Rogue Wave/The Helio Sequence @ El Mocambo

This was an interesting lineup. Rogue Wave and the Helio Sequence. Rogue Wave is the latest in Sub Pop’s never ending arsenal of poppy Shins-esque bands that are crafting their own sound and finding their audiences growing. Helio Sequence is a Sub Pop, two-piece that has put out three albums in relative anonymity (the latest – Love and Distance – their first on Sub Pop) and relies on laptops, drums, guitars to blast inventive sounds at the crowd.

It was a tough spot for the Helio Sequence. Playing for about 20 people as a two-piece is tough. In fact, usually the only two-pieces that seem to draw crowds have the names Meg, Jack or Colonel Sanders attached to them. Helio Sequence consists of Brandon Summers (guitars/vocals) and Benjamin Weikel (drums/percussion – yep, he is the dude from Modest Mouse). They played an energetic set, and sounded great.

That being said, the set wasn’t engaging. The guitarist never opened his eyes, and until the last song, really didn’t move. Weikel looked like a child in need of some Ritalin as he abused the skins. It was unfortunate because, I REALLY LIKED THEIR SOUND. I hadn’t heard much other than some random tracks off of Love and Distance, but I can imagine it sounds great pumping through headphones. Stage presence is tough, and I’m sure something a two-piece band that creates solid music could care less about, but theirs left me flat. Would I buy the album, probably, but would I show up 45 minutes early to see them next time? That is something I can’t guarantee.

Up next, Rogue Wave. This review might be a bit biased, as I am a huge fan of the band. When Rogue Wave came through Toronto last year (supporting AC Newman) they put on a solid performance, and the intense drumming of Pat Spurgeon and the incredibly cute bass player (who has left the band) adding the depth to make Zach’s songs rock.

A year later, they are headlining and they have found the perfect mix for their live sound. The four-man team (Evan on bass, and Gram on white pants, keys, guitar, egg, and everything else) ripped through the album tracks, and treated the fans to two new songs. I have been listening to the album for over a year, and still love the songs, and the live performance is even better. I loved the Velvet Underground teaser/intro (Waiting for the Man), and the drums and bass lines made the tracks sound even fuller than last time through. The band has play well off each other and watching Spurgeon play the drums, xylophone and keyboards (often during the same song) with that huge white mans fro would make anyone happy. The set was high energy and closed with Helio Sequence joining them on stage to cover Neil Young’s Wrecking Ball.

The encore featured two more covers (Buddy Holly, and Nirvana – prompting the band to wonder if it was wise to play three covers in a row) before ending the night with a drum-pounding version of Endless Shovel. Set highlights – Postage Stamp World, Every Moment, Nourishment Nation, Cat Form (new song – title may be wrong), Seasick on Land and Wrecking Ball.

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