This Is Mushroomhead

By on May 19, 2016
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Photo-Will Ogburn

Mushroomhead at The Haven in Winter Park, Fl.

I stood in front of the stage, a sense of fear started to creep in. It was the final act of a six-hour show, and the band was already 20 minutes late. The crowd was huge, especially for such a small venue. Adorned with masks, tattoos, and crazy facial hair, they began to chant “Mush-room-head, Mush-room-head”. A man screamed “LET’S GET WET!”

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Photo-Will Ogburn

With a worried look, a photographer turned to me and said, “Wet? We’re gonna get wet? I can’t—”

Screams erupted from the crowd as the sinister-looking band took the stage. Clad in elaborate costumes and masks, each more unique and soulless looking than the last, they emerged to Prokofiev’s Crusaders In Pskov. The foreboding classical track was an omen for things to come.

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Photo-Will Ogburn

Vocalist Jefferey Hatrix strode onto the stage with a wide gait, his iconic mask with two hands glowing in the darkness. The other park of he vocal duo, Jason “J-Mann” Popson wore a Spartan style helmet with a decaying face underneath. Guitarist Ryan Farrell’s mask looked like a cross between a gargoyle and a gremlin, with large ears and teeth. He took more of a playful approach, bobbing his head to make the ears wiggle and embracing the animalistic style of his character. My personal favorite, however, was Rick “Stitch” Thomas. His soulless looking eyes and barbed wire headphones made him unique, but the giant, jagged teeth made him terrifying.

Suddenly, bandmates Roberto Diablo and Stitch Thomas flew out and started banging on the huge drums that sat at the edge of the stage. The mood switched from somber to aggressive, as the band transitioned to “Qwerty”.This was gonna be wild.

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Photo-Will Ogburn

Like some kind of twisted Blue Man Group, these skull-covered drums doused the audience in water with every beat. The crowd instantly turned from weary to ecstatic as a mosh pit broke out in the middle of the small venue. I found myself pinned against the huge wall of speakers, mainly to shield my camera gear from the geysers to my left. There was no pit, no railing, and no security between the band and their adoring fans – they could, and often did, reach out and touch audience members.

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Photo-Will Ogburn

The whole experience reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from the movie 300 that described the battle between the Persians and the Greeks. “Those behind cry, ‘FORWARD!’ Those in front cry, ‘BACK!’”The whole venue was alive, and it moved like an octopus – churning wildly with each beat.

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This kind of venue was perfect for a show like this – no filler or red tape, just a band and their realest fans jamming for hours. Above all else, Mushroomhead cared about their audience. They would often break character for only a second to smile or flash the horns at members of the crowd. There was a sense of community in the fans. As different as they all looked, and as violent as the music was, people looked out for each other amid the chaos.

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Photo-Will Ogburn

The Cleveland natives have been together in some form since ’93, so they’ve had time to test what the people want to hear. This setlist started off strong with another hit, “Sun Doesn’t Rise”, and featured a tour through their eight albums and countless side projects. Each track transitioned seamlessly into the next, as the show felt like one continuous, high-energy mosh. It was never dull, because the bandmates were some of the most active I’ve ever seen – each one of the seven taking a unique approach to engaging the crowd.

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Photo-Will Ogburn

In addition to headlining tracks like “Solitaire/Unraveling”, “Kill Tomorrow”, and “Out of My Mind”, there were also some curveballs. The Hatrix paid tribute to his fallen bandmate John Sekula, as well as the pop music legend himself, by playing Prince’s “When Doves Cry”. Sekula died in 2010 due to heart failure after nearly two decades with Mushroomhead.

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Photo-Will Ogburn

Just as it seemed that the show couldn’t get any crazier, the encore hit. Each member of the band donned an add-on to their established masks, and kicked up the energy to another level. Guitars screamed, water jets exploded from the drums, and out came – a Pink Floyd song? Yes, it was “Empty Spaces” from Floyd’s The Wall. Though far from a standard rendition, it’s always cool to see bands cross eras and subgenres with covers. For the finale, the multi-masked musicians went with a classic, “Born of Desire”. This track took fans all the way back to ’99 for one last hurrah as the clock cleared midnight.

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Photo-Will Ogburn

Mushroomhead was quite possibly my favorite show so far, simply because of the atmosphere. The fans were so engaged, the costumes were sick, and everything felt smooth and natural. Despite over two decades of playing in front of crowds, Mushroomhead’s set didn’t feel in any way scripted. It’s easy to imagine this traveling carnival of wildly painted ghouls touring the country – each night a unique experience. Ask anyone who has been lucky enough to see Mushroomhead and they’ll tell you it’s the show of a lifetime.

For for dates and other info:

http://www.mushroomhead.com/main/

More photos from Will Ogburn:

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Photo-Will Ogburn

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