“What more could you ask for? Classic cars and Rockabilly bands at the drive-in on a Saturday night,” said one guest attending Rubidoux’s Drive-In Concert Series featuring the Reverend Horton Heat, Big Sandy, and The Delta Bombers.
This triple feature delivered new experiences for both the audience and musicians, as we are all learning to adjust during the “COVID Era” of live music.
Prior to their set, guitarist Andrew Himmler of The Delta Bombers had an unexpected request from one audience member, “Can I get a picture with you?” Happily, Andrew agreed to take a quick photo with the gentleman and afterwards, jokingly remarked about the confusion caused by social distancing regulations and connecting with fans. Although requests like this use to be highly anticipated, it seems as if now more than ever, musicians miss the connections formed through music. Nevertheless, the musicians and fans, alike, are eager to get back to some level of normalcy.
Many attendees that we interviewed expressed similar opinions about the show and how it was curated. Guests like Fernando and members of the Rumble Cats Car Club were excited to get back to live music events. Both parties had seen The Delta Bombers more than 5 times, but had yet to have the drive-in concert experience or attend a live concert in over 7 months. Also, both appreciated the space that this format provided for each individual group, creating a bubble dynamic that changed between each vehicle. However, one of the greatest concern focused on the quality of sound during the show.
With no PA system directed at the crowd, audience members were told to tune into an FM dial in order to hear the performances. Guests like Michael, felt that the FM transmission lacked that extra-punch gained from a live performance. Other attendees came prepared for this, utilizing boomboxes and large speakers to amplify and mimic a personal PA.
The Delta Bombers opened the concert with an impressive presentation from start to finish. Roars from across the Rubidoux Drive-In poured out of the audience upon the subtle guitar intro in “The Wolf” began.
Without the audience directly in front of the stage, singer, Chris Moinichen decided to improvised a different method of crowd approval. As he puts it, “How often can you tell the audience two things? Honk if you’re horny and flash me.”
Response from the crowd came quickly and appropriately, although the “horny honking” abruptly ended due to safety regulations. This being The Delta Bombers first Drive-In concert performance, every band member expressed great elation for the opportunity to return to the stage as a band and a full venue amongst friends and fans. Chris express his gratitude to the Southern California rockabilly community for their ongoing support. He remarked, “This is a great location for an event like this. It is in the center of all the major rockabilly communities from Orange County to the High Desert, Los Angeles and even parts of San Diego.” The Delta Bombers return to SoCal on November 6 at Campus Jax.
Without any hesitation, Reverend Horton Heat delivered their psychobilly explosion to everyone tuning in on the venue’s FM dial with “Psychobilly Freakout.” They knocked out several of their other psychobilly classics early on in their set including “I Can’t Surf” and “Galaxy 500.”
Following a few covers of songs by artist that influenced RHH’s sound, they played tribute to Lemmy of Motorhead by covering “The Ace of Spades.” Fans throughout the venue felt the energy displayed on stage as they danced and sang along as the evening carried on.
During their set, audience members were introduced to a young keyboardist, John Countryman, from North Carolina who really knows how to dance around on the keys. The godfather of modern rockabilly and psychobilly also featured a Rockabilly legend and SoCal local, Big Sandy, for several songs and an encore performance. This was Big Sandy’s first performance since live events came to a halt. Although they did not perform “Bails of Cocaine,” the Reverend taught the audience an important lesson, “Don’t play the song they want, leave them wanting more.” Reverend Horton Heat is set to return to California in Spring of 2021.
Saturday night’s event proved that music lovers are eager to have live events return, even if they must adjust to the current safety regulations. The Rockabilly community is ready for live music’s return especially in a setting befitting of a time when drive-ins and rockabilly music prevailed in Southern California. Although this is the last event hosted at the Rubidoux Drive-In this month, the creative concept of the drive-in provides audience members a new way of experiencing live music with several significant perks and few restrictions during this ongoing pandemic.
If you have yet to attend a Drive-In music concert, it is similar to a midwestern music festival atmosphere that is meant to be enjoyed as either a group or with a significant other, and should experience at least once.