By LEXIE BROEMMER
Local Q writer
QUINCY — What do Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Boston and Kiss have in common? Happy, the lead guitarist for Hairball, a Minnesota-based band specializing in ’80s rock, grew up listening to all of them.
When Happy was young, his father shared his love for Presley by playing songs and movies for him. His father taught him his first chords when he was in first-grade. Happy then started getting albums by the Doobie Brothers and Elton John.
Happy always loved music, but when his dad took him to see Kiss in 1978, he discovered that he didn’t just want to be a listener — he wanted to be a part of the rock ’n’ roll atmosphere.
On Saturday, Hairball will be in concert at the Oakley-Lindsay Center, 300 Civic Center Plaza in Quincy. Quincy band Soul Shaker will open. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online at oakleylindsaycenter.com.
Since the 1978 Kiss concert, Happy, who goes by his stage name, has fulfilled his desire to be a part of the rock world. He’s played in various bands over the years, but he’s most proud of his time with Hairball, which doesn’t just cover ’80s songs but, rather, re-creates them and their artists’ performances of the songs. The band plays music from a wide range of bands and artists, including Twisted Sister, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses and Motley Crue.
When Hairball first came together in 2000, it was more comedic in nature than anything else.
“Hairball kind of started as a light, adult comedy act making tongue-in-cheek fun of some of the characters, changing some of the words and silly costumes,” Happy said. “Slowly, we started not making fun of it and investing a lot into the show and getting into pyrotechnics, buying more lighting, making re-creations much more accurate. Instead of spending $40 on a wig at the Halloween store, all of a sudden we’re spending $1,000 having the costume made.”
Happy said he sees the band’s purpose whenever he looks out in the crowd and sees both young children and their parents singing along to the music together.
“When I look out into an audience and I see that person in their 50s maybe standing next to their son or daughter who may be 8 to 12 years old and I see them singing ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’ ... it makes me feel like we’re doing good work,” he said. “To that older person, it brings them back to high school and that atmosphere that existed. To that kid, AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses and Kiss is like classic rock to them. They know the music.”
While Hairball covers other band’s songs, they prefer not to be referred to as a tribute band.
“Tribute bands don’t travel with semi-trucks and play small arenas. We didn’t write this book, but we read it ten times louder than any tribute band’s ever read it,” Happy said. “A lot of people say we’re note for note or we sound just like this. That’s great. That’s flattering, but we strive for really catching the spirit of the music, and where I think we beat everybody is in the energy of the presentation and what the feeling was back in the day when MTV used to play videos by rock bands and not game shows. We just do it with more blood, sweat (and) tears.”
The band has been together for 17 years now, and Happy said each year has been bigger than the last. Later this year, the band is performing in Canada for the first time. Happy enjoys revisiting towns he and the band have already played several times, but said there’s something special about going somewhere new.
“It’s awfully fun when you go into a new place and they haven’t (seen the show) and they don’t know what to expect and you see the look on their faces when they get served up with this rock ’n’ roll,” he said.
During 2017, Hairball is honoring a different band each month. Last month’s band was Cheap Trick, and this month’s is AC/DC. This simply means that during their shows this month, including the Quincy show, they’ll put a little more emphasis on AC/DC by expanding that set. Still, the band will cover plenty of other bands over the course of the show.
“We’re kind of a smorgasbord, rapid-fire, best of the best, fantasy concert. ... If you don’t like Motley Crue, it morphs into Van Halen in five minutes, and if you don’t like that, it will turn into Queen, and then it will turn into Twisted Sister and Alice Cooper and AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses,” Happy said. “(We will play) every character that has a larger than life persona and whose music has become a part of our life, and if you don’t like that or you don’t understand it, then your parents did an awful job of raising you and you need to seek professional help immediately.”
For more information, visit the Oakley-Lindsay Center or call 217-223-1000.