Helmet (w/ Open Hand & Intronaut) 11/05/10

Key Club – West Hollywood, CA

Words/photos by Reverend Justito – concertconfessions.com

It took me 15+ years to see my first Helmet concert.  I only had to wait 40 days for round two with the criminally underappreciated metal band.  A lot has changed in 5 ½ weeks since I watched Helmet destroy Redondo Beach.  I was correct in my prediction to Helmet main man Page Hamilton that the 49ers would have won at least one game in that time.  However, another major sports feat has gone down and much to my delight it allowed me the opportunity to be booed by the entire Key Club.   But before I brag to you about an incredible end to an amazing week, let’s talk about some music.

For a moment I feared not making it into the Sunset Strip venue.  I had a spot on the guest list, yet according to the large bouncer outside the door my legal name was not on any list.  After showing him my confirmation e-mail and with the promise to buy a drink or two, I was allowed into the venue (thank you).  Former Trustkill artist Open Hand had already hit the stage and after making good on my promise I had no problem finding a spot up front.  I was introduced to the band from a friend about two years ago who had brought over the demos of what would become the bands most recent record Honey. Within seconds of the music hitting my ears, I was hooked.

With the room 50% full, Open Hand did a fine job of winning over numerous souls consuming their first cocktail of the night.  Songs like “You and Me” and “Jaded” got the we are cool, we are Hollywood and it’s too early to stand up front but we will nod our heads because we really fucking respect you treatment from the crowd.  However, the highlight of the brief opening set was Open Hand sticking it to the Key Club.  Told to get off stage, the bands leader Justin Isham fought for one more song.  With an angry stage manager and beefy security on the side of stage ready to pounce upon Open Hand, the band reached backed and bitch slapped everyone inside the Key Club with their self-proclaimed best song “Hard Night.”  An epic number that feels much like Hum meets Kyuss while being totally unique – while Open Hand may have managed to get themselves black listed from the Key Club the 200+ folks in attendance were clearly won over on the first Friday in November.

Before Intronaut hit the stage, I knew the band only in name.  Someone once told me they were space metal, however I had no clue what that meant.  Hell after seeing the band, I still have no clue what it means, but that sure as hell didn’t prevent me from being won over by the “post-metal” band from Los Angeles, CA.  For a lack of a better term, Intonaut is a thinking man’s metal band.  One part prog, one part jazz fusion with a ton of sludge, doom and death thrown in for flavor, the band has a massive sound that right off the bat made the Key Club feel small and inadequate.  They are one of those bands where you wish you knew every song walking in, because watching these guys pull these unfamiliar songs off live on stage was nothing short of incredible.  If you are a fan of Tool, Mastodon and Isis then Intronaut is for you.

As I have already mentioned, this was my second time seeing Helmet in 40 days.  With the club near capacity, the band took the stage and opened up with the melodic yet rocking “Swallowing Everything.”  From there the show was off and running as the band snuck the new song “So Long” in between Aftertaste favorites “Birth Defect” and “Exactly What You Wanted.”  I felt the set progressed nicely, as songs from the just released Seeing Eye Dog mixed with Helmet classics.  Yet, one look around me and it’s rather obvious a majority of fans only wants to hear the band play songs from Meantime and Betty. It’s the reason a pit of four drunken tools breaks out during “Iron Head” while the very same individuals stand around looking bored during “Welcome to Algiers.”

Where Hamilton and company basically ditched the setlist halfway through the Redondo Beach show, there was no negotiating on this the final night of the bands lengthy North American tour.  It actually seemed as if the setlist was designed to fuck with the simple minded masses.  Old material was played, however  the band refused to play the huge hits the crowd begged for.  Cries for “Unsung”, “I Know” and “Biscuits For Smut” were ignored as the band instead decided to rock tight versions of “Black Top”, Repetition” and “Tic.”

For me, the highlight wasn’t the music, as much as it was a rare moment of stage banter.  Someone mentioned Hamilton’s Portland Trailblazers sweatbands and he got onto the topic of sports.  During this moment he spotted me in my San Francisco Giants hat and as he pointed me out he congratulated me and my team for winning the 2010 World Series.  On a high all week long from my teams first World Championship since my grandmother was seven months pregnant with my father I was of course booed by the Dodgers loving Southern California crowd.  As I turned from the front of the stage and egged the volatile crowd on a huge shit eating grin crossed my face.  How could it not, the Giants are baseball champions of the world.

The band closed their set with a three song encore.  After shaking hands with fans up front (and informing many that there was no chance in hell “Unsung” was being played) the band kicked things off with “Crisis King”.  From there, the crowd was enthused by powerful back to back action packed powerhouse jams “Wilma’s Rainbow” and “In The Meantime.”  Fans got crazy one last time and for Helmet a very long tour came to an end.  After the last chord was played, the band greeted fans up front with handshakes and fist bumps.  Hamilton and I once again discussed 49ers football (he called the week 7 loss to Carolina the clubs most embarrassing in years) and I thanked him for two truly wonderful autumn nights in the year 2010.

A direct descendant of the outlaw Jesse James and star of a 1983 Kilpatricks Bread radio commercial, Reverend Justito has taken his gift of ADHD and put it to good use by creating one of a kind concert reviews. A bootlegger at heart, the man lives off Whiskey, Taco Bell and the love of San Francisco sports teams.
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