Live Review from The Underground Festival @ Fanzone:
The interaction between the band members and their instruments are always a point of interest in live performances; some slow dance with them, and some brandish theirs like a weapon. Helter Skelter caresses theirs with a firmness and familiarity like an experienced lover who knows their partners every curve, every wrinkle. As the first performers of the evening, the band was faced with a crowd that was only starting to warm up halfway throughout their set, but they were confident, unfazed, and comfortable with just doing their thing onstage throughout – professional would be the word. Roadrunner was an incredibly groovy piece with a highly danceable motif that works great with the Vince’s classic-sounding vocals; by highly danceable I mean that despite the slight awkwardness that still pierced the air of an early crowd, the audience actually went through a transition of wearing that “Okay I really want to dance to this” expression to “Can I dance to this? Am I allowed to?” and finally “I’m going to dance like no one’s watching” in a matter of minutes. All Your Love and its “Are you loving pretty baby” was good ol’ head bobbing blues; Ain’t No Sunshine was a slower and more melancholic piece, with a sultry desperation in “I know, I know, I know, I know” that worked to its effect. Something Like Olivia’s constrasting lightheartedness almost reminded me of a Eagle-esque country rock. Mary Had A Little Lamb was cheeky and had one of the best guitar solos in their set. The last song was a cover of Crossroads by Cream/Eric Clapton; this prompted a loud cheer of “Yeah!” from the audience. Oddly enough, the act is somehow reminiscent of the scene where Marty McFly/Michael J. Fox covers Johnny B. Goode. Overall, I’m admittedly not educated enough in blues to provide a more comprehensive or in-depth review of their sounds, but they were a great band to start off the night with: groovy enough to heat things up and prep the crowd for the craziness to ensue, but not coming on so strong that it would startle a you that came here straight from work and likely to be still in a semi-zombielike state. Those boys rocked!
– Karen Cheung
Message from Helter Skelter about CD 4 Launch Party B:
- Exciting launch of Underground CD – check!
- A chance to play the first indie gig at the new Hard Rock Cafe – check!
- Enthusiastic crowd that loves indie bands/music – check!
- Great bands to share the stage with – check!
- Our song blasting out of the Hard Rock speakers – check!
- Beer – check!
- Girls – check!
You can’t ask for much more…
Live Review from Underground 93:
1. Use it For What it’s For
2. Seedy Cadillac
3. I Don’t Wanna Have to Lose You
4. Just Love
5. I’m Still Alive
6. Built for Comfort
When it’s an absolute joy to hear a band tuning up, you know that they’re good. They certainly had the aura of long-time campaigners who knew exactly what they were doing about them. With their Les Paul – Strat – (highly enviable) Firebird combination, they insouciantly began Use it For What it’s For, with its circular, winding bassline, positively reeking of a Johnny “Guitar” Watson-like blues-funk mix. Some fantastic slap bass took over the song in the in loops and whorls, complemented perfectly by some cool noodling, and singer Vincent’s soft rasp. Shades of Bo Diddley and the Yardbirds were seen constantly through the night,, as they often walked the line between rock n’ roll and the blues (and what an awesome walk it was.) A segue into I Don’t Wanna Have to Lose You, brought keyboardist Adrian’s voice to the fore, and his punchy vocals complemented the soloing (which bordered on being almost metallic at points.)
A song written for a friend’s wedding (but which didn’t quite pan out that way) Just Love was more pop-ish in its form, but with bone-rattling bass and unmistakably bluesy so(u)lo. Their unequivocal answer in the negative to a request from one of the audience for “something fast-paced”, I’m Still Alive was the kind of song that just makes the bystander go “These guys can really bend!” possibly invoking B..B. King while doing so. At this point, the gig was supposed to end while they continued to play into the night, but because the bar needed to close, they had a forced encore of Howlin’ Wolf’s Built for Comfort, only to reveal that they had been holding back (!) till now. But no stones were left unturned, as the palette of blues was covered across the board, all the while joined by the lead-heavy riffs and growling guitars. With a heavy heart, then, the night was thus curtailed, but with the quality of music having been played, I doubt anyone left unfulfilled.
Live Review from Underground 53:
- 1. Funk Ass Jam
2. Ten Past Ten
3. Say you Say Love
5. I Don’t Wanna Have To Lose You
7. Honest with You
With all the heady sexiness in the air, Helter Skelter was the right band to carry it further. They mixed up blues and funk influences with U.S-style guitar rock and perhaps smidgens of psychedelic rock. There must be a shortage of bass players in Hong Kong as Koya from Very Ape made yet another welcome appearance. (He starred in Transnoodle’s set last Underground.) A band just doesn’t seem right now unless this dude’s in it.
