The Adelaide music scene: to many of you it might be little more than a touring speed bump between Melbourne and Perth but to us it's a way of life. Feast within, on all its dysfunctioning splendour, as we bring you the highly satirical, laughingly fictional and intellectually imbecile tales from our rock & roll wasteland...
HELMET + LADY STRANGELOVE LIVE @ FOWLERS LIVE / Sunday May 4th 2008
Sunday? bloody Sunday!!? What the hell happened to Saturday!? Well, despite all evidence to the contrary, publishing 2-3 episodes of this dreck this each and every damn week is a LOT of hard work: all these photos? all this text? all these carefully planned insults to your intelligence!? You may think I have a dedicated team of leprecauns, umpa lumpas, elves, a Nike factory full of child labourers with busted up thumbs or maybe even some low-paid South Korean animators to do the dirty work but this ain't no RollingStone Magazine, this isn't even Rip It Up or dB, this is all me doing this shit dirt free (which considering how badly written this mess is, should come as a surprise to absolutely no one!). Yup, I'll save you all the gory details for another time; suffice to say even someone as shit crazy as myself needs to take a teeny tiny "holiday" once in a while. So here's me on a Saturday night taking that "holiday": which by all appearances looks like any other night out on the town, except that I chose not to document any part of it on camera. Just me, a movie "Iron Man" (kinda shit, kinda hilarious though), a few lazy brews about the town and Joe Blogs the camera whore ruining it for me at the end.. yooooou bastard!
Fast forward to Sunday night and it appears my missing Saturday night has simply followed me over the dateline: for tonight a surprising wealth of options both profane and insane are available in the west end of town. Being May the 4th (be with you) Jive is hosting its very own tribute night to Star Wars with a full band performing all of John William's fucked up film score, across the road those sadsack bastards Love Stereo and Zeta (formerly known as Zeta League: with the infamous finger bleed) are stacking up a tower of guitar pedals in Supermild, whilst downwind at the Ed Castle psychic bartenders Zac and Naomi from The Jade Monkey finally came out've hiding to launch their shiny new debut album for The Sea Thieves: in what would've been the most awesome hangover cure set to live music you could possibly ever imagine..
Still, as much as I would've killed to be at that gig at the Ed, there was one remaining slot on tonight's calendar that I couldn't afford to miss: Fowlers Live and the fateful return of Helmet. Oh yes, Helmet! the one, the only, the ever infamous and after 11 long years the prodigal return! THE seminal New York "thinking man's metal", the one band that every band in Adelaide has been spending the last decade ripping off if they weren't so busily trying to rip off Maynard James Keenan; and the one band that I know absolutely next to nothing about (save for a friend of mine who did nothing but thrash their album "Betty" in a constant loop throughout the late 90's). Oh yes, THAT Helmet! What the fuck was I thinking? Surely I'm out've my depth here!? But when you're witness to a moment in history quite like this and when they're teamed up by the most unlikely of Adelaide's supporting acts, how could you possibly refuse?
And you know you're in for something special when they wheel out the "cheese grater of death" tonight. I may've suffered through my fair share of all ages and whistling on empty shows here at Fowlers in the past, but something tells me this ain't going to be one of them. Hold onto yer nuts and prepare for the explosive decompression: cause we're in for one hell of a ride!
LADY STRANGELOVE (****) myspace :: Considering we'd already seen this serial offender just LAST week at the official opening party for the Ed Castle, it's probably best to save you the usual psychedelic avalanche of gibberish and just go straight to the headlining act. Lady Strangelove. They're an odd choice for support slot; so much so that I wasn't entirely sure how this room was going to respond to it. I was expecting a semi circle of death, a hail of beer bottles followed by roadies hosing out the splattering remains of what was once Adelaide's best excuse to empty out an entire medicine cabinet in one sitting. We all know crowds for international acts are notoriously fickle when in comes to support slots (especially one with such fanatical oldskool following as Helmet) and yet despite a passing joke at the expense of Josh's "cheaparse" guitar Lady Strangelove did surprisingly well to win over the crowd who hadn't fled to the bar to get drunk. As such tonight's set was a meatier grind designed to pull them all back in: bluesier, grungey more chaos and dirt. If you could imagine a smoke alarm malfunction combined with the sounds of Led Zeppelin thrashed at high velocity in a rock tumbler with a fungal infection you'd be close to the mark. Sure most of this may've been due to the mixer cranking past the point of earbleed; but it was a mad buzz netherless..
