Buckethead: Gimmick or Guitar God?

Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock (phatphlogblog.blogspot.com)

At what point does the gimmick overshadow the performance? The obvious answer is Buckethead. The man is an amazing guitarist but something is not right in this world. The idea a performer who dons a KFC chicken bucket on his head for a concert has always intrigued me, and some of his side projects such as Colonel Claypool’s Bernie Bucket of Brains have been huge successes. However his performance last weekend in Fort Collins simply left me perplexed. From his robotic dancing, to his nunchuck display, to the fact the he performed with an iPod rather than a band all added to my confusion. Going into the show I was ready to be blown away, despite rumblings of disgruntled fans from the previous night’s show at The Gothic. Buckethead had had some sound issues and some missed cues in Denver but I was still trying to be positive for the show in Fort Collins. It did go off without a hitch technically but that was the least of my issues with the show.

First, we missed Brian Wolff who has been touring with Buckethead. Brian is the tuba player from the now defunct electronic rock band Drums and Tuba. I grew up catching these guys and was sorry to miss his solo performance. The issue was that his set was over before 10:15 PM and Buckethead didn’t go on until almost midnight. Something is wrong with that. Who thinks that it’s okay to have an hour and forty-five minute set break? It most definitely is not. A fan informed me that the reason was that he always stays an hour away from the venue so as to keep people aloof about who he is. Well let me go ahead and spoil it, his name is Brian Carroll, from California. He’s just a dude that shreds, so I don’t understand all the theatrics related to concealing his identity.

I made my way down to front right around 10:30 PM to the disgust of many angry fans that were simply rude to me. I informed them (as I always do) that I’m there to take pictures and then I would be on my way. I found a spot dead center in the third row and waited. The fans were as dedicated as any group of people I’ve encountered. Some had shown up as early as 7:00 PM to get a spot on the rail. It’s impressive to see that kind of following for anyone who plays live. It was an incredibly diverse crowd too. Everyone from hippie to metal head was in attendance at the Aggie.

So when Buckethead finally made it onstage the crowd was in a tizzy, it took all of about 30 seconds for the front rows to disintegrate into a giant mosh pit. I held on tightly to my camera as some of the fans around me attempted to hold back the sea of people. It was all for naught. I got a few pictures and that was it. I was pushed out. Not only that, but most of the people who had been waiting for hours to see their hero were also in the back by the second or third song. At that point I made my way upstairs where Scoo had graciously given me refuge. I was finally able to focus on the music and in all honesty Buckethead is a hell of a guitarist. His ability to mash the fret board and squeeze-in an insane amount of notes is nothing short of awe inspiring. Going from guitar to bass he is one of the most musically proficient individuals ever to perform live.

There was a carnival-like atmosphere as Buckethead reached into his giant sack mid-set to disperse random toys to the crowd. Afterwards, he jammed on the bass before going back to his guitar for a face-melting solo. He ended that jam with the only song I recognized which was a note for note tease of Hendrix’s version of “The Star Spangled Banner”. It was impressive to see, but I couldn’t get over the foam hands and the nunchucks. What was the point? And why the hell didn’t he bring a band with him? Who wouldn’t want to play in Buckethead’s band? It would be easy to assemble a group of talented musicians that would follow his every lead. In the end, I just tried to enjoy myself as these questions swirled around my head. The show ended as quickly as it began with Buckethead heading backstage and out into the darkness of the night. Buckethead is an amazing musician with far too much distracting from his playing.



  1. This is approximately 1000x better than anything J-man has ever written. Good work Mr. Stock.

  2. Nick does great work! We're very fortunate to have him as a part of MusicMarauders.


  3. First off no one can work with Buckethead on a consistent basis without getting frustrated with his personality, that is why you don't see a band with him. No one can build chemistry with him because they have no idea what is coming next. Also all the songs he plays he wrote every single part to. The bass line, the multiple drums, the rhythm guitar, and then plays the lead at the shows. It is easier for someone of his nature to work like that then trying to tell people his every weird need. The fact that the only song you knew was the Hendrix cover says something about your Buckethead knowledge. Finally, to your point about it being a Gimmick... These little things like give out toys and dancing our part of his showmanship, what is he to entertaining for you? You also forgot the part about being kicked out of Guns N' Roses for stealing the show.

