with Helms and TW Walsh
The Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA • December 15, 1999
Last time we heard from Papa M, previously known as Aerial M, they were opening up for Sam Prekop downstairs at the Middle East. Founder and guitarist, David Pajo performed by himself that night, using an assortment of “unnamed” effects that gave us a splendid evolution of soundscapes. So, when I first saw David this evening walking into the club with a group of friends, I could only cross my fingers that we would get to see something a little more that his amazing relationship with himself.
The first group to go on was TW Walsh. Now, because of my late arrival, I was unable to learn if that was the name of the band of the lead singer/guitarist. There music was pretty, well… someone will hate me for this, but boring! Trust me, I am a fan of minimalism, but there are some people that just don’t get it! And TW Walsh is one of them! After hearing a few songs, I drew a conclusion that TW Walsh is the lead guy’s name. I don’t think that was “his” band at all! They were way off each other and acted as if they just learned the songs five minutes ago. If this is true, I must commend them for trying, and say that that could be the reason for the bad taste left in my mouth. There were a number of people that actually knew their songs and requested them out loud!
So, on to the other reason I came to this show… Helms! They used to go under the name the Swimmer, and they also played with Papa M and Sam Prekop at the last performance. Helms are a local trio from Cambridge. Their sound is very mathematical and dynamic. They’re young. Not in age so much, but in performance age. But they have A LOT of potential! I LIKE THESE GUYS! Their bass lines a very grounded and solid. Not much movement. I would say the same for the guitar, but after they played what they said to be their newest song it seems to be developing the most (in a good way). Now, and I’m sure most will agree with me, the drums are the most developed instrument in Helms. They use them to their fullest degree, almost as if the drums are the lead vocals, which Helms does not lack either. The guitarist also fronts the band with his very random and spacious vocals, sometimes whispered, other times screamed at a yard’s length of a distance to the microphone. Like I said, they are young, but good… and involved in what they are doing, so I am sure we will be hearing more from them.
And so, as Helms were leaving the stage, I DID notice a full band’s set being put up on top, so this could only mean one thing… David Pajo must be touring with a full band for Papa M!!! Just as they all got set up, the lights got cut out and all of a sudden, this hardcore rap music came on as an introduction…??? The irony was so great! All these kids here to see beautiful melodies created and Papa M chooses to throw down some mother fuckin’ hardcore in yo’ face bitch slappin’ gangsta’ beats to bring them onto the stage! KICK ASS!
When they walked on stage, they all grabbed their instruments, and at the flick of the lights coming on, BAM! …they busted into their first song! David had his same arrangement of tricky effects with him, but tonight, he did not use them the same way he did at the previous show. Tonight, we got to witness the magnificent guitar arrangements that could only come from such a great artist. And the relationship between the bandmates was just to be jealous of. Love relationships could not even compare! Bass, two guitars, and drums. No vocals. They took you through a magical journey, up and down, you had no idea where you would go next! At one point, the drummer and bassist left and you would have thought that they were playing their final “low key” song, but ten minutes later, out of nowhere, BAM! (again), they just exploded into something new. Some of the songs seemed to be improved or twisted versions of older songs, but a lot of what we heard was from Papa M’s newest full length, Live From a Shark Cage . Just an awesome show!
All I can say to you is, if you happen to see a listing for Papa M, cross you fingers the whole band is there (not that he was bad by himself), they are a delight to see perform together! ◼