‘Expect surprises and miracles’

By Colin Van Westen, Staff Writer

As the area rock tribute band, Hairball, prepares to return to the Clay County Fair and Events Center at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22, the band has a simple message for its fans: “Expect surprises and miracles.”

“Sometimes, it comes down to a bottle of Jager and a dart board,” band member Happy said. “We are really putting on the smorgasbord concert we would like to see. The reality of it is that we are just fans like the people who come to see us. The experience is about more than just seeing the band.”

The band provides the audience with a retro glimpse of some of the most influential arena rock bands. Happy explained that they attempt to reconnect longtime fans and expose new fans to a time when rock was expressed through larger-than-life personalities, showmanship and attitude.

“I think cool is cool,” Happy said. “I think Elvis is going to be around for a long time. Anything that sets a standard and starts a movement has its place in history. I think the bands that we tip our hats to in the show will be around a lot longer than I will be. We represent a mystic period, preinternet and social media.

He added, “Hairball is for everybody and when we do our best work is when I look out and see an 8-year-old kid next to their parents and grandparents. They are singing “Sweet Child of Mine.” I see that every night we play and I am honored.”

As the band enters its 19th year of live performances, the lineup has only undergone a few changes. Happy said recently he has been investing more time in learning Queen songs and that much of the music which inspired him as child continues to resonate with the band and fans today.

“I was always a squirrelly kid that loved the physical aspects of the three chord,” Happy said. “One of the first songs I remember as a kid, ‘Pinball Wizard’ by The Who. I was drawn to the powerful chords. The sound of a guitar. That still remains and I will always come back to it. The music we portray is more of a fun, party atmosphere that existed in the heyday of MTV. People wanted to buy into that rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. It was a spirited time in music history.”

He added, “I am still just a rock ‘n’ roll kid and I still like those simple songs that I can move to. I just like getting up on stage and running around. Once we get doing the show, we just feed off the audience, so every song is my favorite. I think everyone should get the chance to perform a scissor kick during a rock ‘n’ roll show during their life.”

Tickets are available online at www.midwestix.com or by phone at 515-244-2771 for $23. Advance tickets may also be purchased at the Clay County Fair and Events Center for $23 and at the door for $28.

Hairball to rock fairgrounds in ‘big’ way

By Craig Purcell craig.purcell@wcinet.com

There was a time in many of our pasts when everything about rock-and-roll, from its characters and costumes to the on-stage productions and even bandmembers’ hair, were larger than life.

Seasoned rockers who survived it the first time, as well as young fans new to the spectacle, can relive the spirit of rocking and rolling all night and partying every day by raising their fists for Hairball, who lights up the amps and the stage at the Delaware County Fairgrounds Sunday, May 27.

Hairball is a six-man band consisting of “Happy” (guitar), “Freaky” (bass) and “Billy” (drums), and singers “Joe,” “Kris” and “Bobby.” With the three musicians onstage the entire show, the singers alternate, with one manning the mic while the other two get into costumes and wigs for their impressions of the vocalists from Motley Crue, KISS, Journey and Def Leppard, to name but a few.

During a recent telephone interview, Happy said of their typical gig, “If you go see a Hairball show, you’re going to see one of the greatest rock-and-roll smorgasbord experiences ever. Hairball is the preservation society for what is cool in rock-and-roll. We represent a day when it was arenas and theatrics. With the images and the presentations, you didn’t have to be in the front row. It’s all big artists with visual impact, and whose music has given them staying power.”

The band itself has been around for nearly 20 years, growing out of a goof. “Hairball started as a kind of comedy act,” said Happy. “We got into it and it began evolving and revealing its own path. We kept upping the theatrics and making the rock show more authentic, and people began taking to it. We took some of the comedy out and sank money into better outfits, pyrotechnics and video.”

Don’t think for a second that Hairball sacrifices substance for style — these boys can rock. “We deliver the intensity the music has,” Happy said. “It’s still cool to land a jump and have fire go off. We’re basically a bunch of guys who haven’t figured out how to grow up.”

Which is not to say that they don’t have to deal with grown-up concerns. After having his hip replaced earlier in the year, Happy was still not feeling his best and was recently diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal cancer.

“I’ve got my battles that I need to balance right now but I have a good outlook on that,” he said. “I’ve been quite open with fans about what’s going on. At this point, I’m good and will hopefully be playing in Manchester.”

Happy has been working with another guitarist who will be able to step in for him if he needs some time to rest from any future treatments or procedures. “Whether I’m there or not, my heartbeat is always in Hairball,” he said. Happy is adamant about not wanting Hairball to become, in his words, “Cancer coming to Manchester.”

He’d rather fans come out for the fun the show provides. “Everybody has a different experience. I just want to know that they walked out of there with a smile on their face and that they felt good.”