Anomaly #1: Two co-workers began to express an interest in coming with me to the show! Serious? Rarely does anyone outside of my circle enjoy my musical tastes, but it turns out they were dead serious.
Since they are also from my home town of Newmarket, Ontario their attendance would also be saving approximately two hours of public transit travel time. Excellent! That's where the trouble began.....we set out in plenty of time, planning on having dinner somewhere in Brantford prior to the event. En route we encountered horrendous traffic like I've never seen before, turning a 1.5 hour drive into nearly 3.5! The public transit game would actually have been faster! Finally after pit-stops and the assistance of Google Maps we arrived and my first impression was; "Holy crap, this place looks all wrong!". We had arrived at a strip mall plaza and a rather desolate looking one at that. But the illuminated light-box sign reading "Army, Navy and Air Force Club" informed us that we were indeed in the correct spot. As we entered the shopping plaza store front I was struck by another thought....this place really, really reminds me of a wedding reception hall or a year end sports team banquet at the local Legion!
Anomaly #2: I've seen Helix at festivals, on a cruise ship and at smaller clubs, but now I'm about to see Helix play at a wedding!
This event was actually a toy drive and as we entered the venue, presenting our unwrapped toys we received hand stamps and proceeded into the "wedding reception". A Santa-dressed gentleman, who I assumed was the promoter or organizer of the event, was on hand at the door to warmly greet us and thank us for coming. To the right hand side near the bar was an enormous pile of donated toys awaiting their Christmas destinations to those children in need. Every child should experience the magic of receiving toys at Christmas and I was proud to see one of my favorite Canadian bands supporting such an event. The three of us occupied chairs next to Brian and a friend of his. Brian and I immediately lapsed into "rock talk" with preparing our "Top Ten Albums of the Year" lists for Decibel Geek and the latest Helix effort, Bastard of the Blues among the subjects.
Anomaly #3: I have known Brian for about three years and never, ever at a show, even on the cruise, have I seen him void of his camera apparatus as he was on this night. As happy as I am to see him cut loose with some beers, I want some damn photos for this review slacker!
Unfortunately, we had basically missed the opening act thanks to our traffic nightmare, but we were able to catch the young lady and her guitarist as they wrapped up the final song of their set. The evening's MC then took over for a series of prize giveaways and on-the-spot auctions, as well as drawing attention to other raffles that would be going on later in the night. We learned that this was the third annual Helix Toy Drive event and I've already marked my calendar for next year's.
Helix was welcomed to the stage with a keyboard rendition of their most popular song, "Rock You" emanating from the PA sound system. They blasted into "No Rest For the Wicked" to lead the charge and unfortunately the sound was not the best from our position seated at a long banquet table that was only missing the wedding tablecloths!
Anomaly #4: I have never seen a Helix show where pretty much the entire audience, let alone me, were seated!
"Wild in the Streets" was the next selection and that was it for me! I'll be damned if I'm gonna let this flaccid crowd dictate how I see Helix! Brian and I, both with freshly replenished beverages, headed up to the stage on the right side. The sound was much, much better up here, probably the evils of bouncing off of the ceiling further back. Brian Vollmer (vocalist) let the crowd know that Helix had just returned from a tour in Scandinavia as Brian and I remarked on the skills of newest Helix member, guitarist Chris Julke. They went next to their latest release, Bastard of the Blues, for "Even Jesus (Wasn't Loved In His Hometown)", the first single. With dry ice clouds billowing out from Greg "Fritz" Hinz's drum riser I was able to capture "Dirty Dog" on video.
Anomaly #5: While there were now several patrons standing and approaching the stage, there seemed to be a force field in the shape of a semi-circle at the front of the stage that no-one seemed to want to break. Certainly not the style of crowd that we are used to at a show! Actually kinda nice not to be pushing and shoving, trying to defend your position leaning on the front of the stage.
|Brian Vollmer-photo by The Meister|
|Daryl Gray-blurry photo by The Meister|
Getting into the festive season next with "Jingle Bells", I certainly don't remember any guitar work like Kaleb blisteringly delivered in the traditional version! Asking about the Toronto Maple Leaf fanship in the room served as the intro for "All I Want For Christmas Is the Leafs To Win the Cup" and I sung "Go Habs Go!" in my head, not being a Leaf fan by any means. "Heavy Metal Love" was on the roster now and as Vollmer jumped off the stage to sing in the semi-circle that still refused to be broken you can clearly see Decibel Geek photographer Brian Ronald in the "Metal On Ice" tee-shirt drunkenly rocking out in my video...way to go Bri!!
A little instrumental break led us to Kaleb's awesome "William Tell Overture", this time with some help from Chris Julke, something that I've usually seen Kaleb play himself, came off really well with both guitarists in the mix. As would be expected, "Rock You" wrapped things up and one or two crowd members broke the force field semi-circle, edging closer and closer. The boys left the stage
|Helix Toy Drive setlist|
Even though I've met the guys many times over I headed to the merchandise table to do so once again and thank them for another awesome show. I was surprised and proud when I saw my two friends, who had really seemed to enjoy the show even joining me at the front after a time, purchasing shirts and CD's! I fear that Helix and I may have created a monster as they were very questioning about the Monsters of Rock Cruise during the drive home! The whole band posed for a photo with them pointing at the Helix logo that appears in my full sleeve tattoo. What an awesome night with an awesome band who truly do appreciate their fans and deliver their all on stage every single time.
|Helix checking out The Meister's tattoo!|
BUY: Helix - Bastard of the Blues
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