In 2016, I was able to go see Buckethead. It was amazing and in my list of top 5 shows of ALL time. It was everything a show should be. Fantastic music, toys, robot dancing, nun-chucks… it had it all.
This year he returned and I got my tickets the second I learned he was coming back to Madison.
My friend Josh had been getting into him since I saw him last time and wanted to go with this time. I was excited to see his mind blown by the event, just like mine had the first time. It is an experience.
This time I decided to create something to take and try to offer at toy time. Yes, during one part of the show Buckethead gives toys to the crowd. Some people bring stuff to give or leave as gifts. I made a vinyl cutting of Buckethead!
I doubted that he would take it, but you never know. At least I thought it was something I could offer that was unique.
The day of the show I went early to get in line to be down front. By the time I got there I was about the 25th person in line! I was worried that I wouldn’t get my spot! The waiting crowd was a real mix, there were several kids too.
and yes… Art Paul was there singing “This Little Light of Mine” and “Purple Bananas”.
At least while I waited I was able to get a unrushed marquee shot.
When the line finally started filtering in and got wanded and got bracelets I immediately went down front. Full! There was about a shoulders worth of space between the guy leaning against the speaker stack on the right and the two guys next to him, so I glommed onto that space and tried to be as big as possible. I put my cutting on the stage since my hand was cramping holding on to it.
While trying to establish myself as the rightful owner of the sliver of space at stage front I talked with the guy at the speaker stack, and the 2 dudes to my right. None of them had seen Buckethead before! We chatted a bit about the Buckethead experience. One of the dudes on the right brought a vintage yo-yo to offer up. So at least they had an idea of what they were in for.
The crowd was filling in fast behind me and the wait didn’t seem too bad. Josh was texting me that he was close, then he was in line… and finally, with just enough room to make his way to my spot, he arrived. With beer!
We were ready!
So we waited and chatted and drank and at about 9:20 the music/old movie clips intro began. The crowd went nuts. But a respectful nuts. Soon, the roadie from last year and Buckethead came out to howls and cheers. After a minute or so to make some adjustments and get hooked up…
and then it began.
I was transfixed through the first song and when I finally looked back to see Josh’s face, he was smiling. Booyah! I was worried for myself, that the newness was a one time thing and that maybe I wouldn’t like it as much this time.
Wrong! It was amazing.
Buckethead was shredding up there.
My vantage point this time was over and between heads for most pictures, but I got a handful of good shots. I try not to go overboard with taking pictures and enjoy the show, but in the end I snapped about 250! You have to since he moves so much. About 35 actually came out. The lighting is not great for my little Coolpix. I got enough though to remind me how ridiculously awesome it was.
AND… I got a cool shot of my vinyl cutting and Buckethead in almost the same pose!
although to be fair, he is almost always in that pose. Ha ha.
Once again, on paper Buckethead sounds like a silly show, but the music and the scene just work, it is an unforgettable event and if he comes to town again… I’m there.
He played songs that I remember from the first show and some stuff that I didn’t recognize, but it was all great. The crowd was standing agape most of the show, just taking it in, phone filming and wooing at the top of their lungs.
Then it was nun-chuck time.
and robot dancing!
Then back to the guitar and more shredding. Ugh see the blob in the lower right of my pictures? At least it isn’t as bad as my Manson pictures.
To explain the way Buckethead plays is like an encyclopedia of techniques. He does notes, fingerpopping like a bass, there are pedals galore and he his fingers are going so fast it seems unreal that he is actually playing what you are hearing. It is crazy. He plays fast and hard, then plays something soft and then makes it sound like old space TV show lasers firing and the crowd loves it all. At that point the place seemed full. We had to defend our spot a few times as people tried to work their way forward, but for the most part it was not an issue. The speaker cabinet guy and the 2 guys on the right had accepted me and if I stood sideways, I WAS stage front.
Then it was the moment of truth. The roadie brought out the bag of toys and Buckethead began handing out items. I took the vinyl cutting and Josh’s item (a picture of Buckethead with drawing and letter from his son Emerson) and moved them out for offering. The guy on my right slid out the yo-yo too.
Buckethead had to step over the vinyl cutting/Josh envelope and yo-yo to get to the stage front on our side and the roadie moved all 3 items to a corner of the stage.
At any rate… he was right there in front of me! He gave me a Chutes and Ladders game. Another prized concert token for my collection.
Last time I got Hello Kitty Halloween stickers and a Star Wars Tie Fighter ornament. Not exactly a set list, but both are in my music room even today.
Josh got glow in the dark stars. Now he is indoctrinated in the Buckethead toy time.
After that, back to the music.
Josh had been trying to get some video between everyone’s heads.
I swapped spots with him so that he had a better vantage point. By that time I had like hundreds of pictures. I was trying to share the wealth of stage front.
Eventually as the drunkenness factor crept in, people were crowding in a bit more, jockeying and Josh got weaseled in on and we both lost our primo sideways stage front spot, but I figured the show must be getting on towards the end, so I let it happen.
Then IT happened.
Those of you familiar with Buckethead know that his custom made guitar has 2 red buttons that tweak the sound, one upper body and one lower. I’ll repeat a picture from above that shows them.
He uses these button almost like they are another instrument, playing the button with one hand while fretting with the other, it’s really cool to see.
Here is some video that was uploaded from that very night. You can see how he uses the button and the way his fingers are ridiculously fast. Props to TatumHalla for this clip.
The IT that happened was that Buckethead went to the other side of the stage and held his guitar out to the front row and let them hit the button while he worked the frets. It was unbelievable!
When everyone realized what was going on any type of space down front was swallowed up. Josh was moved back and I was at the corner of the speaker cabinet, out of reach. I was bummed. However, as luck would have it, Josh and I BOTH got to use Buckethead’s button for a second. When he got over to our side and had let everyone directly in front use the button Josh reached out over the crowd and was able to get his hand far enough forward to work it for a moment.
WHERE WAS MY HEAD?! That would have been an amazing photo, sadly I was so in amazement over what was happening it didn’t even occur to me to try to get a shot of him playing Buckethead’s button. Sigh. Sorry Josh.
I knew I was out of reach and resigned myself to missing it when to my surprise, Buckethead spotted 2 guys way out of range that were wearing buckets. He pointed at them and made it clear that they should pass their buckets up. While he was doing that he put the guitar down on the speaker stand. It was right there by me, closer than arms reach and you’re damn right, I played it!
Bah bah bbbah bah bah, bah bah bbbah bah bah, bbbbbbah bbah bah.
It was somewhat magical.
He took the guys buckets and put each one’s on top of his bucket for a moment and then passed them back. I owe my moment of touching/playing Buckethead’s guitar to them. Next show I wear a bucket. Mark my words.
Then Buckethead played Soothsayer, which we all knew was the final song. If you have never heard it you should check it out. Not sure about the video, but the song is the important thing:
It was a spectacular performance, full of highs and lows and gut wrenching shredding throughout. It is the song I think of when I think of Buckethead. During that whole song I tried to get a good shot of just his bucket and mask.
It is such a strange phenomenon, looking at his emotionless mask and hearing the music which is packed with emotion and finality. It is what makes seeing Buckethead live so amazing. You can listen to the Pike’s and CD’s and enjoy the music, but seeing him do it… it adds something to the music you can only sense standing right in front of him.
I hardly believe it myself, but, seeing Buckethead the second time might even have been better than the first time.
Come back to Madison SOON !