Music News & Reviews

Hairball gives the ’80s the big-hair treatment

For the first time in Wichita, Def Leppard, KISS, AC/DC, and Alice Cooper will perform together all in one high-intensity concert.

Well, sort of.

The Minnesota-based ’80s tribute band Hairball recreates more than 20 legendary rock bands by using elaborate costumes, props, and pyrotechnics. The group performs at the Cotillion on Friday.

“If you don’t like Queen, give it two minutes, and it will change to Journey,” said Mike Schneider, known to his fans as “Happy,” who is the band’s lead guitarist. “If you don’t like Journey, wait two more minutes, and it will change to AC/DC.”

To clarify, Hairball is more than your average 80s-rock cover band, Schneider said. The group provides a journey back to the time of hair bands for fans yearning to experience their favorite songs in concert.

Hairball began as a joke

“Hairball is a controlled chaos,” Schneider said in a recent phone interview. “The splendor of each performance is a result of the band’s intensity as well as their spontaneity in the rock n’ roll theater.”

Members of the group study music videos to accurately capture each singer’s distinct characteristics, Schneider said. Vocalists Bobby Jensen, Kris Voxx and Joe Dandy take turns leading the band and recreating songs by Poison, KISS, Motley Crue, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Twisted Sister and more. During a two-hour show, fans will hear an average of two songs each from 15 to 20 different band recreations.

Some of the more elaborate costumes, such as Gene Simmons’ makeup for KISS, are worked on up to two hours before show time, Schneider said.

“The costume changes are like a phone booth transformation with Superman emerging from the other side,” he said.

Schneider described the band’s plethora of costumes and props— including Twisted Sister’s giant hair to Alice Cooper’s python and guillotine — as “the weapons of what we do in a semi truck of continuously growing props.”

Hairball’s fan base stretches several generations, Schneider said. Parents who saw many of these bands during their prime are now able to share the experience with their kids.

“The kids know the songs and get rowdy,” said Schneider, adding that the band keeps its performance cleaner than the bands its imitating did, meaning the show is okay for kids.

Hairball began as a group of self-described adolescents who never grew up. “We grew up playing these songs in high school.” Schneider said. “We love dressing up for Halloween. Some things never change.”

Fans who visit will be treated to a colorful, loud, outrageous journey back in time.

“It’s written in the Bible somewhere,” Schneider said, “that rock and roll should have big boots and nail polish.”