Helter Skelter’s first song Funk Ass Jam was pretty much just that, a funk ass jam. A cruisey feel of rhythm and blues and some southern soul. Helter Skelter’s lead singer had been delayed, probably finishing up at happy hour down the pub, so the band started without him. The keyboardist took on the honours for a couple of songs after advising the audience to drink more before Ten Past Ten so we wouldn’t miss not having a lover. So we drank. Now that’s the blues – depression and sadness shared. A woeful lament about being alone at nights followed in the vein of Jimmy Reed’s Cry Before I Go. These are skilful musicians who know their stuff and can create the classic feel of the blues – only the mouth harp was missing – with some tongue-in-cheek lyrics to keep you amused. From really early blues artists like Bessie Smith to later John Lee Hooker and blues-rock revivalists in the 80’s-90’s and now (the Black Crowes, etc), there always seemed that touch of wry humour and self-deprecation in the lyrics. Adds balance to the drama, I guess.
Helter Skelter themselves seemed to be having a great time up on stage. I’m not educated enough to comment on the blues styles and traditions this band draws upon so you’d have to ask them about Mississippi Delta blues, Memphis blues, Chicago blues, electric blues, Swamp blues, California blues and Texas rock blues. I expect they’re a bit of everything.
The 4-piece became a 5-piece when the tardy guitarist/ singer Vince arrived offering the formal apology of ‘Yeah, I fucked up.’ Say You Say Love was a beautiful blues-rock mix with a ‘70’s-80’s purist U.S. Mid-West heartland, or even Californian, guitar rock vibe about it. There’s definitely no ‘red-neck’ conservative stuff mixed up in there- just the feel of now-mythic America, wide spaces, fun and free.
With another guitar added, the overall sound on Delusions was not only denser but altogether different in style. Vocals were fast and half-shouted, lyrics a bit offbeat and the sound definitely alternative but managing still to have rock elements.
I Don’t Wanna Have To Lose You was a beautiful song. Keyboardist Adrian’s more melodic vocal delivery suited the sincerity of the lyrics and the sound had a southern rock feel with exhilarating blues rock guitar work.
Lots of good ol’ fashioned rock ‘Yeah! Yeah! Yeahs’ on Hey and three loud guitars made you want to get on a Harley and ride forever through beautiful badlands, stopping at truckstops for beer, of course. I think the spirit of Steppenwolf biker music but mixed with sweeter, cooler, smarter Tom Petty and the Chili Peppers’ quieter moments. (Though, if you did attempt to find this kind of free America today, cops would probably pull you over, Tazer you and shoot you in the stomach.)
Set closer Honest With You was a return to a purer blues rock sound and featured some mean keyboard playing. This is when the audience really started jumpin’ and jivin’- with twirls n’ all. Now, y’all come back real soon now. Caleb, stop messin’ with them hogs, y’hear?
Helter Skelter’s music is excellent stuff. It seems they have very carefully selected their influences from everything cool about alternative rock, which all started with the blues. They have created their own eclectic new music that is all theirs, but the ghosts of past blues and rock artists and the echoes of their great times haunt this place too. It’s both comforting to have reminders of these great traditions, alive and celebrated in bands like Helter Skelter, but heartwrenching to think of the real history that’s slipped away forever. BTW, why is this band named after a Beatles’ song?
Not two minutes after Helter Skelter left the stage, the UG’s usual suspects and diehard followers seemed in a rush to get the fuck out of The Cavern before the venues’ Saturday night cover band hit the stage with their Beyonce, Christina and Robbie renditions. As one erudite chap said, “I don’t even want to hear the originals, let alone covers of them.” And especially not after being spoilt by the likes of Pick Pak Zhai, The Ember, Bone Table and Helter Skelter. There’s just no comparison.
Isobel S. Saunders
Live Review from Underground 17:
They start off with a funky “Jean Genie” sounding song, then get a bit more rock N roll on track 2, mellowing out on “Missing your Love” song which gets warm applause and go a bit jazzy loungey on the fourth track “Got in the Christmas spirit” NOT BAD for a self-styled blues band! Chris B & I decide we like the glam funk sounds (“Helter Skelter win the “glunk” award of the night) hands down. They finish off with a very early Stonesy sort of song.
Quote from Helter Skelter: “Underground is some parts good, some parts a little worse… but its 100% heart, soul and all about the music… now that kicks ass!”