[ATTENDED: October 2, 2015] Helvetia
After Clarke finished his set, he removed his tambourine from the hi hat and took his guitar. And then Helvetia came out and used the same tiny drum set. It turns out that there is all kinds of connectivity between Clarke, Helvetia and Built to Spill. Clarke’s record was released by Brett Netson’s label. Brett Netson is the second guitarist for Built to Spill. And, as it turns out, the bassist and third guitarist for Built to Spill (Jason Albertini and Jim Roth) are the two guitarists for Helvetia.
I had never heard of Helvetia. So imagine my surprise that they released their 8th (!) album that night.
As the band was setting up, Zeke Howard, the drummer, projected a cool swirling pattern on his drum head. Which I can assume only we in the front could see since his kit was so small (see the swirl here). About mid way through the set, the projector had moved a bit and I think a helpful fan straightened it out for him.
Then bassist Samantha Stidham came out. She stood behind Albertini for most of the show (from where I was standing) so I didn’t get to see her too much, but she kept an amazing low end going while Albertini played all kinds of noise and dissonance. And Howard was fun to watch–you don’t usually see drummers up so close.
Lead singer/guitarist Jason Albertini was literally feet from me as he played his peculiar chords (I thought I got some great pictures of his weird chords but they all turned out blurry. Boo). And on the other side, kind of far away was guitarist/keyboardist Jim Roth.
I don’t know the songs they played (although in listening to their album I recognize that some of their set was made up of many new songs). The first thing I noticed was that the sound was not great from where I stood. I was a few feet from the stage and I could barely hear the vocals clearly. I assumed it was an opening act problem so I wasn’t too worried for when Built to Spill came on, but then I learned the ugly Union Transfer secret.
Also, Albertini’s guitar totally drowned out Roth’s. And Albertini was playing really dissonant chords that probably sounded great when mixed with Roth’s but without them, it sounded a bit like he was playing bad chords.
I shifted my position a few times which made things better. But it wasn’t until Built to Spill that I realized you have to stand a few feet back from the stage if you want to hear everything that is going through the sound board. And yet despite the less than ideal circumstance in which I heard them, I was really impressed by Helvetia.
I particularly enjoyed “Olaf,” the song that he introduced as being his daughter’s (or niece’s or some little girl anyhow’s) favorite song, even though she hadn’t heard it yet. It had a down tuned E string and sounded really unusual. I also really enjoyed the way Roth (who looked a bit like Neil Peart with that hat on) was playing his guitar on whatever song this was (right).
But the band belongs to Albertini. I enjoyed his guitar playing style and (when I did hear him) his kind of slacker vocal delivery).
For me the highlight of their set was their amazing cover of Fleetwood Mac/Judas Priest’s “Green Manalishi (with the Two Pronged Crown).” I never knew the Fleetwood Mac version (before listening to it after the show), although I have loved the Priest version for decades. Helevtia owes more to the style of Fleetwood Mac but with incredible dissonance and noise scattered throughout. I wish I had known that I could hear better if I’d moved back, because I really want to hear that again. I can’t find it online anywhere, so if anyone can lead me to a performance of it I’d be pretty delighted.
I believe that it was for “Olaf” (which sounds like it has more drums than the other songs) that Built to Spill drummer Steve Gere came out and thudded away on his toms (you can see him in the photo at the top of the post).
I came away really enjoying them a lot and I was happy to meet the bassist at the merch table and buy their new CD.
No idea on the set list except for
Green Manalishi (with the Two Pronged Crown)