HELMET (****1/2) myspace :: And now for what all you've have been waiting for: the headlining act. Of course I probably should remind everyone that 99% of all "knowledge" I have on this band (and thus anything I'll pretend to know in advance) is merely cribbed at the last minute from everyone's favourite source of misinformation: wikipedia (and that one song they had on The Crow Soundtrack which I nicked off a bittorrent years ago). Thus I'm probably the last person you should ever be sourcing an indepth gig review from (and I know all too well that I'm gonna get a LOT of shit for anything I'm about to write); but yeah fuck it, it hasn't stopped me before and it won't stop me now! Helmet: tonight they're following a similar blueprint set by Sonic Youth (when they toured here over two months ago and played their classic 1988 album "Daydream Nation" in full), by playing THEIR classic 1992 album "Meantime" in full. Save for a scattering of other choice cuts acting as bookends, it was all there, song for song in reverse order just like you'd remember them. To most here it would've been a trip down memory lane; for me, it was experienced for the first time on a live stage. Which, we all might agree is a pretty damn sweet deal..
As such (from my first impressions) Helmet are a meat driven affair: a monster of pounding bass, drums and chugging guitars, I can instantly hear where a million and one Adelaide prog rockers nicked their moves from. There was little or no melody here, little or no variety between songs, everything kinda bled into one other but delivered with a fuckload of primal energy that whipped everyone in the crowd to howling frenzy. And despite apparently featuring only the ONE founding member (Page Hamilton on leads) a second guitarist who looked all too much like Fred Durst's skinnyarse understudy and a cross-eyed drummer that resembled what Mike Patton would look like after too many blows to the head; this wasn't a band treading water either. This was a band sent to kill us all; and song after song they fucking destroyed..
That being said though, the prevailing mood here wasn't of brutality. With Page Hamilton's easy going stage presence, his chatty interludes between songs, historical insights, his musings over the love of Coopers Pale Ale, continued call for song requests (that more or less confused the hell out've him as the crowd unintelligibly shouted shit back at it him, to which he'd reply "what? what? hang on what? hahaha speak freaking American damnit!"), it felt more like a lazy Sunday afternoon conversation you'd have on a couch over a few beers and a cold pizza than anything you'd otherwise expect to crush you to death under 50,000 tonnes of mechanised death..
Still, it came as no surprise that no amount of casual conversation was gonna stop THIS crowd from going absolutely batshit with flying fists aplently. Having positioned myself up against the cheese grater for the first hour or so I escaped the brunt of it, until one exciteable arsehat (seen here flailing in the blond hair) flew overhead, forcing me to spend the next 2-3 minutes trying to keep the idiot up in the air, only to be uprooted from prime position when he came crashing to earth again. Damn. Even so, these idiots did provide endless amusement as they went at each other again and again for the remainder of the set. As much as I would've loved to be right in the thick of it meself killing myself stupid; after being reduced to a slow limp (thanks to an ill timed flying tackle for the bus at the start of Saturday night that reduced my right knee to a bloody pulp) I stuck this battle out on the sidelines. Heh, guess I'm human afterall..
And of course as utterly clueless as I am I have next to no idea WHICH Helmet song this was that I recorded onto video in closing (save for the vague guesstimate that it sits somewhere in the second half of their Meantime album) so feel fill me in on the details. Sweet buzz though..
And there we have it, probably THE most ill informed live review you'll ever read. Yup as much as I may wish to claim to see it ALL for you idiots (and after clocking up over 100 different live acts so far this year it wouldn't be far off the mark), I could never claim to know it all. Still, if anything could be gained from my diminishing returns in service to this blog? it's that no matter how many times I run the hamster wheels for this scene, no matter how much it all begins to look the same every I go you'll always find something new to amuse you. And on that note I'm gonna fire up my bittorrent; something tells me I've got a lifetime of Helmet to catch up on!