Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Wolff and Tuba
Label: Independent Artist
As I walked into this particular event at B.B. King’s I had admit that I was again hitting a show that I had such a finite amount of background on. Sure I knew that Buckethead was one of the many faces (or masks) involved with Axl Roses ever shifting Guns ‘N Roses project but outside of that I didn’t know a whole lot about the guitar virtuoso. Tonight would be my chance to get a look under the bucket right? Let’s face it, it is impossible to be totally up to speed on everyone and even some of the more popular radio and television hosts have their work cut out for them nowadays with so many bands and musicians out there active on the scene. I had just been here the night before when the Progressive Rock bands Nektar, Brainticket and Huwe Lloyd-Langdon performed their brand of “Space Rock” for that genre’s fans and now it was only something equally progressive in some sense. Arriving at B.B. King’s shortly after the doors opened found me seeing the crowd that had assembled still walking in. There were A LOT of people here for this guy tonight and it was great to see them lined up down the block. I got inside just before the opening act which was listed as Wolff. I would soon learn that this was actually “Wolff and Tuba”. Here is how my evening progressed.
Wolff and Tuba: I had never heard of Wolff and Tuba before this show and yet one of my friends said she had told me about them once. I guess I forgot. That happens. Anyway, the group is not so much a group and is instead a single musician – Brian Wolff, and his tuba. Even before he began to play I felt this would be something interesting and perhaps even fun to check out because when have you ever seen a tuba being used in a Rock setting? Brian had numerous effects set up and that allowed him to get some very unique sounds out of the tuba and there were times when it appeared that he was singing into it. The effects brought a totally different feel to the tuba and with the electronica backbeat happening there was a very “Experimental Industrial” vibe happening. In the beginning the crowd seemed to be enjoying the set but as it continued on their impatience about the pending Buckethead performance took over and their responses were not as giving. At some points a song would end and they would yell “Buckethead” to which he replied, “Buckethead will be on shortly”. He also kept mentioning that he performed late nights at Pianos on the Lower East Side. I didn’t know any of his tunes barring his rendition of Twisted Sisters “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and while I had to say that I enjoyed what I saw happening can agree that perhaps a forty five minutes set would have been better received had it been only thirty minutes. I wish him luck with this definitely unique premise and perhaps if I am ever down near Pianos in the later evening hours I can catch one of his sets over there to see what it is like. Now it was time for Buckethead to take the stage – let the education begin.
Buckethead: Having already mentioned that I didn’t know what to expect from the musicians set list I decided to just remain quiet (unless I had to clap and scream of course) as he did his thing. I wondered what he would do during a set and did he ever address the audience in any fashion. I know he sports an expressionless white mask in addition to the bucket on his head and I guess this is done so he leaves the magic inside the music and the guitar virtuosity. Yet at the same time did he step outside of this identity at all? Only time would tell during the show. By the time he came on, and I must admit that it took a little bit of that to get up on the boards; he was met with a thunderous response from the crowd. The venue was packed to the doors and the last time I had seen it this full was when Saxon appeared a couple of years ago after not having performed in this region for some years. There would be no band “behind” Buckethead and instead he played along to tracked drums and bass riffs. The folks in the crowd didn’t seem to care that it was only Buckethead on stage as that was the man they were there to see and no one else. It was exciting to watch his technique and he is clearly a wizard at the axe. His fingers moving up and down the fret board like lightning and not losing a second of the skills at the same time.
He did not say a word though through any of this and no one could tell if he was smiling or scowling under that blank white face mask. He was however wearing a KFC bucket on his head and I was under the impression that he was no longer allowed to do so by the company who felt he was insulting them. At one point he got up very close to the fans who reached out to touch his guitar like it was one of their god’s holy tools and many of them had even brought their own “buckets” with them which were being offered up as gifts. Buckethead took one from an excited fan and placed on top of his own KFC bucket. He played a little guitar like this and then returned the bucket to the outstretched hand in the audience. I hope the same kid got that bucket back as it’s something for him to brag about on his Facebook after the show was over. He moved rather robotically at times and I guess was doing the “robot” dance and it was at this point that I asked my show companion if he was supposed to be a robot or android or whatever. She told me no he just does that during a show. He put down the guitar for a few minutes and did a demonstration of his nunchuk skills. Suddenly this thrilling Rock show had some Saturday Afternoon Kung-Fu movie quality to it. The crowd was eating it up for sure. I only really knew his rendition of the “Star Wars” theme song but I admitted this earlier as to my limited background and I felt that was a clever thing to do during a set. The band Epica does “The Imperial March” on their “Classical Conspiracy” album and I love that stuff.
