Helix / Trailer Park Boys Live In Vancouver: January 22, 2007

Out of The Park Tour Feat. Helix, Swollen Members & The Trailer Park Boys
Monday, January 22, 2007
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, BC  Canada

***Live Review and All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland

I’ve seen some strange pairings in my day, but this one had to take the cake: Canadian eighties hard-rockers, Helix, opened followed by Vancouver’s own hip-hop trio, Swollen Members in the middle slot and Ricky, Julian and Bubbles of TV’s The Trailer Park Boys headlining.  On the outside, the pathways of these three acts would never intersect however the release of The Trailer Park Boys first movie entitled THE BIG DIRTY last October makes all the pieces fit since Helix and Swollen Members both have music featured in the film.

After The Trailer Park Boys got the crowd warmed with a fifteen-minute bit about Vancouver (they were arrested four times that day; the venue ran out of rum so Julian had to drink beer for the first time since he was four years old, etc.), Helix took the stage to an extremely disappointing response.  According to vocalist Brian Vollmer, the dates on this tour very excellent but I heard many cries of “Go back to the eighties!” and other such rudeness from the crowd.  There were a few old dogs in the audience but the majority of this crowd was 19-25 years old and one couldn’t help but get the feeling they all wondered who these mysterious relics were on stage.  For those of us in the know, the legendary Helix put on a stellar thirty-minute set featuring one new song, but focusing mainly on the band’s “big four” albums released between 1983 and 1987.  “Animal House,” the fast rocking “When The Hammer Falls,” “No Rest For The Wicked” and the amazing “Dirty Dog” sound even better live, while “The Kids Are All Shakin’,” “Wild In The Streets” and “Heavy Metal Love” are still great sing-along tunes.  Vollmer, while clearly showing all his 51 years, still has the energy of a man half his age, jumping and rolling across the stage throughout the set.  Helix had not performed live in Vancouver in years and it was sad to see the band receive such a negative reaction.  On a different bill (Kick Axe and Helix, perhaps???), Helix would have drawn a more enthusiastic crowd but the between-act house music of Crazy Town, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park reflected the demographic of pumped-up jocks and bling-adorned hip-hoppers well.  After Vollmer announced the band would meet fans at the merchandise booth after their set, five people (out of a sold-out crowd of 900) turned up.  Embarrassing for our city and hopefully it has not deterred Helix from visiting us again with a more suitable lineup.

No Rest For The Wicked
Gimme Good Lovin’
Get Up
The Kids Are All Shakin’
Heavy Metal Love
When The Hammer Falls
Dirty Dog
Animal House
Wild In The Streets

While I was only vaguely familiar with a handful of Swollen Members songs, the rest of the crowd worshipped at the altar of the group’s baggy pants, sampled beats and faux-attitude.  The threesome shamelessly embodies every hip-hop cliché imaginable right down to the ghetto accents (it should be noted that Swollen Members’ grew up in the well-to-do North Vancouver area where the average house price nears a million dollars, so they ain’t exactly ghetto!  Plus, two of the three guys are Caucasian!!) but they are playing the role and with much success.  Fresh off a performance at the acclaimed Sundance Film Festival, the band is clearly staking out a global audience.  Mixing older favourites like “Lady Venom” and “Swampwater” with “Too Hot” and “Forth and Back” from their new CD, BLACK MAGIC, the group delivered a high-energy set that even I enjoyed.

For those unaware of its basis, THE TRAILER PARK BOYS is a low-budget Canadian TV show based in a fictional Nova Scotia trailer park that has earned a cult following since its debut in 2001.  The show follows the over-the-top antics of lead characters Ricky, Julian and Bubbles and the cast of stereotypical misfits that populate Sunnyvale Trailer Park.  For this tour, The Trailer Park Boys essentially did three “sets,” two short ones to open the show and a segway between Helix and Swollen Members before the grand finale that everyone in the audience had been waiting for.  The inch-thick glasses and jutting jaw of the ever-exasperated voice of reason among the group, Bubbles (Mike Smith), are a sight to behold.  The cool-as-ice mastermind, Julian (Jean-Paul Tremblay), had his ever-present drink in hand throughout the show and Ricky’s (Robb Wells) usual volatile personality seemed reined in as he did little more than a few awkward bits of dialogue and some mugging.  It was announced that the boys were arrested backstage during the Helix portion for “excessive hookers and drugs” but after the lights dimmed, they turned up in their notorious garbage bag-and-goggles outfits after breaking out through the sewer system.  As a drunken Bubbles removed his plastic wrapper, he was a sight to behold as his superhero alter ego, “Green Bastard.”  Prompting the crowd to shout a resounding “fuck you” to the drunken, vengeful park supervisor Mr. Leahy and his perpetually-shirtless lover Randy via cellphone, the silliness level was at its apex (Ricky’s anger rose with his confusion of being called a “retard” after Julian made reference to Bubbles’ leotard, etc.) before Conky, Bubbles’ domineering, possessed hand puppet that taunts Ricky and makes sexually suggestive remarks towards Julian, nearly stole the show.  Conky demanded “three good lookin’ girls, a pound of weed and 24 beer” before he would let Bubbles sing.  Once the terms were met, Bubbles took to the stage and with help from three willing ladies pulled from the crowd, a rousing rendition of “Liquor and Whores” was performed.  With over a dozen people on stage, the encore saw all three acts return to the stage for Helix’s best-known track, “Rock You.”

As mismatched as this lineup was, it never took away from the fun.  The Trailer Park Boys’ brand of humor is certainly an acquired taste but if one can get into their shtick, it can be a hoot.  With Vancouver’s embarrassing treatment of Helix excepted, a good time was had by all and a whole bunch of different demographics intermingled for an evening of comedy, rock and hip-hop that will certainly stand out as one of the more unique shows I have ever attended.

***Thanks to Kelli Green at House of Blues Canada for the press pass.

Trailer Park Boys—Official Site
Swollen Members—Official Site
Helix—Official Site

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