Knoxville — Hairball front man, Happy, describes his band as a group of guys who never grew out of their love of rock and roll, the concert atmosphere and having nothing but a good time. The band's audiences include people of all ages, and he's hoping that Marion County is ready to party with him during the fair.
Hairball is a unique arena rock cover band with the ability to seamlessly transform itself into some of the top entertainers of the era, and they are coming to the Marion County Fair on Friday, July 12, at 8 p.m. The band's known covers include Kiss, Poison, Def Leppard, Guns and Roses, Alice Cooper, Journey and many more.
Happy described the show the band is bringing to Knoxville as a "big rock and roll fantasy," with plenty of magic and big pyrotechnics. It is a fast-paced celebration of arena rock that will likely include several acts, most from the 1980s, in one night.
"We like to be spontaneous," Happy said.
The band is known for playing with the fans, and to the fans. Happy has been known to sling a guitar around a fan and pull him or her on stage to strum the guitar for a few bars. Jumping into the audience has also been known to happen. Happy describes the things the band does as the same as when they were in high school.
"It's still fun and it's still cool," Happy said. The concert will take fans back to the era when MTV still played music videos, according to Happy. The band wants to give people the feeling they had in those days of dressing up, going to a concert and having a great time.
"It's about getting off the Internet for a minute and coming face to face with it," Happy said.
Happy said, at most shows, he feels a sense of unity with the audience, and among audience members. People have been known to drive several hours to see Hairball perform. Others come back for multiple concerts.
Happy became involved with Hairball after playing in a band in Atlanta. He was a member of Fozzy, a band led by pro wrestler Chris Jericho. Hairball started out as a "joke," in which band members dressed up like these old acts and played. Over time, though, the attitude changed. The band felt they had something special when they saw how much their audiences enjoyed being taken back to the era. The band was also simply having fun.
"It is rock and roll," Happy said. "Why overthink it?"
Evolution of the band included moving on from pyrotechnics consisting of "gun powder in a coffee can" and Halloween costumes, to thousands of dollars worth of firepower and custom outfits.
Happy was inspired to become a musician. As a teenager, he used to sneak into a nearby venue. He watched crews set up for shows. He was eager to hear Eddie Van Halen play whatever came across the guitarist's fingers.
"I just never forgot the teenage version of Happy who was so inspired (by these musicians)," Happy said. The experiences made him want to be acknowledged and earn the respect of his fellow guitar players.
"I think about that every time I pull into a town," Happy said.
He and the band have earned respect of those they emulate. At a concert in SIoux Falls, S.D., Hairball was joined by Gene Simmons of Kiss and Vince Neil of Motley Crue on stage. Happy also took the advice of those who have come before him.
"They would say, 'Give them the biggest show you can every time,'" Happy said. "'Have fun and be big.'"
The length and the quality of the Marion County Fair show will depend on the audience. Most shows last over two hours. The band's spontaneous nature also precludes him from discussing a set list prior to the show.
"We play what feels good," Happy said.
Families can also be assured of a "clean" show. Happy believes that Hairball's shows are edgy, aggressive and good enough without the need of profanity and other unseemly things. Though Hairball focuses on a particular era of rock and roll, the band's typical audience ranges from "the cradle to the grave," according to Happy.
Happy said that even if you are 50 years old, and you want to bring your 12-year-old child, you will both have fun. He has seen countless young people, who were not even born when these bands were at their peak, recite the lyrics of songs such as "Sweet Child of Mine," right along with Hairball. You will be entertained, Happy said.
"It's nothing but a good time," Happy said.
Tickets are on sale now at http://www.knoxvilleraceway.com or by calling 641-842-5431. They are $15 in advance for adults, $10 for children. Prices increase the day of the event. Gates open for the concert at 3 p.m. July 12 and the concert begins at 8 p.m.