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Mushroomhead Headlines a Tour Overflowing with Talent

MUSHROOM HEAD good

By Alyce Hayes, photos by Julie Williams

Another Wednesday night, another metal show in a random town in Middle America. The venue: Castle Theatre in Bloomington, Illinois (almost right in the center of the state). The headliner: Mushroomhead, with four opening acts. I had no idea why anyone would travel to a city close to nothing else in Illinois, the I realized that I was traveling to that very city because of the promise of a hard-rockin evening of talented bands.

Prey for Us, a hardcore band native to Peoria, started the night out to a crowd of about 15 people.

Prey For Us

Prey for Us

Band members Kid, Tony Kelly, Chris Broshears and Dane Stalnaker created a good eclectic sound, with some elements of early 2000s alternative, punk and blues thrown in to keep us on our toes.  Although the crowd was small, they definitely enjoyed the music.

Lydia Can't Breathe

Lydia Can’t Breathe

Up next was Lydia Can’t Breathe.  As the Florida-based quartet set up onstage, I took notice of their image. All were wearing full suits: lead singer Kyle Bolduc in red, bassist Shawn Goree and guitarist Dan Wilson (an uncanny Donnie Wahlberg doppelganger) in neutral colors, and drummer Josh Runfeldt in the same, but accessorized with a ten gallon hat reminiscent of Champ Kind from the Anchorman films. They opened their set with an a capella rendition of “Afternoon Delight,” harmonizing quite well, and that was when it dawned on me that that way indeed in homage to Anchorman ~ it was perfect, and just misleading enough to those of us unfamiliar with the band or their style.

Lydia Can't Breathe

Lydia Can’t Breathe

Within seconds of finishing, the four-piece threw themselves into a barrage of metal tracks, wowing the entire audience. I noticed hints of Mastodon in Kyle’s vocal melodies, and no-one could miss his powerful scream. In the second half of their set, he exited the stage and re-entered sans pants and with a wild head of hair, ready to entertain us with more of his, uh… distinct stage presence. The band played songs that ran the lyrical gamut; from the dire situation of war veterans returning home to peanut butter and jelly (yep).  It’s always great to witness a band that takes their musical skill seriously but also knows how to lighten up when it comes to their image (seriously, the man had taken his pants off and was just wearing boxers). I’ll leave my diatribe on “The Many [unoriginal] Faces of Metal” to another day, but know this: Lydia Can’t Breathe has the chops and the stage prowess to go far.  I mean, they’re touring with Mushroomhead. That’s saying something.

Unsaid Fate

Unsaid Fate

Following that high-energy set was Unsaid Fate, an Ohio-bred band that kept the energy level going strong. By this point, the crowd had begun to grow, and it was clear that the band, fronted by vocalist Jackie LaPonza, had a dedicated following. A very drunk (or something else) fan to my right was swearing excitedly (and frequently, oh joy) and yelling Jackie’s name as often as he could manage to pronounce it. I could see why he (and the rest of the audience who still had their senses about them) were so enthusiastic ~ as the band began their first song, she made a hell of an entrance, running onto the stage and launching into the opening lyrics immediately. Her melodic-but-gritty vocals were well-executed and the energy was larger-than-life during her time on stage (and off ~ at one point, she took to walking through the crowd while still singing). Drummer Mike LaPonza kept a solid groove, and guitarist Don DeBiase was definitely keeping up with Jackie by jumping around, spinning his guitar, and interacting with the crowd.

Unsaid Fate

Unsaid Fate

Although there were some volume level issues at the beginning of Unsaid Fate’s set, it didn’t take away from the band’s ~ or the audience’s ~ obvious enjoyment of the music.  The horns were in the air all around the venue, fans knew most of the lyrics by heart, and towards the end, Mike LaPonza took pictures of the fans from his point of view. The band finished off the set by covering The Offspring’s “The Kids Aren’t All Right,” which had the whole audience joining in and totally immersed in the music.

Erasing Never

Erasing Never

Erasing Never was the final band to take the stage before Mushroomhead’s appearance.  Again, there were some sound issues at the start of the set (I honestly would have expected any problems to occur with maybe the first two bands rather than the last two), but once they were about two songs in, the technical issues seem to have been solved and we could really feel the intensity and musical talent the band wielded.  As far as appearances, they all had matching black shirts with the band name on the left and their first names on the right, which gave them a bit of a “working man” feel.  It was the kind of statement that subtly said that ~ although their music was dark, intricate and heavy, and each band member could clearly hold his own ~ in the end, Erasing Never was just a group of people working hard to make a living. I could be reading a little too much into those shirts, but something tells me I’m not that far off.

