GIGS GUIDE

[venue]: Kingston Memorial Centre, 303 York Street
[city/province]: Kingston, Ontario, Canada
[date/time]: 1985 December 12, Thursday, 7:30 PM
[info]: opener for Helix, Welcome to the Club Tour

Two Bands Put on Their Rock Helmets and Party
Whig Standard, December 10, 1985:

Rock helmets will be much in evidence on Thursday night at the Memorial Centre. No, heavy rockers Helix and Kick Axe won't be playing some new kind of physical sport which requires headgear. Rock helmets are what bands call the long flowing and often semi- permed locks favored by metal and heavy rock bands these days. Any resemblance to the unruly hippie locks of the Sixties is purely coincidental.

Now talk of long hair may seem trivial, but not in these days when videos barrage us with images and arena rock concerts more than ever emphasize the visual. It was a change of image and an entertaining video that lifted the Kitchener-based Helix out of the bars and into the concert halls, while western Canadians Kick Axe are still striving to soften their metal image into a more palatable rock format.

Of rock helmets Helix bassist Daryl Gray says drily, "They set you apart. They're a controlled mess and should look like Farrah Fawcett coming out of a wind tunnel. You really have to take care of your hair and use gels to make it come out like that. I dry mine upside down becaue it's easier to tease that way. One of the classic helmets was Randy Rhoads' the late guitar player for Ozzie Osbourne."

This band was no overnight success. It was put together 10 years ago and put out two albums independently before being scouted by an executive from Capitol Records in 1983. Enough interest was stirred up for the band to be signed up -- out of Los Angeles, which effectively made them an American rather than a Canadian recording band. That meant a heavier investment on the record company's part and so the first album was given a harder push than most Canadian debut albums.

"We still had a lot of rough edges left from the bar scene so they helped us re-define our look," says Gray. "Since then it's been a natural progression and now we design our own clothes. There's lots of leather but the key is to look sleek and have impact. We limit the amount of color because with too much of it the eye is naturally drawn away from people."

The real turning point for Helix was the Rock You video done by Queen's grad Rob Quartly in which the band was portrayed as a muddy chain gang presided over by a whip-wielding woman. "We got to swine out in a quarry in downtown Toronto," chuckles Gray. The video broke Helix into the Canadian market, and appeared on MuchMusic throughout the first year of its operation.

Helix is nearing the end of a tour which began last May and has seen them open for the American bands Accept and Y&T while headlining for concerts with Honeymoon Suite, Headpins and, for the second time, with Kick Axe. They finish on Dec. 17 with a big bash in hometown Kitchener. Here their concert starts at 8 p.m.

Mentioning Kick Axe brings a smile to Gray's voice and perhaps a little groan: Kick Axe are famous for partying. That's why their latest video and single With A Little Help From My Friends is no surprise. "It's a big party on tape," says Kick Axe drummer Brian Gillstrom. "And you can tell that on the tape because there are people you can see with their chins drooping two feet.

"We always wanted to do a Led Zeppelin cover tune. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones met while doing With A Little Help for Joe Cocker, and it was also a classic from Woodstock. We thought it would be a real good excuse for a party in the studio so we called some musical friends up and said, 'Hey, let's festival.' Many quarts were consumed over the eight hours it took us to do it."

Even hedonists like Kick Axe however have jumped on the Don't-Drink-and-Drive bandwagon and both bands have taped messages to that effect for MuchMusic. "We definitely don't want kids killing themselves," says Gillstrom. "Besides, the party can just be in your mind. Everyone took a cab home from the studio when we did With A Little Help and on tour we always have a driver who doesn't drink."

Although originally from the west, Kick Axe is poised to move to Toronto. "Ontario is where our records are bought," says Gillstrom. "People are naturally hyper there. I can't stand B.C. because everyone is on valium there."

Kick Axe brings individual attention to its audience, says Gillstrom. "I try to connect with every single eye in the house," he says. "I talk to them by lip-synching. I'll say, 'How long have you been hellraising' or 'Are you enjoying the show' or 'You're a good-looking sort.' Our aim is to get the party animal out of each person."

Helix Band Delivers a Wild Night of Rock and Roar
The Whig - Standard, December 13, 1985:

A GOOD-SIZED rock concert at the Memorial Centre should attract at the very least 2,000 screaming souls. So when a band like Helix draws, at a charitable estimate, only 500, then you have to wonder if it deserves to be a headliner. Wonder no more, you 1,500 others who should have been there. This band is for real. Despite the small crowd, Helix put on a high-voltage show that was sexy, raucous and relentless, with a large splash of panache. It made me forget that I'm no fan of this kind of music.

At a heavy-metal concert, certain rituals have to be observed: the audience must continually be grilled as to how it feels and is required to roar back to prove it; there must be two guitars thundering in concert; the main singer must have spent his previous life as a police siren; and the music must make your eardrums ring for at least 10 minutes after the concert is over.

Helix meets all those requirements but adds flair to each one: its show is carefully choreographed to look wild and free. Guitarist Brent Doerner throws his guitar over his shoulder and retrieves it in much the same way as the boys in ZZ Top.

Vocalist Brian Vollmer tapes his wrists, because he does so much tumbling on stage. And drummer Greg Hinz wears braces to hold up what turns out to be nothing but a glorified jock strap. On stage the band becomes a group of whirling dirvishes who occasionally form into a fairly precise conga line.

With little muss or fuss, Helix has also managed to put together a nonpareil light and sound show. A diamond cluster of ramps, with marquee lights around their edges, surrounds drummer Hinz. The guitarists use the ramps to strut their solos, while Vollmer dives off them as if he were flying. The other lights combine for a dazzling amount of variety. There are lots of incendiaries: the loudest and at times scariest I've ever heard.

Musically, what sets Helix apart from the others is the beat. Most metal bands favor ponderous rhythms, as if all that noise must be cranked out slowly. Helix, on the other hand, moves at a blistering pace. There's been talk that the band isn't really a metal band any more; proof is offered from the latest album, which has two slower songs on it. Don't believe it. Last night's concert was pure headbanger stuff: even the slow tunes sounded tough.

With a couple of fire bombs, Vollmer tumbling around and some machine-gun guitar on the opening song, House On Fire, I didn't think that Helix could keep up such a blistering pace. It did, and more. Sometimes it went too far.

Vollmer grabbed at his crotch a couple of times and stuck into his tights, like scalps, a bra and garter belt tossed on stage. During the song Heavy Metal Love, he tastelessly queried this teenaged audience: "How many of you ladies qualify for heavy metal love?"

The rock anthems -- such as Helix's biggest hit, Rock You, and one that will be big, Ride The Rocket -- were the best. As an extra fillip guitarist Doerner did a metal version of the William Tell Overture.

Opening act Kick Axe paled beside Helix. Its set went on too long, which only served to show its inadequacies: the music isn't varied enough, and although energetic the band needs a little more polish applied to its performance. There was a time when on leaving the Memorial Centre after a concert you stumbled over empty beer bottles while groping through a haze of marijuana smoke. Not last night.

Everyone entering the arena was searched by Kingston policemen as part of their drunk-driving-prevention program.