The Helio Sequence, RCougar

Club Congress, Tuesday, June 10

A local music cheerleader's existence can be honorable, with sporadic accolades coming from peers following a good recommendation.

But beware of duos or solo artists whose studio work features elaborate productions--they may only tour with an acoustic guitar. And as your friends repeatedly check their cell phones and complain about the $8 cover, you'll find yourself exclaiming, "But this is where the mariachis, bullwhips and a church choir should be!"

One duo that delivers a studio-quality performance--and then some!--is Portland's the Helio Sequence, who played to a near-capacity, all-ages audience last week at Club Congress with local openers RCougar.

I was attending my first RCougar show, even though I'd been recommending the band for months based on their MySpace profile. The shaggy foursome has a catchy, shuffling indie rock sound that can best be described as heavy on the reverb and, well, heavy on the Built to Spill. Tonight, however--possibly from nerves--RCougar played everything at nearly half-speed. RC was still enjoyable, but they should take a tip from the Ramones: If the bulk of your songs sound similar, play 'em fast!

The swirling psych-pop duo constituting the Helio Sequence--Brandon Summers on guitar and vocals and Benjamin Weikel on keyboards and drums--have been on a lengthy tour (including an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in February) which will end this month in San Francisco. "We love coming to Tucson," Summers quipped, as it felt like they'd made it home to the West Coast, where "people are normal."

Much is made over Summers' effects pedals and the laptop beside Weikel triggering electronic layers, but without those elements, Helio would still sound as big as a four-piece. On songs like "Can't Say No" and "Keep Your Eyes Ahead," Weikel's pressing, hypnotic rhythms and Summers' shimmering, reverb guitars and vocals reintroduce a combination that Echo and the Bunnymen and the Stone Roses popularized years ago.

Ironically, save for a finale cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows," it was a solo acoustic performance of the Simon and Garfunkel-esque "Broken Afternoon" that got Helio's biggest response of the night.

Even so, this cheerleader won't be pushing Helio to any Simon and Garfunkel fans next tour--they might leave that guitar at home!