There is no mistaking the power of New York City's Helmet, the now-legendary heavy outfit fronted by its lone original member, guitarist-vocalist Page Hamilton, and featuring a constantly revolving cast of other members. This in-flux line-up has never been a problem for Page, as I've seen Helmet three times now and his attack is still intact. The band's amazing set at Warped Tour a few years back soared skyward as the band pummeled the kids along with the older punk fans (both older fans, and fans of older punk) with its beautiful brutality. However, the band's Water Street Music Hall show this past Saturday shook the walls, leaving the fairly large crowd nowhere to hide — we all needed helmets.
It amazes me that even after all these years (the band formed in 1989), Helmet stands alone in its "thinking man's metal" proto-grunge, dropped-tune mayhem. But honestly, Helmet is brilliant and untouchable. Opening the show was a band to watch, Anchorage, Nebraska, from Rochester (I know, it's confusing). Anchorage is bringing back grunge's disenfranchised sound and stance to clubs here in town. It's way raunchy and cool.
The John Cole Blues Band played to an oddly modest crowd at the Dinosaur later that night. With my ears still ringing from Helmet's onslaught, I was soothed by Cole's soulful voice and his terse, simple picking style on his old Jazzmaster. He makes it sound so easy. I assure you, it is not. Whereas a lot of blues players create flurries around the notes that matter, cluttering them with flash and fluff, Cole trims the fat as he cooks — but the sizzle remains. Phoenix, Arizona-based Tom Grills (brother of locally based slinger Steve Grills) joined Cole on stage for a little back and forth and boogie. Again, it was cool.