Yup... so I went and saw Helmet again. If you've been following along at all, you'll know I missed most of the show I went to see in Philadelphia... a trip loosely planned before the Toronto date opened up.
When I heard it was at Lee's Palace (1/4 the size of the place in Philly).... $25 to see a band you grew up on playing a small club... yes please!
I'll try to keep this short... I saw Trail Of Dead last year doing a similar tour... playing one of their "classic" (fan favorite) albums front to back. I meant to write about it... so good... for fans and the bands.
People can say albums are dead... which I agree in some respects... but I feel like the problem is not enough thought went into full albums as full albums for a while.
My generation was probably one of the last to actually listen to an album start to finish. Why? Partly because we were lazy... but I think a big factor was how much crap you needed to carry if you wanted to listen to music on the go... we just listened to what was our walkman or discman.
... think about that for a second. How many tapes or CD's did you want to carry? You just listened to the same album(s), (maybe 2-3) on repeat until you got sick of it... then swapped it out.
Eventually we started making mix tapes/CD's but for the majority, you happily listened to what was in the player... but then that changed in my teens (late 90's)... we could not only skip to the songs we wanted to hear... we could download them... randomly... then the legendary iPod came about...
I'm a little off topic I know... but it ties into these types of tours.
Even though everyone knew what song was coming up next, everyone was into it. These are tours for core fans. We don't always need hits... we wanted to share the experience of hearing a "classic" (to us) album performed live.
I'm sure the band is a little sick of playing it now but they find ways to have fun with it. They find ways to recreate the tones and production on the album, and present it to the audience.
... and financially, every ticket sold is probably the equivalent of an album sold.
Helmet still played a bunch of "other hits" in a second set but the applause after they played Sam Hell (final song on Betty) was probably a big part of what keeps bands like them going.
Appreciation from the fans... true appreciation... everyone on the same side... celebrating an album that's now 20 years old.
I care a lot about the tunes going on an album or EP (and their order) for this reason. The band should want to play them all live... and they should all work live, as the band, in it's purest/rawest form.
Albums aren't dead... they just got screwed up for a while... too much filler around what people were trying to sell. If you want people to listen to more of your music, you have to give them more music worth listening to. Simple.
I encourage bands to go out and try playing their EP's and albums start to finish before recording... if anything it'll help them realize how much quality material it takes to fill up 45 minutes... and how the audience feels about the song selection.
... you'll spend less time recording too... I guarantee it!
So this post hasn't really been much about Helmet now that I think about it... they were entertaining though... hard to find a band with 20+ years experience playing all over the world who isn't.
Just in case any bands out there still haven't got the message... the show starts the minute you arrive and doesn't end until you pull away from the venue. How you treat the venue staff before the show, and how you treat the fans after the show.
A fair amount had left before the very end... 2 hrs of Helmet is a lot of Helmet... that and maybe the crowd was a little older... lots of glasses, grey hair, bald spots, and mid-life guts in attendance... but just like in Philly, the show ended with Page Hamilton, 54 years old, leaning over the edge of the stage to shake hands with those still upfront... before crouching down for pictures and to chat.
Who knows how long he stays after the show talking to fans... I doubt it's simply an ego boost... he's a smart dude... and you can tell by the way he carries himself on stage he's a humble dude... probably knows there'll be a day when he's forced to stop...
Friday - February 20, 2015
... can't say I got much sleep last night... sometimes I wonder if separate rooms for quiet and Snoretallica would be better. I'm not angry or anything though... I understand people gotta sleep and some people gonna snore.
... I left my laptop back at the hotel so I'm typing this on my iPhone... thought it might be smarter just in case... more on that later.
AJ woke me up around 7am. We were starving from the night before. The bar kitchen ("Kelsey's") closed at 10pm so most of us missed ordering dinner and hadn't eaten since the Bob Evan's yesterday before noon.
Buffet... $9... solid.
The oatmeal was awesome actually... sorta considered bringing a few packets with me this trip... oatmeal is my staple!
... so the plan today was to meet with my buddy Mark (singer/songwriter/fellow studio folk), head to Philadelphia to see Helmet (HELMET!!!), and then head to Baltimore to talk shop and check out his new studio.
I'd originally planned on going to Baltimore this weekend (before agreeing to the Sole Pursuit gigs) but looking at the map everything is close... 90 minute drives!.
... for the record though...
