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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Helio Sequence-Opolis-Norman, OK



            That’s what I was for a good 15 minutes after Helio Sequences spectacular splash down in Norman this past Saturday night. I’m just thankful that I was given the time to write this after the fact, because I don’t believe the “uhhhh” you would have elicited from me at the time would have done them justice.


            I went into the show a casual fan of the band, impressed with their indie-rock splattered against the blippy electronic canvas. I left, however, a prophet, shouting, from the street corners, the Word of Helio.


            Another stellar show at the Opolis (oh how I love the cats) that stood head and shoulders above the rest I’ve caught there so far this summer. It rolled to a start with the sunny stylings of Kansas’ D*R*I* who filled the room with light and warmth. They were as golden as field of wheat, breezing through an unhurried set that left the crowd warm and assured. The bright and dazzling vocals and windswept guitar was a great set up for what would prove a more frantic headliner.


            The Portland two-piece, The Helio Sequence, have enjoyed a fruitful career. They have opened for the likes of the Pixies, Modest Mouse, the Shins and most recently British maestros Keane. All four of the releases have been well received, chiefly their most recent album “Keep Your Eyes Ahead.” They have also benefited from the backing of their indie stalwart label Sub Pop, a dream for lead singer Brandon Sumners.


            “One of the first cassettes I bought was “Bleach” by Nirvana and it really inspired me. I thought ‘wouldn’t it be awesome to be on Sub Pop?’ Sure enough, x amount of years later, here we are.”


            The Helio Sequence hit a major road bump in 2005 when Sumners temporarily lost his voice. He came out of the event a new man, and the duo became a new band. They had to change the way they approached their music, though many will argue it was for the best, Sumners included.


            “I feel like I came out of it completely different. The way I look at a song, everything really. I look at it as a fateful adjustment though.”


            Helio Sequence seems to be all the stronger for the incident, and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.


            The band fluttered through Norman almost exactly a year ago to the day, and even then didn’t let a torrential downpour of rain and tornado sirens in the distance put a damper on things. This time around we saw them celebrating their tenth anniversary as a band, although it was hard to gauge whether the anniversary couple or the crowd as having a better time.

            The band launched into things on a bit cautious pace with the more deliberate “Can’t Say No.” From then on out, however, things would be moving at a breakneck pace. They dabbled between hectic electro heavy floorburners, like the insatiable “Don’t Look Away” that got the crowd moving, and poignant, though still energetic anthems like “Lately.” The music filled the crowd’s ears and kept on beating like the Energizer bunny; there was no time for breaks, as though the crowd would have even wanted one. That is one thing the band is in no short supply of, energy. It’s that energy that made the crowd lively pulse the night away. And every bit the band gave the crowd, the crowd gave right back.


            Frontman Brandon Sumners strums the life out of the guitar and plays the harmonica like a madman. He is consumed with the music, and seems to play it out of his body like the plague. But despite all of this energy he refuses to sacrifice any vocal integrity and never seems to miss a note.


            Drummer Benjamin Weikel is a sight to be seen. I’ve never seen a drummer to be so entertaining by simple playing along. He carries a unique technique to drumming that is beyond words. Musically, he is tight, precise and heavy, maintaining a perfect driveway for Sumner to glide across.


            The crowd felt a shock of excitement as they turned into the illuminating “Keep Your Eyes Ahead.” They seemed to jump into a whole other gear as the notes bolted across the walls as the place felt like it was on the verge of implosion. They quickly wrapped up the set, and after a short encore, the band called it a night.


            So I stood there, speechless. And despite a full recovery, I am still at a loss of words, struggling to find the perfect words to encapsulate this performance. I think you just had to be there.



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