Hairball’s fiery homage to ’70s and ’80s rock has grown as it stretches into its 19th year.
“I always liked a lot of explosions and light shows — a full experience. We’re just kind of doing what we’ve always been fans of. We make the show as big as we can,” said Happy, lead guitarist of Hairball. “The only difference now is I’ve got a licensed pyrotechnician instead of a coffee can.”
The Minnesota-based band pushes the definition of tribute as it embodies the likes of members from Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses and KISS in both sight and sound. Hairball brings its show to the Odde Ice Center Saturday with locals Vital Signz opening.
The show alone is hard to contain. One member’s wig started on fire in February in Sioux City, Iowa, as he donned full KISS makeup and attire. A viral video shows the brief mayhem while other band and crew members extinguished the flames, but not the energy.
“Our insurance is always up to date. This band pays more in insurance than our wardrobe changes,” said Happy.
The members also don’t let a low-grade fever or twisted ankle slow them during their 120 to 130 shows annually, from coast to coast. If someone isn’t having a good night they might change up a setlist to lessen the night’s intensity. Ultimately, all Happy has to do is make a mental picture of a new potential fan and his ills fall away.
“I usually think about somebody who’s seen me a bunch of times and talked one of their friends into going to see the show,” Happy said. “Go lay it out there on stage. You have the pyro, the show, the intensity — it’s amazing how many aches and tummy aches just disappear.”
“Be there, don’t hear about it” is a favorite slogan of the band. As it packs venues and sells out shows, it seems more and more folks are taking that challenge to heart. It’s not hard to do when the discographies Hairball is pulling from and pulling off quickly conjure up high school or college memories or serve as the audio backdrop for countless advertisements.
Happy is quick to admit that tribute bands covering infamous hairbands and arena rockers at their peak is nothing new. But if you haven’t heard a crowd in anticipation of rocking down memory lane go pin-drop quiet before unfurling into a collective guttural cheer, then, yeah, you need to hear it for yourself.
“We didn’t write this book, we’re just reading it louder than anyone else,” Happy said.