Erasing Never

Erasing Never

Vocalist Dan had a great command of both screams and melodies, while bassist Matt proved just how metal you can be without a freaking guitar pick. Both guitarists ~ JP and Andrew ~ kept the audience reaching out as they showed mastery on their axes, and drummer Bryan had everyone moving with his precision playing and the enthusiasm of a lead vocalist, rising out of his seat to get everyone into the music. As expected (and very much deserved), the audience had grown enough to fill most of the main floor of the Theatre, and Erasing Never left them revved up and ready for the headliner ~ but not, I’m sure, without gaining a ton of brand new fans.

MUSHROOM HEAD FIRST

Alright, now seriously, where do I begin with Mushroomhead? Nine band members, amazingly detailed masks, drums at the front of the stage ready to create a water and light show, and three vocalists. The show was a dark, colorful, head-banging, melodic whirlwind, a blast both onstage and off. The mosh pit was practically non-stop from the first song to the last, and the audience was in perfect…Mushroomhead audience form… as they rocked out and sang along.

MUSHROOM HEAD 3This show was in its own category of entertainment, just like Mushroomhead’s music.  Yes, there was metal, but there were also elements of hip hop, gothic rock, and industrial. They were proving just how experimental they could be with their sound without straying away from the core that made them Mushroomhead. They had also just released their newest album, The Righteous and the Butterfly, the day before this show, on May 13, so they had new material to share with the world. And I did mention  three vocalists, right? Because that’s pretty impressive  ~ almost as impressive as the fact that you can actually tell them apart. There was Jeffrey Nothing with his distinct style of heavy vibrato (reminiscent of Horace Andy), J Mann with his rap vocals and screams, and Waylon, also with screams and clean vocals. The trio comes together to create a bit of a “kitchen-sink gumbo” mix in the way of vocals, and it’s a perfect mix. With Skinny, Roberto Diablo and ST1TCH on drums, Schmotz on keys, Church on guitar and Dr. F on bass, well…you’ve got one killer ensemble, and they were at the top of their game that night.

MUSHROOMHEAD 1The skill level of the band was insane, yet they made their playing seem effortless. They put on a super-engaging and flawless show full of lights and interludes and arrangements that showcased every single member of the band. Despite such a chaotic stage, they were still able to make their performance look as though it were the most natural thing in the world for them ~ as it is and should be, given their 20 years of playing together.

As much as Mushroomhead dominated the stage, they also connected with the audience; the people in this crowd, myself included, would have been willing to do pretty much anything they had asked. Along with everyone else, I was caught up in the world they had created, and none of us wanted to leave.

MUSHROOMHEAD scary

Mushroomhead is another band that harnesses the power that comes with creating their own definition of the term “entertainment,” and they have done so without pretension, giving them a very accessible vibe. They are a humble group of very talented musicians who understand the important role every person who supports their music ~ by attending a show, buying their album, getting word out via the media, expressing appreciation for the band in whatever way ~ plays in their success. In return, Mushroomhead readily shows their gratitude however they can. Take Waylon, who grabbed the tablet of a fan in the front row who was recording the show, took it around the stage to various members, and then sang into the camera before returning it. And after the show, despite having to hit the road for a stop in Kansas the next day, some members graciously stuck around to take photos with and talk to their many fans.

And speaking of fans, here are Flashwounds' own Alyce (L) and Julie (R) cozying up to Waylon after the show...

And speaking of fans, here are Flashwounds’ own Alyce (L) and Julie (R) cozying up to Waylon after the show…

Although Bloomington, IL was not a stop I would expect to show up on the itinerary of a tour carrying so much talent, it turned out to be a great place for the bands to get up close with their longtime fans (some of whom would never have gotten to see these bands had the tour NOT come to Bloomington), earn many new ones, and make this Hump Day supremely memorable.

 

Prey for Us

Lydia Can’t Breathe

Unsaid Fate

Erasing Never

Mushroomhead

 

One Comment

  1. I was the girl who put the colorful neon thong on Tommy’s guitar! Lol <3

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