Helmet (with MX Machine & Bison b.c.) 09/26/10
BriXton South Bay – Redondo Beach, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito/concertconfessions.com
Ever since I watched a ridiculous MTVnews interview with Helmet (you know, the one where they make a big deal about a metal band with short hair) I have been obsessed with seeing the band live. OK, perhaps obsessed is the wrong word, but I have been a fan now for over half my life and somehow always manage to miss the band when they swing through town. I decided it was time to change this, and on the night of Sunday Sept 26th I headed south to Redondo Beach to check out the long running metal bands concert at BriXton’s South Bay.
It took me almost an hour to get to BriXton’s, as I got stuck in the mass exodus of inland residents leaving various costal cities. I figured I had managed to miss the local support acts; however I made it just in time to catch the complete set for local rockers MX Machine. Initially, the power-trios Motorhead inspired trash metal set, bored me, however after about the second song things started to get interesting. First drummer and Packers fan Joe Ayala somehow lost a kick pedal. This forced bassist/vocalist Diego Negrete to fill time with akward yet rather hilarious stage banter. Once Ayala was up and almost running, the band continued on with the set. With the mood lite from the silly banter, the band semeed relaxed and let loose. One highlight was the bands “breakthrough single” from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre III soundtrack. The song was called “Psychcotic Killing Machine” and it got the 1/3rd capacity venue up on their feet and rocking out.
While the music was solid, it was the energy and banter of Negrete that truly made the set. From complaints about having to show up for his day job on Monday to plugs of an upcoming gig with Accept at the Key Club, Negrete even had the bartenders laughing out loud. So if you are going to that Accept show, or just happen to see that MX Machine are opening a gig you plan to attend make sure you check these guys out. They are a musically tight and will bring you more laughs than Dane Cook.
Up next was a band out of Vancouver Canada known as Bison b.c.. For three weeks, the group has criss-crossed the west coast with Helmet and Redondo Beach was the bands final night. Coming into the gig, the hype around Bison b.c. has been huge and despite not knowing a single song I was almost as excited for their set as I was for Helmet. I am glad to report that Bison b.c. not only lived up to the hype, but they blew that hype up with a fistfuls of dynamite and kicked it off the Redondo Beach Pier straight into the Pacific Ocean below.
Not owning any of the bands albums, sadly I can’t give you intimate blow by blow details of what songs they played. I can tell you that the band absolutley dominated the tiny club stage. Imagine all the things you love about bands like Mastodon and Black Flag and combine them with the ass-stomping power of The Black Dahlia Murder. That is Bison b.c. in a nutshell for you. The band is so brutal and so heavy that bassist Masa Anzai doesn’t even bother with a “G” string on his instrument. During their thirty minute set, the band not only seemed to be having a blast, but were grateful for the chance to expose their music to a new and highly appreciative audience. I was so impressed, I not only needed a lot more Bison b.c. (thus me rushing to the merch stand to pick up their lastest record), I found myself wondering how Helmet could follow such an amazing act. If you are into the heavy doom/thrash/stoner metal scene – believe the hype. Bison b.c. is the real fucking deal.
Where the first set change was quick, the change between Bison b.c. and Helmet felt like an eternity. By the time the band finally took the stage, I instantly noticed how many folks had left between Bison BC and the headline act. Anyone who did leave early is a fool, because Helmet crushed all within a three mile radius of the club. Promoting their latest release Seeing Eye Dog the Page Hamilton led band kicked the set off with a new song from the new release called “Swallowing Everything.” The crowd surged to the front of the tiny stage and watched adoringly as the four piece band kicked off a 90 minute set that covered their entire career.
I have to say, what we heard from the new record was solid. The highlight was a heavy and moving version of “Welcome to Algiers.” The song had that classic heavy Helmet feel, but had the rich melody you would expect out bands like Jawbox or Hum. While respectful, it was clear the audience was not conecting with the band and the new (aka everything from Aftertaste on) material. Hamilton even tried to egg the crowd on by declaring how San Diego the previous evening was the highlight of the tour. While this was lost on the mosty 40+ year old crowd, Hamilton found the key to getting the crowd into set around the sixth song.
For the first time all night, a pit broke out and the crowd went nuts as the opening riffs for “Iron Head” rang through the clubs PA. Another classic “Give It” followed and the energy went from old and tired to youthful and energetic within a matter of seconds. The band followed these monster jams up with two more new songs – “In Person” and “She’s Lost.” Sadly almost all the energy in the crowd was once again lost. Of course that energy was brought back up as the band busted out their breakthrough 1992 hit “Unsung.” Clearly Hamilton noticed, and instead of having a Billy Corgan diva-esque moment he did the smart thing and called an audible.
After some hilarious stage banter, Hamilton decided to skip the title track from Seeing Eye Dog and instead informed his band mates that it was time to bust out “I Know” from the highly successful 1994 release – Betty. The place went nuts, especially as the song segued flawlessly into “Wilma’s Rainbow.” A third track from Betty called “Milquetoast” followed and it was clear Hamilton had made the right choice. The crowd was very much stuck in the early to mid 1990’s, and I am not just saying that because I was the only person not wearing jean shorts.
After toast, the band left the stage for a brief encore break. Upon their return, they dedicated the first song to a fan/friend who had recently returned from a tour of duty in the Middle East. The band then reached deep down and gave 100% for one last song. That song of course was the early 90’s classic “In The Meantime.” For the final time on this hot autumn night, the 12-14 men who made up the mosh pit ran around the main floor of BriXton South Bay beating each other silly. When all was said and done, those still left in the crowd seemed thankful for a chance to see Helmet rock their small costal community. As a single stage hand began to tear down the equipment, Hamilton met with fans. Caught in the mob, I quickly shook his hand and found myself in a painful conversation about our 0-3 San Francisco 49ers. Sure, our team may stink, but I can’t think of a better way to end my first Helmet show then Mr. Hamilton and I consuling each other over our crappy team. Here’s hoping we have a few victories under our belt when the band and I collide once again in Hollywood in November.