The Hellacopters, The Quadrajets, The Nomads
Bluebird Theater; Denver, Colorado
Friday, May 21, 1999

This show promised to be a night of roaring, raunchous rock n' roll from start to finish - and I'm not really sure if that excited or scared me. There's some sort of rock revival sweeping through underground music at the moment and names like AC/DC, K ISS, and the MC5 are popping up in reviews and press sheets everywhere. On one hand, the music is exciting (it's loud, it's energetic, it's ROCK N' FUCKING ROLL) but on the other hand it's annoying (it's loud, it's abrasive, it's repetitive, it's even so mehow insulting). I'm not really sure what has brought this resurgence on, but there was a good reason why arena rock was left behind in the Seventies. Now we're bringing it back for 2000 - who would have though? Sub Pop, in particular, seems to be gra bbing onto this phenomenon, recently signing The Hellacopters as well as The Murder City Devils and The Black Halos (on the Die Young, Stay Pretty imprint). Not to mention that they have re-issue/compilation-type releases scheduled for former Sub Pop-ers The Supersuckers and The Reverend Horton Heat. ¶ The show was late to start and I was already a bit tired and definitely feeling a bit out of place. "Rock" shows like this one tend to draw an unusual and mixed crowd, and tonight was no exception. Meta lheads, meatheads, skinheads, gothic kids, punk rockers, indie rockers, bar rockers, and plenty of other odd-fitting personalities. I'm not sure where most of these people come from, but they crawl out of somewhere and they filled up the room quite well. Now, you might ask where the kid in the short, tight pants and punk turtleneck fits in? I'm not sure where I fit either. Considering that the show was 21 and up (it's a rock n' roll show, for Christ's sake) it's needless to say that the room was dense with cigarette smoke, and almost every hand clenching a plastic cup of alcohol. When it comes down to this brand of rock n' roll it's not so much the band on stage that bothers me (the music is usually engaging and the band entertaining) but rather the people in the crowd that do the deed. They fit stereotypes quite well. This is music to be stupid to - it's music to listen to while you drink, get loaded, and try and get laid. Unfortunately, for me anyway, those aren't overwhelming interests of mine (they're hardly interests at all). I somehow tend to be too refined for my own good, I'm certainly not as crude as most. But there's nothing really wrong with this whole scenario at all, it's just not my kind of game. And as with almost any scene or sh ow crowd, I'm just there for the music, I'm usually a bit contemptuous of the atmosphere. ¶ The Quadrajets opened up the show and while I remember being impressed by them, to be honest I hardly recall at all what they sounded like. This might be testame nt to the fact that so much of this music seems disposable or easily interchangeable. Their set up was a bit eclectic, with three guitars, a bass, and drums. They were most notable for their stage antics: guitars in the air, waved over the crowd; kick j umps; playing guitar while kneeling on stage; and the "impromptu" number in which the drummer climbed over his drum set and played his sticks on just about everything from the back of the bass guitar to the stage floor to the microphone stand. The Nomads weren't mind-blowing but they were a pleasant mixture of straight-ahead, upbeat melodicism and a full-on noisy guitar attack. They were the smoothest sounding and most refined (not necessarily a put down) of the three bands. ¶ Then came The Hellacopter s, who were not only the headliners but the highlight of the evening. These Swedish boys are the embodiment of volume and intensity live. While I could nit-pick my way through their music, it doesn't really matter when they do so well what a live band mu st do: be entertaining. The Hellacopters are the kind of band that command attention while on stage - it's really hard not to enjoy watching them. And once you catch a glimpse of them in action, it's really hard not to keep your eyes focused on them. E very noise they make roars, and they just pound the songs out relentlessly. Needless to say, there was tons of rock star posturing and guitar heroics going on - but as cliche as it all was, it was a thrill to see (maybe because it was so cliche). Watchi ng it all (and watching the audience watching it all) you're easily reminded that rock music is rather mindless - it somehow taps into the universal element of human stupidity - people throwing their drinks, ramming into each other, falling down drunk. B ut what it is to most people is escapism - if not being someone else, they're at least not being themselves. It's cut loose and have fun time. The Hellacopters rocked in the most stereotypical use of the word - but they wouldn't have it any other way. Heck, they could have rocked all night long for all I know. I left after the "last" song and before the encore. I don't believe in encores.

- Andrew Bottomley




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