Helmet with Toadies
It's still kind of weird to think of '90s bands as nostalgia acts. However, Toadies and Helmet really are just that: Groups that bring you back to another time. A time when the music they created was still relevant and playing in the background of what are now memories of important moments. Those inadvertent soundtracks really do play a significant role in shaping our memories, especially when it comes to inescapable mega-hits, like Toadies "Possum Kingdom," which were played from just about every speaker on the planet for a while.
Droves of fans came out to reconnect with two bands that shared a special time together in the alt rock dorm room of the 1990s. Both followed rather similar paths, paying their musical dues, slaving for the Interscope label, subsequently breaking up, and having now reformed to tour and produce new music.
Opening the show was a band named UME. UME is a trio that plays melodic heavy rock that could very easily trace its roots to some of their tour-mates former '90s brethren. The twist is that there's a young lady playing guitar and singing over the din. At points in the set, UME sounded like what Codeseven could sound like with a poor man's version of the Duke Spirit's Liela Moss on lead vox. The crowd -- while thin for the majority of UME's set -- was receptive to the group's powerful hard rock.
The nice thing about three-band bills (depending on who you ask) is that the bands almost always play extended sets. This was a necessity for both Helmet and Toadies, as both groups have new material they obviously want to play, but are well aware of the fact that people buy the ticket to hear the classics.
Helmet managed to bias its set nicely between every record in the the group's discography. Lead singer and guitarist Page Hamilton did not appear to have aged a whole lot since the band's heyday, and the group sounded tight and energetic. The center of Revolution's floor was transformed into a distinctly '90s style mosh pit, complete with people pogoing, push moshing, and doing that thing with their hand that matches the beat, but looks unbearably white-guy at the same time. There was a lot of that hand motion happening last night. You definitely know the one we're talking about.
The highlight of Helmet's set was, of course, "Unsung", off of Meantime. Hamilton's distinctly angular guitar playing was as crucial as ever, and he even spent most of the set playing the battered and modified metallic magenta ESP guitar most will recognize from the band's videos. When the group finally took a break to catch their breath, Hamilton introduced the members by their hometowns, and went on to drive home the nostalgia by mentioning the fact that their first album came out in 1990. The guitar-nerd in Hamilton peeked its head out at one point in the night when he informed some guitarists in the crowd (who had undoubtedly met him earlier in the day) that the upcoming song begins with a B flat 13th chord, which made a lot more sense after a stroll to the merch table, which featured his instructional guitar DVD.
After Helmet finished their marathon set of 15 songs, Toadies came out to a Revolution that had lost some of its crowd. Perhaps the two band's fan bases are not as well aligned as they had assumed? At any rate, the spirit in the room remained, and people were stoked to chase the past via the sounds of Toadies.
The exuberant crowd enjoyed the vast majority of the group's platinum selling album, Rubberneck, and the sing-a-long kicked off immediately in the form of the song "I Come From the Water." The band sounded great, and they all shared the look of joy that can only come from a second opportunity to do what they love in front of a crowd that appeared as excited as they were.
As expected, "Possum Kingdom" made for the biggest reaction of the entire night, and the members of Toadies appeared no less excited to perform their biggest hit than any of the new material they have been working on, a testament to how well grounded these guys are, even after going through the monster success-to-label drop ringer so many one hit wonders go through.
For many in attendance, the show felt like a high school reunion, with groups of people recanting stories from glory days, or catching up on life as it is now, and in general, enjoying some of the music that shaped their lives. For the bands, it was an opportunity to show appreciation for a renewed lease on life in music via enthusiastic performances that surely left an impression on those in attendance.
Personal Bias: Casual Helmet fan that remembers the Toadies radio assault well.
Random Detail: Todd Lewis had a second microphone wired up to give a lo-fi, old-timey radio voice occasionally used on the records.
Random Detail 2: Adults moshing makes my skin crawl.