Over The Weekend: The Helio Sequence at The Loft

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The Helio Sequence,
The Loft
June 5, 2009

Better Than: Being in the registration line at SMU, which is the only other place I've seen this many undergrads.

The best concerts aren't always the ones that you've been excited about for months--you know, the ones where you repeatedly refresh your browser on the Ticketmaster site the minute the tickets go on sale, and you take every opportunity to listen to band's entire catalog in preparation.

Sometimes the best shows happen when you decide to check out a band you're only moderately familiar with--and they end up blowing you away.

Which is exactly what happened at The Helio Sequence concert at the Loft on Friday night.

It was a pleasant surprise to find that the first band was Dallas' own Little Black Dress, apparently tossed on the bill only two days before the show. Drummerless for this show, LBD proved its ability to go with the flow by turning on the drum machine and playing its My Bloody Valentine- and Slowdive-inspired songs. Despite a few small technical difficulties, the band started the night off with an inspiring set.

But the show hit a bit of a speed bump when Lawrence, Kansas, natives Dri took the stage. The band's Myspace page describes its music as "Inspirational," but its feel-good blues and reggae only inspired a majority of the audience to wait outside for the set to end. They would have done better as an opener for Dave Matthews a few weeks back.

So it appeared that The Helio Sequence had an uphill battle ahead of it. And with only two guys in the band, surely, it must be difficult to cover all the parts. After all, most of the band's songs are complex and full.

But with the help of a few pre-recorded tracks, singer/guitarist Brandon Summers and drummer Benjamin Weikel were clearly up to the challenge.

And the room was buzzing when their set began. The two members were side by side at the front of the stage as they launched into "Can't Say No." Weikel's energy was infectious as he seemed to be almost dancing from behind the drumkit. His energy alone had the crowd of 300 bobbing their heads to the rhythm. It's no wonder that he did a stint with indie heavy hitters Modest Mouse.

After a handful of up-tempo songs, the duo then slowed it down with the mellow "Shed Your Love," which summoned Bob Dylan almost a little too much. The captivated audience didn't seem to mind at all, though. And a few bluesy songs later came the high point of the show, when the group broke into "Lately," a beautiful jangly song with a guitar riff that almost knocks you to the floor.

Without giving the audience a chance to recover, the drums immediately kicked into the disco rhythm of "Keep Your Eyes Ahead," a song that put the crowd dangerously close to an all-out dance party.

By the time The Helio Sequence hit the gorgeous ending of its "Hallelujah," the audience had been completely won over. But Weikel and Summers then took it one step further: They ended their hour long set by breaking two of the cardinal rules of indie rock: 1) Never end with a cover, and 2) Never cover the Beatles. Nobody seemed to care, though, as they grooved to the unmistakable rhythm of "Tomorrow Never Knows."

In the end, The Helio Sequence's ability to connect with a mostly new audience was impressive. The emotional songs, high energy, and general disregard for the so-called rules of indie rock made for a great set--and a couple of hundred new fans, myself included.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Before The Helio Sequence started their set, my expectations were low. I didn't believe a two-piece band could do its recorded music any justice in a live setting. The band quickly changed my mind after the first few notes.

By The Way: Make sure to attend the all-ages Little Black Dress CD release show on Friday, June 19, at the Prophet Bar.

Random Note: I don't know how it happens, but I always manage to stand next to the over-dancer at shows.

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