As the night drew to a close, the musician walked offstage and returned with a large sack. His roadie and assistant (who also worse some kind of mask) brought out other bags and inside them were tons of toys that he was now going to hand out to the crowd. Allow me to introduce “Buckethead Claus”. I was not near enough to catch anything but I would have likely given the stuff over to one of the immediate fans in my vicinity. There were some cool things in there and I saw some Batman toys, a mock guitar and all sorts of different doodads. This had to cost him some money to do and really showed how into his crowd he was. Someone in the crowd even handed him a gift which appeared to be a doll with a bucket on its own small head. That was nice to see happening. After several minutes of gift giving he picked up a bass guitar and showed off a little on that as well.
He soon left the stage to screams that were almost deafening but he did not come back out. Throughout the whole show he did not break “character” nor address anyone with even a simple “Thanks very much we’ll see you next time” and I had to admit that I expected at LEAST that. In the end I have to say that for my first experience seeing Buckethead do his thing in concert that I found the whole evening rally interesting. I just loved his playing and watching the devotion being given to him by his fans along with his fun givebacks to them. I guess he did not do any sort of signing or meet and greet this evening since no one was talking about that stuff. There was very little space for movement in the audience so I got stuck off to the right-hand side of the guitarist but that was okay since he kept moving throughout the entire show. I will close out by saying that this was probably one of the messiest that I had seen the club after the fun had ended as the patrons left their bottles and cups all over the floor as opposed to discarding them. Come on folks, this is a classy joint, let’s keep it that way and how hard is it to toss something out after the show ends. You’re excused if you could not move to do so of course. If you are a fan if this kind of guitar display I encourage you to see Buckethead when he performs here next time. You will really like what he does up there. Now if only John5 would do a similar kind of solo gig at the club. That would really be something to see as well. Next up for me at this very same room would be the amazing Mr. Big. I’m looking forward to that one as well.
Buckethead Set List:
1. Night of the Slunk
2. Want Some Slaw?
3. Siege Engine
4. Gory Head Stump
6. Help, Help, Help
7. Revenge Of The Double-Man
8. Fountains Of The Forgotten
10. Star Wars
11. Welcome to Bucketheadland
Here’s a quick shot of the venue marquee. Though I didn’t take a photo of the crowd as they were coming in, I can tell you that they were lined up almost to Broadway and that is pretty cool to see. Kudos to Buckethead for bringing in that many axe slinging fans.
There was a few pieces of merchandise available for sale, but not a whole lot of Buckethead albums and instead there seemed to be more stuff for the opener Wolff and Tuba.
You might have noticed the show posters for the gigs at B.B. King’s over the last few years and if you didn’t its high time to start paying attention. They are often rather nice and something worth trying to get your hands on for collector’s purposes. They even have smaller ones that announce the shows and these are superb for artist signatures if there is a signing going on or you run into them as they head on back home. I’ve seen it done by many fans in the past so get on point. Don’t miss out.
Here’s a quick glimpse of some of the onstage tech that Buckethead employs. It helps him do some of the amazing things he does with sound a little bit easier. That’s a lot of effects eh?
I was not really able to get any of the sneak peak backstage kind of stuff that I sometimes am lucky enough to be sharing with you because Buckethead keeps a very private off stage time and is a man of apparently very few words if the show was any sign of it. I did find something that was happening on the side of the performance interesting though and that was the screening of the movie “Giant Robot” which I must admit is actually called “Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot”.
I had to check with an expert on why Buckethead was showing this, and El Buncho mentioned how the musician was a huge fan of the show and often played the “Giant Robot” theme song during his gigs. He did not do that this evening which was a shame. Anyways, I took a couple of quick shots of the screens for good measure.
I’ve not seen this film in decades and I am not too sure its available on DVD in my particular region but there are very likely many clips on YouTube.com that will let you enjoy the entire film. I highly recommend it.
It’s a little violent when one considers its vintage but oh well, there are far worse things being shown on conventional television nowadays. Check it out and also check out some of the many releases by Buckethead.