April 12, 2019
Most of us have seen the movie “Bucket List” starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The two play a couple of older gentlemen who are told they are terminally ill. They decide to go on a series of excursions to various places and do things they’ve always wanted to do before their time runs out. As far as I know, I don’t have to start living my life like there’s no tomorrow but you can’t assume anything nowadays. I’m always searching for that next great band or that hot new guitarist and to broaden my musical horizon. Before I punch my ticket to Saint Peter’s gate I want to make sure I see as many as possible in case the only instruments they play in Heaven are kazoos.
On my “Guitarists I Haven’t Seen Yet” bucket list, fittingly enough was “Buckethead.” He’s been around for years, played with Guns and Roses from 2000-2004 and has been a solo artist since then. An enigmatic figure; I was put off by his dark persona and never paid much attention to him. To me, he seemed like he was hell bent on giving Marilyn Mansion a run for his “I can be more bizarre than you” money. I learned he was in town however, and I was looking for a little sonic adventure and thought “why not?” so I bought a ticket. $25 is cheap entertainment these days. What would I have to lose? So if you’re like me and you needed some good reasons to go see him, here are a few:
10. He’s tall – about 6’5” by my estimate. This means that even if you’re 5’2’’ you can at least see his head from where you’re standing if you’re not in the front row. Imagine being able to see his emotionless facade in all its glory with no obstructions.
9. He can make his guitar sound like Droids and Ewoks. Your life will be complete if you are a Star Wars fan. Now, if you could only get your mother to let you keep that garage-sized Millennium Falcon that’s taking up all the space in her basement.
8. He gives out free stuff. To Hell with the same old guitar picks and drumsticks most musicians throw at you. Buckethead does a great Easter Bunny impression. He brings three or four bags filled with swag to the front of the stage and hands out stuff like Hot Wheels cars, Star Wars banks and sidewalk chalk. I got flash cards! Woohoo!
7. His stage props consist of two metal chickens – each about a foot tall and a Mexican blanket that he throws over his shoulder (for that stylish Quasimodo look) during one of his numbers. Why spend a lot on flash pots, lasers and strobes? All you need is stuff you picked up at a local yard sale and you’re good to go.
6. Girls, if you’re into the macabre, this guy is for you! If he is performing on stage in a Jason mask with a KFC bucket on his head that says “Funeral” you can only image what kind of devilish fantasies he has in mind for you if you’re lucky enough to hook up with him at the meet-and-beat, er..greet. If you really want to get kinky you can dress up in one of his costumes, available at the merch table for only ten bucks!
5. He does the “Robot” as good as Michael Jackson. Well, not really but if you can imagine a 6’5” guy with a KFC bucket on his head trying to see through a hockey mask with a guitar strapped around his neck while he makes mechanical motions with his arms and “moonwalks” at the same time without falling on his ass, I think he did pretty well.
4. He plays to all backing tracks live so you don’t have to listen to a hairy, over-muscled drummer give his 20-minute take on “Moby Dick” for the umpteenth time or a boring bass guitar solo. The caveat: because of this there are no opportunities for bathroom breaks so you’ll have to cut back on the suds or hold it to the end of the show.
3. He is only about one-tenth as repetitious as Yngwie Malmsteen but on a positive note, that’s about one-fiftieth as repetitious as Zakk Wylde.
2. He’ll let you play his guitar! He comes to the front of the stage later in the show and lets the audience work the controls on his guitar while he frets the notes. If you’re particularly good with a kill switch, he’ll let you work it for a while and you’ll sound just like those Rapper DJ’s.
1. All joking aside. I was seriously impressed with Buckethead’s performance on Monday night. This guy has amazing chops. I‘m surprised he hasn’t been asked to tour as a member of Joe Satriani’s “G3” group of guitarists or Vai’s “Generation Axe.” His skill level is unparalleled and his technique impeccable. He blends crunchy rhythms with searing leads at often breakneck speeds while the audience cheers him on in amazement. His use of kill switches (two) is quite inventive – often making interludes that sound like funky rap rhythms. As skilled as he is at speed metal riffs, he is quite adept at working in softer passages – often squeezing in parts of popular songs like “Somewhere over the Rainbow” or “When You Wish upon a Star.” Overall, I found his performance to be fantastic. His stage persona may be a little odd – a Michael Meyers type of character come alive but make no mistake; he is a first rate guitarist that few can equal. The bottom line is he is worth checking out and if I were Alice Cooper I would adopt this guy!
Buckethead’s gear: He plays his signature Gibson Les Paul which has a 24-fret ebony fingerboard into a 50-watt EVH 5150 head and a Hiwatt cabinet that together makes his tone tight, punchy and focused. He keeps effects to a minimum but does use an octave pedal and delay quite often along with the two kill switches. He alternates between the green channel (clean) and the blue channel (higher gain) on the 5150 for a particular song or passage. At no point did I see him use the red channel (highest gain) during the set.
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