefit show for Chris Gaffney in September 2008. According to co-vocalists French and Gil “T,” their love of music allowed the longtime friends and collaborators to start the band. It actually started with French and what would become the other members of Paging Beto just listening to old Blues records at French's home and absorbing the legendary blues music. But French's love affair with the blues goes back to his teenage years when he actually would hang in blues clubs and absorb what would eventually become his life's passion.

”I’ve wanted to play with these guys for a long time,” says Wickersham, “And I’m very honored to have the chance to do so.” Wickersham is such a great guitarist but as a member of Social D he played a different style. So naturally I wanted to know how he was making the adjustment. "I'm trying to just stay up...but I love this music (the blues) so much..I think I am picking it up fast."

French gives Wickersham very high marks for his guitar work. "Jonny is great. He's such a student of blues and music in general. He's doing a great job and he's made the transition very well."

“We are old dogs with even older tricks,” says The Mighty Gil “T,” “And everybody knows, old guys don’t fight fair.”

The band plays a lot of covers including "I'm a Hog for you Baby," by the Coasters and "She's Tuff" by the Fabulous Thunderbirds. They're also playing music by Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and for good measure a little Muddy Waters as well.

French says they are working on some original music and there is probably going to be an album coming in the near future. But for now they love playing the originals.

"It's like if you go see a symphony," Wickersham says. "You just wanna see them do the piece the way it was written and revisit it."

And that's good because a whole new generation is being exposed to this wonderful music. There have been a lot of young their early 20's at the show.

Paging Beto next plays at the Vibe in Riverside, CA at 9 PM on Sat. May 9

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