Hairball: A Bombastic Celebration of Arena Rock will make its Evansville debut this weekend, and for the band’s lead guitarist, playing for new audiences is one of the greatest thrills during the gig.
“It’s always cool to have people witness it for the first time,” guitarist Happy said. “Our following is so big, some people who haven’t seen it scratch their heads, but the thing I take pride in is that there are people who have seen us over 50 times. I take that to heart. Our following has gotten to be so big. That’s just another thing that helps us know what we are doing is good and right.”
Happy will share the stage with vocalists Bobby, Steve and Joe Dandy, bassist Freaky and drummer Blake at The Victory on Saturday night. The band — who refer to themselves as “much more than just a tribute band” — will play homage to some of rock’s biggest acts such as Van Halen, KISS and Aerosmith.
The band has been together for the last 17 years, and Happy joined about 15 years ago. He said when Hairball first started performing, he wasn’t so sure the band would be nearly as successful as it is now.
“It kind of started out as this tongue-in-cheek, comedy show that made fun of other people from that time period. I just saw it as an excuse to play my guitar and buy time while I looked for something else to do,” he said.
But soon, he realized there was much more depth to the band than he had initially thought. And over time, the band grew to be something that was more than just tributes and silly antics.
“As time went on, I saw it was a recreation of the energy of the bands we covered. The purpose became clear. I can honestly say I was playing in bands since I was 14, and this has been the most fun I have ever had. It’s just one of those accidents that worked out.”
And as someone who was always drawn to the energy that rock and roll provides, sticking with Hairball turned out to continue igniting that passion for Happy.
“At first I felt like I had an attitude about it because I was like ‘Oh boy, I’m playing covers.’ But when it came down to it, I realized I was doing what I loved. I was playing music I loved and playing dress up. Hairball has stopped short at nothing to entertain an audience,” Happy said.
He emphasized that the show provides something for just about everyone.
“At a glance, you might think of it as a tribute band, but we really are a bombastic celebration to rock. It carries the intensity of being in a crowd that is excited about the same kind of music and show. When the lights go down and you hear that roar, you know the smoke is about to hit, and Hairball comes at you so fast you don’t even know what happened. It’s the smorgasbord of rock and roll. So while you might be sitting there watching these recreations, if you don’ like it, chances are it will turn into Van Halen, and then it will turn into Queen, and then Journey all within a half hour,” he said.
And while the show focuses on popular acts from the 1980s, Happy said music fans of all ages will find something to enjoy.
“Our job is to show people how great these bands really were, and to us, good music is good music,” Happy said. “But when I see these people next to their 8 or 10-year-old kid, and see them singing along to ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine,’ for the old person reliving it, that’s pretty amazing.”
IF YOU GO
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Victory
Tickets: $19 in advance through Ticketmaster, $24 at the door.