You can’t contain the Headstones

Headstones bassist Tim White.
Headstones bassist Tim White.
Hugh Dillon of the Headstones plays the harmonica during a ferocious show Wednesday night at The Cocamo.
Hugh Dillon of the Headstones plays the harmonica during a ferocious show Wednesday night at The Cocamo.

On Wednesday night, music booking made for strange bedfellows when the Headstones played the Cocamo to what felt like a packed house. And although having a hard rock band like Hugh Dillon and the boys play at a place known more for its cheap drinks, bubblegum dance music and meat market-ness more than its ability to host a concert, shouldn’t have worked, it largely did.

Opening with the song “Mystery to Me” from their current album Nickels for Your Nightmares, the Headstones slid through several songs spanning their four-album career with minimal banter and not a single wasted note.

They didn’t really hit their groove until a mind-numbing, ear-bleeding, ten-minute version of “Unsound” with bits of the Guess Who’s “No Sugar Tonight” and Clapton’s “Cocaine” thrown in.

Favourites like “Cubically Contained,” “Settle” and “When Something Stands for Nothing” became fun sing-a-longs for the romantically disenchanted.

The show progressed well with an enthusiastic crowd, but it wasn’t until the main set ended with the thrashing (both in terms of musical style and crowd reaction) medley, “Oh My God,” that something finally dawned on me.

For the first time ever in my decade-long concert-going life, the band was holding my attention more than the singer was. This is especially notable when you think about just who the band’s singer is.

Hugh Rush Dillon, the group’s singer and principal songwriter, is simply the baddest man in rock. Wednesday night, he should have owned the stage: spitting and snarling like a lost, angry Rottweiler, Dillon assaulted the microphone with his tight-as-a-fist lyrical style and blistering harmonica skills.

Stomping all over the stage in an all black leather get up, complete with sunglasses (think Achtung Baby-era Bono after he’s been through Hell), Dillon made smoking look cool by catching lit cigarettes like they were fireflies. That said, his stage presence wasn’t enough to make you take your eyes off of the band.

Whether it was Tim White’s lightning-quick funky bass solos or Dale Harrisons’ flipping and catching of the drumsticks, it was the rhythm section demanded full and undivided attention from the crowd.

That said, anyone who was watching Trent Carr all night long could plainly see the man may as well been the featured attraction. An underrated musician to say the least, Carr used his guitar in ways outside the traditional to get the widest variety of sounds out of it. It became a percussion device, an electronic wah-wah maker, a soft and lilting lullabye music box, a screaming siren and — at the end of the show — a source for physical abuse, strings flying everywhere.

In the end, though the crowd was prevented from any sort of aggressive jumping up and down (much less moshing) by Cocomo bouncers who probably realized the chaos that might ensue in such an enclosed space, it’s safe to say the crowd had a good time. It’s also safe to say the band probably did too.

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