Well, that was fun. And loud. Alt-metal pioneers Helmet dropped by George’s Majestic Lounge on Friday to deliver a heavy dose of rock — and by our account, the nearly-capacity crowd ate it all up. The band, led by founding member and primary songwriter, vocalist and lead guitarist Page Hamilton, hit the stage and immediately launched into the 1994 Betty track “Wilma’s Rainbow” and then segued into the 1997 track “Renovation” off of my personal favorite Helmet record, Aftertaste. That set the table for what was to be a long, loud night of rock-n-roll.
Hamilton was particularly on his game Friday. Not only was he customarily ripping through tracks across the band’s catalog, but he was personable and engaging with the audience, cracking jokes and heaping praise on the city of Fayetteville throughout the night.
“It’s a bit of a slower pace down here in the South, you know,” said Hamilton, an Oregonian who has spent the bulk of his career based out of New York, but now resides in California. He joked that he went for a meal at a local sushi restaurant near the venue and “it took me an hour to get some Miso soup and an avocado roll,” though that didn’t seem to inconvenience him.
At one point early on in the set, Hamilton stopped to tinker with his amplifiers, saying he was dissatisfied with the sound, but once he got it straightened out, it was smooth sailing from there.
Helmet interspersed new material with the classic cuts, but the new stuff sounded just as killer as the stuff we’ve all been listening to for decades. For example, I was just as stoked to hear recent tracks like “Life or Death,” “Welcome to Algiers” and “Drunk in the Afternoon,” as I was to hear classic cuts in “Unsung,” “Pure,” and “In the Meantime.”
Helmet — which also features Kyle Stevenson on drums, Dan Beeman on guitar, and Dave Case on bass — sounded tight and heavy as they barreled through the setlist. The crowd was amped up the entire night, but it was toward the end of the main set when the room started to heat up. After the absolutely brutal Aftertaste track “Pure,” Helmet launched into a pair of Betty ass kickers — the uber-heavy and singalong worthy tracks “I Know” and “Milquetoast,” both of which had the circle pit at George’s in an absolute frenzy.
The band broke for a brief break and returned to offer up “Rude” from the group’s 1990 major label debut Strap It On. Then came arguably the group’s biggest track, “Unsung,” which was met with blissful enthusiasm. Hamilton later fielded requests and granted several — including “Sinatra,” a song about, as Hamilton put it, a beautiful woman from Kentucky he once dated while living in New York who was “horrible in bed, so I wrote a song about it.”
Helmet rounded out the night with Meantime track “Give It,” the B-side “Just Another Victim” and the face melter “In the Meantime.”
After the band said its goodbyes, Hamilton came back out and mingled with the remaining crowd.
Fayetteville punkers Ghost Cities opened the show. Ghost Cities play an upbeat, high-octane brand of punk that served as a great appetizer for the evening. If you’ve not seen these guys, we highly recommend getting out to a show and picking up their latest EP, Dangerous Times.