Tonight has been many years in the making for Mushroomhead’s loyal UK fans. Did they live up to expectations, or was it too little, too late?
Kicking off this auspicious night in the capital was a relatively unknown entity. Due to the late cancellation of American Head Charge as main support, Sanguine were announced as the main support for the full tour while a local band to each show would be picked. This wasn’t ideal for AHC fans but was a fantastic opportunity for local acts.
British rockers Stereo Juggernaut were the lucky group to open up at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. They had the usual barriers facing the first band on such as a half full venue and little knowledge by the fans of themselves or their music but they also faced another more literal barrier: Mushroomhead’s water drums had already been set up at the front of the stage, partially blocking the view of the band for the entire set.
Despite this, the band gave it their all. Sporting a great chemistry, clean vocals with a gravel tone and a punk attitude, they used up all the minimal space afforded to them to show the crowd a really fun show. With smooth harmonies and a couple of killer riffs along the way, they were a great warm up to the evening.
Sanguine had some big shoes to fill after being announced as the replacement to American Head Charge, however the female fronted rock/metal outfit from Devon came out fighting and they put on a powerful performance despite facing the same lack of space. Musically they were very impressive and they commanded the crowd with ease; both when getting them to howl like rabid wolves and start some movement on the floor. Singer Tarin was beautiful and tried her best to show two different sides to her vocals and whilst the clean vocals were a pleasure to listen to, at times the screams were a little painful and didn’t add much to the music.
The band had some great tunes in their arsenal and hit Raised By Wolves was a stormer, featuring all the energy you could wish for. The fans were also treated to a brilliantly delivered cover of American Head Charge’s track Loyalty, so they didn’t go home too disappointed that AHC were a no show. On the whole, the fans seemed very pleased to see Sanguine on the bill.
Finally the time had come to wheel out the sideshow freaks from Cleveland, Ohio. Mushroomhead have always had their fans in the UK but with an absence of some 10 years, it wasn’t easy to see. So tonight was interesting, as fans young and old join in a common goal, to finally witness the spectacular that these masked antiheroes perform. Gone are the days of being tagged with simply being Slipknot clones and childish; these days a leaner, more mature band stand in front of me – and I am saying that whilst looking into the eyes of a man with bat ears on his mask!
Mushroomhead have accrued a pretty vast back catalogue to draw upon and that allows them to mix up the set list with old and new songs alike. Hearing Solitaire Unravelling and Qwerty for example, is both a joy and a reminder of how they have evolved.
Unfortunately they had also lost a singer fairly recently – for better or worse, Waylon had “left” the band. Despite having three singers, it was very noticeable only having two but to counteract this, the band had fellow singer and friend Jackie LaPonza help them out for a large section of the show. Sporting the same UV paint on her body as the rest of the band and then later a Marie Antoinette style dress and wig, she was a welcome addition to the evening. Both talented and beautiful, she was an unexpected treat.
As for the band themselves, as soon as they made their single file entrance in luminous paint daubed masks, the crowd pops. Having always had a cult following, it was great to see that continuously pumping out strong albums has kept their fan base growing. I personally love a band that puts on a good visual show as well as the music. When I attend a concert, I don’t want to leave feeling like I could have just listened to a live album at home and Mushroomhead will never let that happen. They were completely on point musically and near flawless vocally but it’s far more than that.
The experience of seeing the stage filled with masked men all seemingly doing their own thing whilst also perfectly complementing each other is amazing to watch. The strobes, the smoke and of course the now ubiquitous water drums. They are a simple but genius addition to the set. Being up-lit and topped with water, they create a marvellous spectacle when they are played in the regimented and bombastic method employed here. They also act as a cooling system for the first few rows should they overheat too. Swapping drums and basses the band show their versatility and don’t let anything get stale and blasting through hits like Sun Doesn’t Rise and the more sombre One More Day, the pacing is superb. By the end of most gigs, I’m ready for home but I could have stayed for hours more and just enjoyed the experience.
With all of the senses being bombarded, the crowdsurfing from band and audience members alike, the UV paint, the tremendous set list spanning two decades, the dedication to make an impact and the diehard attitude of the fans, this was a night to remember. It had been 14 years since I had last seen a Mushroomhead show and I hope to God it’s not another 14 until I see them again. The UK has completely embraced this tour and shown that even without AHC on the bill, we want this to happen again soon. So well done Mushroomhead, after such a time away from our shores, you really smashed this tour out of the park.
MushroomheadLondon Electric Ballroom - March 30th 2016
Photographer: Colm Browne