Twenty-four years ago I walked into the Prince George Coliseum in Northern B.C. to take in one of the few shows being hosted in the venue that year. Prince George is a very “out of the way” city of about 77,000. Not exactly at the top of any band’s list of places to tour, we found ourselves with only a handful of Canadian acts who would venture to the deepest, darkest, coldest reaches of Canada.
In 1986, Helix was one of those bands. In support of their latest album “Long Way to Heaven”, they blew the doors off the coliseum with an explosive, high energy show fired up with another of my favourite bits of Canadiana at the time, Headpins, featuring the kick ass vocals and distinctive axemanship of none other than the late Brian “Too Loud” McLeod.
Last summer I checked out the Headpins for the first time since that 86’ show and afterwards mentioned to both original members Darby Mills and Ab Bryant, bassist, that it was the first time seeing them since that show. Now I don’t EVER expect a band who’s been around the block that long, to ever remember any single show but BOTH of them remembered the show saying the exact same words. “Man, it was COLD that night.”
And it was. With the temperature hovering around the -40 Celsius mark, nevermind the wind chill factor which took it down a couple dozen more notches, they were blown away at how many kids stood out in that weather in nothing but jean jackets and leather waiting patiently to rock out with a couple good bands. Still, it surprised me when I mentioned the gig to Helix frontman Brian Volmer, and the exact words out of his mouth were “Man, it was COLD that night”.
Around this time, 1985, I was very much into HEAVY METAL. Sure I had respect for the likes of Helix and Rush, but my true loves were Metallica, Anthrax, and Megadeth… still, I could get excited by any good rock show and the lineup of Headpins opening for Helix at the time, really put a smile on my face.
Twenty-four years later, I walk into Rock n Roll Heaven, ready to catch Helix’s original line-up that graced that Prince George stage. Original lineup that is except one. Still rockin out were guitarist Brent Doerner, bassist Daryl Gray, Greg “Fritz” Hinz on drums and newcomer Kaleb Duck aka the Duckman.
Right from the opening notes of “Wild in the Streets” to their giant hit “Rock You”, they did just that. ROCKED US. It’s great to see a band like this still doing their thing. Albeit on a much smaller scale. When I saw them in Prince George they had a big stage setup reminiscent of the old arena rock days with the drum risers and ramps to run all over.
But that was the norm back then and still is for some of those bands. Open for the likes of Kiss, Quiet Riot, Whitesnake, Motorhead and Bon Jovi, Helix learned how to put on a great show and invested in themselves to be able to do so on a visual level that superseded a lot of bands in those days.
With the emergence of the Trailer Park Boys, Helix found a new surge in popularity with Ricky ranting about how great their shows were. I don’t know if Rob Wells was serious about it, but when I first heard him comment on Helix I thought, “He’s right. They were a great band!” Obviously some respect was shown when Helix was invited to play the opening night party of the latest Trailer Park Boys movie, “Countdown to Liquor Day”.
With the original lineup back and the inclusion of a new kick ass guitarist “the Duckman”, Helix is set to tear up stages wherever they can. If you remember the good old tunes like “Heavy Metal Love”, “Deep Cuts the Knife”, “Gimme Good Lovin” and Ricky’s fave “Rock You”, then get your ass out to the next Helix show and relive some of the coolest 80’s music Canada had to offer. Cuz right next to the Trailer Park Boys, Helix is about as Canadian as you can get.