Shortly after making my way to the front of the crowd at the New Daisy, I asked the sound guy if he could hand me the set list after the show. A bunch of muttering started in the crowd surrounding him.
“I don’t think he has one. If I see one—I’ll bring it to you,” the sound guy replied.
“The last Buckethead show, all he had was a sign up that said, ‘Long Live Shaolin,’” someone else added.
The lights were red and blue in the theater, having an effect similar to the 3D glasses they used to give people in the '90s to watch television—anytime you blinked, the room was frozen on the back of your eyeballs. The sound of dinosaurs growling and gnawing on dinner to the tune of cicadas permeated the air as the audience waited for the show.
“This is Bucketheadland,” I remember thinking. Brian Patrick Carroll’s performance art character, Buckethead, has claimed in rare interviews that his primary focus in life is building Bucketheadland, although it doesn’t have a physical address.
The sound of water dripping and echoing in a cave was followed by the sound of demonic female voices singing. Every time a guitar peppered into the soundtrack, sporadic clapping and shouting came from the audience.
Haley Mitchell, the photographer who joined me on this assignment, said that Buckethead had gotten in trouble with his KFC bucket with an orange sticker on it that read, “Funeral.”
“He was raised by chickens and believes he can bring the dead chickens back to life through his guitar playing, which is a conflict of interest for Colonel Sander’s livelihood,” Mitchell explained.
On this tour, he’s just wearing a white bucket.
"I am becoming smaller and smaller,” a voice said as the night’s entertainment became eminent. It sounded like a voice from a 1950’s science fiction movie. "Nothing is solid no matter how it appears."
Buckethead walked out on stage and started playing. He doesn’t talk during the performance, although he does swing nunchucks in between handing out toys.
Fractal spider webs flipped around on the screen with red and blue lights. For his third song, he played “Soothsayer,” a prog rock track dedicated to his Aunt Suzie.
His dreadlocked assistant, P-Sticks, held a green light toward the audience as the people in the front row were allowed to press the red button on Buckethead’s white guitar. The red button is something like a Wah-Wah pedal for the face of his guitar, and as Buckethead held strings on the guitar neck, each member of the front row took a turn pressing it, forcing video game sounds to spit out of the speakers.
As he started to play “Jordan,” one of his signature tunes, the bass attacked the audience like a rogue wave. It’s a song dedicated to Michael Jordan, which is supposed to be one of the hardest songs to play on Guitar Hero
or on an actual guitar. On his 2011 release, It’s Alive
, there is another song called “Lebrontron.” At 6’-4”, we can only assume that Buckethead is a basketball fan.
When he sampled “Pure Imagination,” it became evident that Buckethead is the Willie Wonka of guitarists, and we all had a golden ticket. After about an hour and a half of playing, he walked off the stage and giant red jellyfish floated across the screen as deafening drum and bass played on the speakers. We waited until the staff started to mop and decided he wasn’t coming back out.