An evening with Helmet
By: Tim Connors
When going to see one of your favorite bands live, you typically ask yourself a series of questions: What will they play first? What will they close the set with? Will they play my favorite song? How much new stuff will I hear? These are all questions that add to a certain type of welcomed anxiety and excitement that make for great concert experience. However, this show was different. It was Helmet. Tonight there weren’t any questions. Concert goers knew exactly what they were getting into. The undeniable excitement in the air was different because it wasn’t driven by curiosity. It was driven by the high expectations of hearing a phenomenal album played in its entirety.
When I first heard that the genre-shattering rock/metal pioneers Helmet were playing their 1994 release Betty from beginning to end, my concert expectations were dashed, for the better. There was only one question left at this point: is this going to sound as good live compared to how it sounds on the album (or cassette tape, in my case)? An emphatic “FUCK YES” was the answer to that question when Helmet walked out on stage without saying a word, picked up their instruments and plunged directly into the first song off of Betty: “Wilma’s Rainbow.”
From “Wilma’s Rainbow” all the way to “Sam Hell,” Helmet flawlessly executed duplicating the acclaimed 1994 release note-for-dark-and-grooving-note. The outstanding sound quality at Visulite Theatre treated everybody in the packed venue to a virtual audio time-machine. Aside from quick bursts of unstoppable applause after crowd-favorites like “Biscuits for Smut,” “Wilma’s Rainbow” and “Milquetoast,” the band remained true to the format of Betty all the way down to the amount of time in between songs.
It brought me back to the days of sneaking into my older sister’s room and stealing her tapes to listen to. In fact, Betty was the very first tape that I ‘helped myself’ to from her collection. With that being said, the concept of this show held a special nostalgic value for me. The hundreds of loyal fans singing every word to every song lead me to believe they felt the same way.
By the time Page Hamilton finished his solo-performance of “Sam Hell,” the rest of the band had already snuck off stage for what I thought would be a short intermission. I was pleasantly mistaken. Instead, the band immediately returned to the stage saluting the crowd with well-deserved cheers. Meanwhile, Hamilton took the time to shake hands with every spectator that was within arm’s distance of the stage. After the impromptu meet and greet, Hamilton joined the band on stage and jumped right in to a second set filled primarily of tunes from non-Betty records “Afterlife,” “Strap it on” and the breakthrough album “Meantime.”
Song after song, Helmet displayed excellent musicianship with a performance so tight it would make a kegel exercise-instructor jealous. The most notable example of this happened when the iconic snare drum-blast was coupled with the driving bassline of the anthem “Unsung.” The crowd erupted into a frenzy and rightfully so. After other crowd-favorites like “Sinatra” and “Repetition,” the band closed out the evening with the epic tune: “Meantime.”
Standing outside of the venue after the show it became pretty evident (with a little eavesdropping) that nearly every single concert attendee left with a rekindled love affair that began nearly 25 years ago. At one point Hamilton made the remark “Hey, we haven’t written a song in five years.” You know what Page Hamilton? You dont fucking have to. When you sell out venues across the country by playing an obscure corner-stone of rock music history in its entirety, you can pretty much do whatever you want.
By the end of the night I was reminded that Helmet does not get enough credit for being such an influential part of subculture and new music. All these newer genres: math rock, alternative rock, alternative metal, stoner metal, modern radio rock and more, owe a debt of gratitude to Helmet for pushing the preconceived expectations of genres of music to their limit and beyond. I owe my sister a debt of gratitude for not hiding her tapes in a better location. Kudos to singer Page Hamilton and the band for an epic journey down memory lane.
See them on tour!
Mar 03 ONE EYED JACKS New Orleans, LA
Mar 04 FITZGERALD’S Houston, TX
Mar 05 Gas Monkey Dallas, TX
Mar 06 Riverside Warehouse Shreveport, LA
Mar 07 JR’s Lightbulb Club Fayetteville, AR
Mar 08 The Record Bar Kansas City, MO Sold Out
Mar 09 The Waiting Room Omaha, NE
Mar 11 Mill City Nights Minneapolis, MN
Mar 12 High Noon Madison, WI Sold Out
Mar 13 Double Door Chicago, IL Sold Out
Mar 14 Beachland Ballroom Cleveland, OH
Mar 15 The Vogue Theatre Indianapolis, IN
Mar 17 Magic Bag Ferndale, MI
Mar 18 Lee’s Palace Toronto, Canada
Mar 19 Altar Bar Pittsburgh, PA
Mar 20 Thompson House Newport, KY
Mar 21 The New Vintage Louisville, KY e
Jun 17 George M Sullivan Sports Arena Anchorage, AK
Don’t forget to #twtifromthepit if you are at a show!
Full gallery can be seen here.