Buckethead Rocks Out at the House of Blues

10:32 June 09, 2016
By: Finn Turnbull

“If he was raised by chickens, that’s what they say, why does he like to eat chickens?” As tall as he is weird as he is skilled, Buckethead is a giant robot walking among mortals. He dawned himself with a Michael Myers mask and a KFC bucket as a youth, saying aloud to a mirror, “Buckethead. That’s Buckethead right there,” and since then he has burned his image into the minds of music lovers and freaks everywhere. His influences in horror are obvious with the mask, which he ran out to buy immediately after watching Halloween 4, but also with his concept albums like Bucketheadland and its sequel, Bucketheadland 2. Bucketheadland is a dreadful, circus fusion of an amusement park, equipped with the ability to transform into a colossal mecha, and a slaughterhouse with a horrible cast of creeps to join you along the rides. There are very few images of the man without his disguise, and he is not known for speaking directly. If he does speak, it is usually in the form of a character or through a hand puppet.

His oddities are not even the best part. Buckethead is a guitar legend. With fingers like spider legs, he redefines the speed and precision one would think possible on the instrument. He is ranked in GuitarOne’s “Top 10 Fastest Guitar Shredders of All Time” and Guitar World’s “50 Fastest Guitar Players of All Time”. His creativity also knows no bounds, as he is well on the way to 300 studio albums and has recorded with dozens of other talented artists like Les Claypool and Bootsy Collins. Buckethead’s musical style ranges from entire instrumental albums of dark, twisted metal to funk to melodic ambiance to soulful rock, so it’s safe to say that there is a piece in the bucket for everyone.

The live show aspect of his music is not quite what you’d expect. 45 minutes late to start the set, fans at House of Blues: New Orleans were getting anxious, when finally one of the stagehands starts testing each guitar pedal one-by-one to the audio of Monsanto’s Adventure Thru Inner Space from 1967. Another 10 minutes of the strange narration, and then out comes the bucket himself. Buckethead’s “band” is an arrangement of amps through which his backing tracks play from a tape or playlist. Wasting no time, the 1960’s narration is cut and the playlist begins. The near 7-foot figure strolls out in his infamous headgear with an all-black outfit. He takes his solid white guitar to jam a metal groove and then proceeds to shower the audience with arpeggios. The absence of a full band is not a negative side to the show in any way. In fact, it makes the entire experience feel much more intimate.

Buckethead’s musical style ranges from entire instrumental albums of dark, twisted metal to funk to melodic ambiance to soulful rock, so it’s safe to say that there is a piece in the bucket for everyone.

After resurfacing from the shockwave of note flurries, you are sucked in by the fat riffs and robotic execution. The swift metal solos live up to their reputation and make you feel as though structures are collapsing down around you in the wake of a mechanical monstrosity. Though, the chops aren’t the only machine-like part of the performance. Buckethead has some serious giant robot dance skill up his spandex sleeves. While effortlessly playing the chord rhythms to his songs, he struts around stage and impresses with his killer moves. It is then when you start to realize that he is far more whimsical than he is dark.

He takes a break from his guitar after about an hour and starts showcasing his other talents. Buckethead robo-dances to techno with two large foam fingers, practices intensely with his nunchucks, and even picks up a bass to slap it around a bit. Following these unique side-skills, he brings out a blue velvet sack to hand out toys of all kinds. Despite his mysterious persona, the whole event seemed to unveil a musician who is truly grateful for his fans. He played crowd pleasers such as “Jordan,” “Welcome to Bucketheadland,” and “Want Some Slaw?” while also stopping his backing tracks to play covers of “Pure Imagination” and the Star Wars theme. It’s hard to imagine someone with such obvious childhood nostalgia to be anything but sincere. Inviting fans to push the kill switch on his guitar for fun and playing with toys on stage delightfully contrasted with his enigmatic image and horror themes. Original songs with titles such as “I Love My Parents,” “For Mom” and “Watching the Boats with my Dad” also suggest a warm smile behind the mask.

Buckethead played for about an hour and a half. At the end of his final song, he gave the tiniest of waves and was guided offstage by the help of a flashlight. It felt as though we were all a bit closer to the mystery, having just witnessed a live show almost as comfortable as a bedroom practice session. Buckethead finally seemed human. All the same, as loudly as the crowd demanded it, he did not come back out for an encore and the night ended with swarms of notes still lingering in the air. 

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