#DearBands - NEVER LEAVE THE GROUP. Don't be that guy. What I'm attempting is a high risk maneuver and should only be attempted by experienced professionals.
... funny enough after saying that, we split from the band around 12:30 today. The plan was to get picked up this aft and Kyle really wanted to check out the war museum in town. I stayed behind and checked out some of the panels... while the eta of my ride kept getting pushed back.
The first I stopped in at (just out of curiosity) was "How to record, mix, and master your own music."
These should be illegal.
I know what their intentions are but they get the angle wrong.
You typically get a bunch of panelists who are looking for work or trying to figure out where to even begin to start giving pointers to prohobbyists looking to save money by spending a small fortune going DIY and burning months if not years of their time before (maybe) getting a commercially viable product... in the hopes it'll get them some attention from managers, bookers, and labels.
... and that's what it was. I lasted 20 minutes. Got some good laughs out of some cringeworthy moments. The audience should really submit questions beforehand and the panelists pull them out of a hat to answer them.
I scooted over to the "Legal issues for independent artists". This was awesome. All the panelists were experienced professionals and had a lot of good advice over several topics. Good moderators are key!
The focus seemed to be dealing with band agreements.
If/When your band decides to step it up, get a band agreement in place asap!
Understand how responsibilities, expectations, and writing credit will be split up before money comes in and it will be 100X easier... it's usually a difficult and a touchy subject.
Next was the publishers panel.
There's money out there... most bands and artists don't understand how music pimps work, why they might need a good one, how they generate money, and how far down the pecking order a band is getting licensing deals (and more) without one.
I caught up with Nancy and Scott after... the managers panel was next and Nancy was taking part.
This was a great panel too! All the speakers gave out what I thought was solid advice and the moderator set the tone early holding back no punches from how bad some labels, managers, booking agents, and industry folk in general can operate.
I was really impressed with Nancy's public speaking abilities... highlight was how she responded to the moderator's "I'd have an easier time removing two ribs in an attempt to blow myself then try to get an independent band on large market mainstream radio" with "... well coming from someone who mainly deals with Christian music, it's a little different."
Laughs all around... but she made some good points... main one being niche markets have their own set of rules that can sometimes break all the "this is just how it works" rule.
Even though I was starving by this point, I'm glad I stuck around the panels all day. Lots of good people saying smart things. Good times.
My ride to Phily and Helmet (HELMET!!!) showed up around 6:30... not too far a drive, doors are at 7, first band on at 8, Helmet is probably on at 9.
The drive was smooth, we rolled in at 8:45 and managed to grab a spot on the street right in front of the club... awesome! We get inside, walk downstairs to the venue and can hear the opener finishing up... with Sam Hell... the last song on Helmet's "Betty" album... wtf?!
We get in, Helmet is on, venue is packed, and they're just finishing playing the album they're playing front to back... I knew they'd do more but... no opener... headliner on at 8pm... shows how old I am! Back in my day headliners went on at like 10:30!
I still felt like I got my monies worth though... as did the other guys. They played another 45 mins of tunes people wanted to hear... really happy they played "Broadcast Emotion" which was a tune I convinced my band to cover in grade 9.
... I mean... doing Quiet Riot and Bon Jovi is cool but Helmet has just as good of songs.
They also played "Just Another Victim" which was on the judgement Night soundtrack. An amazing soundtrack from a movie I was probably too young to be seeing when I watched it.
We hung out for a while after the show...
After the encore Page Hamilton walked up to the front of the stage, thanked the crowd again... started shaking hands... then sat down on the edge of the stage to take a picture with a fan... and then just stayed there... shaking hands, signing things, and taking pictures.
... how cool is that!
This isn't just a victory lap for Helmet/Page... this is a guy with a fan base who's still out working... probably in his 50's now.
It was still pretty early when we rolled out (that's what people call it here)... maybe 10pm. We stopped in at a Denny's where the waitress got all our orders wrong but just right enough that complaining was difficult, and back to Mark's (Baltimore) just after 1am.
The plan is to head out early since there's a snow storm warning for later in the afternoon... I'd like to catch more of the conference/panels so as much as I'd like to hang out here, it should work out better anyway.
... my thumbs are tired... I'll proof/post this once I get back to ol' Lappy. It's been a pretty awesome day.
Mike Langford - Official Blog
Being on both sides of the glass, I get the chance to wear many hats in the music industry. This is a place to share my thoughts, views, predictions, rants, stories and news!