Words and Pictures by Allison Taich
Fans of all ages packed into Chicago’s Vic Theater last Friday to watch guitar legend Buckethead perform. Known for hyping crowds with thrashing guitar rifts under a hidden identity, Buckethead entertained Chicago fans with 96-minutes of exceptional axe craft.
A solo performance by Wolff, a gentleman from New York City, opened the show. His music consisted of industrial electronic rock mixed with a traditional tuba. Wolff’s set was based around playing and singing through the tuba’s mouthpiece, in addition to beating the instruments bell, topped off by loops and pedal work. His sound was heavy, minor, distorted, and eccentric: in other words, the perfect opener to Buckethead’s circus aesthetic. Wolff’s themes ranged from “elephants taking over Hollywood” to personal beliefs, but what truly got the crowd going was his industrial rendition of Prince’s "When Doves Cry." He ended his set with a more up-tempo number called "What I see," which the artist introduced by saying,“When you play the tuba you think about giving up all the time.”
After Wolff’s set fans anxiously awaited for the headliner to take stage for 45-minutes. Chants of “Buckethead” broke out on numerous times. Once Buckethead’s familiar introduction of carnival music blasted on the P.A. the crowd exploded and the house lights dropped. Energy soared as the giant masked musician soon took the stage, sporting his usual white Les Paul guitar, expressionless white mask, and trademark white fried-chicken bucket on his head.
The audience’s spirits skyrocketed as Buckethead struck his first chords. Pacing the stage he communicated to the crowd through command of his instrument. The show was played entirely solo, with Buckethead relying on the accompaniment of pre-recorded voices, loops, and beats. The audience flailed and thrashed their bodies to the music as Buckethead flawlessly fused together a plethora of genres, managing to keep perfect time with the backing tracks both rhythmically and technically. His performance was so seamless that is was difficult to keep track of what genres and influences were crossed.
Halfway through his set Buckethead dazzled the audience with a mini-nunchuck routine, followed by robot dancing, all of which seemed short-lived compared to past shows. His dance break was capped off with his typical toy exchange: a sack of toys appeared onstage and hopeful hands reached out to receive a gift from the master of ceremonies himself. A few lucky fans were even granted the chance to touch the toggle buttons on Buckethead’s guitar. The show ended approximately an half hour later with Soothsayer, no encore, and an immediate rise in house lights, leaving fans hungry for more.