Who Were Those Masked Men? Why, Mushroomhead

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Mushroomhead, The Family Ruin Scout Bar January 20, 2015

There is a stigma attached to fans of bands who paint their faces or wear masks (see Tuesday's article posted on types of fans yesterday) and those who follow the alt-metal group Mushroomhead are no exception. But after seeing the band for a second time, there is something else to take away from their following -- these fans are connected and truly care about each other.

So you know the cast of characters: J Mann, Jeffrey Nothing and Waylon provide vocals; Shmotz is on keyboard, Skinny takes care of the drum kit; Diablo and Stitch play percussion and other instruments; and Dr. F handles lead-guitar duty. Mushroomhead's artistry continues to evolve, as the crew comes up with a new theme for their masks and attire for each album cycle.

Tuesday night they crept onto Scout Bar's foggy stage in the dark while creepy classical music churned out over the PA. Once all nine members were in their places, they broke into one of their newest songs, "QWERTY," two members keeping a steady marching beat on water drums and Skinny's elaborate kit.

When the strobe lights flashed and the set was fully revealed, it seemed as though these madmen had slaughtered the Blue Man Group and stolen some of their gear. The double bass drum was decorated with spinners -- that's right, spinners, as in the rims seen on Bun B's ride. These rims were fluorescent yellow and pink to shine in the black light.

Mushroomhead has seven albums that span more than 20 years, amassing a huge catalog to pull from for live shows. Tuesday's set was heavy on promoting their latest, last year's The Righteous & the Butterfly. Founding member J Mann returned to the lineup for the album after leaving the band for several years. Interestingly, he did not replace anyone in the group; they only absorbed another member. Nine high-energy musicians on a small stage is a sight to behold, and it was often difficult to keep track of everyone and their actions, as things seemed to happen all at once.

Mushroomhead's hypermelodic but heavy music had most of Scout Bar moshing and several folks crowd-surfing over the barricade, where staff kept the fans safe from crashing to the concrete floor. Near the front of the stage, though, there was a typical suburban family of five: a mom and a dad, holding their three young daughters.

By the second song, they were being pushed around by the sway of the crowd. Waylon witnessed the youngest girl's distress and was able to have security move them to a small private viewing area to the right of the stage. He checked on them several times through out the show, like Frankenstein's monster talking to the little girl that gives him the pretty daisy by the lake. He brought her out for the last song where, she smiled at the crowd and blew kisses.

Story continues on the next page.

A fan brought a sign that said "RIP Steve Cash," and two of the painted men motioned for it as soon as they recognized it. J Mann raised it up and spoke about the solidarity of the Mushroomhead family -- specifically, the sign refers to the passing of Cash, an uberfan who succumbed to cancer this past Saturday. He was from California, the band said, but people in Texas still cared about him.

Think what you will about Mushroomhead's fans, but the band's loyal base genuinely cares for and stands up for one another.

Opening the show was definitely a band to keep on your radar, the Family Ruin from the UK. The machine-gun blasts of the drums combined with face-melting guitar riffs were awesome in and of themselves, but when adding the deep groove of the bass and singer Johnny Mennell's large vocal range, there is absolute stardom in the works for this crew; single "Let's Go," from debut album Dearly Departed, is getting some solid airplay on Sirius/XM Radio.

The band was restricted by Mushroomhead's oversized equipment at the front of the stage, which limited their ability to move around, but nonetheless, Mennell worked the crowd like he had been on the scene for more than a decade. This band would thrive with crowds in packed arenas -- they're on the heavy side, but definitely melodic enough to expect more singles in heavy rotation on the alt-rock stations.

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