  4. While I appreciate the honesty on your feelings during the show, these seem like annoyances with your night more than anything directly related to Buckethead, it was a good read but I would have liked to hear more about the music... Just sayin... And 1st anonymous way to obviously jump from jambase and flame on MM. Find something better to do with your time than anonymously attacking J-Man, JEEZ.

  5. For the record Nick I enjoy your work on MM!

  6. "First off no one can work with Buckethead on a consistent basis without getting frustrated with his personality, that is why you don't see a band with him."

    -Incorrect. I know a handful of cats who have played with Brian and they have had nothing but good things to say about him.

    "No one can build chemistry with him because they have no idea what is coming next."

    -I disagree. His parts are pretty arranged and consistent. You should check out jazz for arrangement challenges.

    "The fact that the only song you knew was the Hendrix cover says something about your Buckethead knowledge."

    -This elitist sentiment in your statement is pretty weak. Where I do enjoy ready reviews from knowledgeable super-fans, I often enjoy reviews from a fresh perspective. It's easier for readers to relate to someone who is on their level of music knowledge about a specific band or topic.

    "Finally, to your point about it being a Gimmick... These little things like give out toys and dancing our part of his showmanship, what is he to entertaining for you?"

    -I have been seeing Buckethead for about ten years and I agree with Nick, his act is a straight gimmick. He is getting beyond stale and should focus on new material and acts.


  7. Well let me say firstly thank you to everyone for the feedback from everyone. Without feedback it's hard to improve. Secondly, it is truthful that, that was my first Buckethead show. I do have a wide breath of experience seeing live music and these are only one person's opinions. Thank you to J-man for standing up for me, I trust his skill as a writer and curator of my content. In the future I will not hold back my initial impression of any live music experience. If you read my posts, the vast majority of writing are positive mainly because I attend what I like. When a band or performer falls short it's my job to call it like I see it. I stand by my review and once again thank to everyone for taking the time to comment, it means a lot.

  8. Im not sure gimmick is the right word....when I think gimmicky I think of made up instruments (That 1 Guy, Dr Didg etc) I will say it sounds like Buckethead has lost his shtick. Play with Les, play with the Deli Creeps, shit play with the chick from Evanescence I really don't care but a guitarist alone is just that...alone.
    Maybe its the fact that his solo shows bore people, I cant say because I havent seen him yet but I am somewhat schooled in his material. I have seen numerous artists in both band and solo atmospheres and just about every time I tend to get a tad restless when seeing said person solo (Keller, Dave Matthews) so it might be true with Bucket.

    Slunk you very much

  9. Jon, I disagree. Gimmick is the perfect word...

    Gimmick: An ingenious or novel device, scheme, or stratagem, especially one designed to attract attention or increase appeal.

  10. Buckethead isn't completely right. I've been a fan for a long time, and I never miss a show when he is in the area. His strange persona most likely attracts as many fans as it dissuades so I don't think there is any logical explanation for it, other than that he is someone who is very afraid of being in the public eye. He seems like a great person, generous, forthcoming, and he loves his fans. I think he has a slight autistic trend that keeps him from truly opening up, and can anyone blame him? Anyhow, he is one of the best live guitarists ever, and he can do whatever he wants, both with his performance, and with the guitar. Appreciate a unique individual and master of his craft.

  11. Precisely the point!!! "Appreciate a unique individual and master of his craft"

  12. I agree, its almost, almost ridiculous. But when this kid plays its electric. The carnival atmosphere almost mocks what he's doing. Its far from a sorbet between courses, it takes focus off of the brilliance of his talent. I can vision a silent crowd at the end of one of his sets to their awe...if he ever gets around to it. There are those that play the role and those that are born the role, this kid may have it.

  13. ^^^^^Kid??? Lol. Buckethead was born May 13th, 1969. He's hardly a kid.

  14. Isn't the world just a bit more colorful with Buckethead?

  15. People said this about Yngwie but why change what has worked? Some artists feed off their fans and some feed off what they write. Why the bucket and mask? It feeds the personae and maybe he has stage fright and the props help him perform in front of a crowd.

  16. I hate when people judge him by the things he's playing around with like in this video..he is just messing around trust me.. if you want to listen to something amazing get this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF9UMona74w
    20 years old and it still brings tears in my eyes... and also.. its live, just one of a kind. Enjoy.


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