Even after 20 years, Hairball’s musical productions are still getting bigger.
“We’re excited about some big things happening,” said Michael Schneider, a longtime Hairball member who is commonly known as Happy.
The group spent a bunch of money on new video attractions and stage pieces that “are being built right now, as we speak,” Happy said during a phone interview with The Independent. Not only is the stage becoming more elaborate, but the group is adding new music, including several songs by Queen.
Happy was speaking on a bus bound for Waterloo, Iowa. The group, which plays arena rock of the 1980s and ’70s, will perform in Grand Island on Friday night.
Ever since he saw KISS perform for the first time as a kid, he has “loved nothing more than seeing a huge presentation. And I love to be surprised.”
So that’s a big motivation for Hairball.
“We throw the kitchen sink in there, and we just bought a couple new kitchen sinks to bring with us,” Happy said.
“We’re always investing more into it and betting on ourselves,” he said.
Earlier, he said, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”
For Hairball, growth has been steady over the last two decades.
“Hairball has never had a year where we’ve declined,” Happy said. “Every year has been growth, and I’m expecting a lot of it in this 20th year.”
Until Friday arrives, a general admission ticket for Hairball is $20, which is a reasonable price. How does the group make money selling $20 tickets?
“Well, that’s because there’s a whole bunch of people that show up,” said Happy, who believes that “we’re one of the best deals out there.”
Even charging reasonable prices, the band usually blows off “a few thousand dollars in pyrotechnic devices” during the night.
Hairball, he said, presents a smörgåsbord of music.
“If you don’t like KISS, give it five minutes and it turns into Van Halen,” he said. Before long, the group plays Motley Crue, AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Journey or Twisted Sister.
Happy, who is Hairball’s lead guitarist, has been back with the group for almost a year. He was battling cancer but is now in remission.
The summer of 2018 was hard for Hairball because the band “had to use fill-ins,” he said. Carrying on without him taxed the band’s energy.
Between the band and the crew, the Hairball company totals 14 or 15 people, including two drivers. The group, which has three lead singers, is based in Minnesota.
Hairball sometimes performs the music of Prince. A lot of people who like Van Halen and KISS are also fond of Prince.
Plus, being from Minneapolis, “so many people from within our organization” worked with Prince, Happy said. “There’s a lot of personal feelings there, too.”
Sometimes, the vocalist who impersonates Prince the best is with the group, and sometimes he’s not.
But Hairball has a lot of talent, he said. If somebody comes down with bronchitis, other people can step up to do the work.
What Happy really likes to see at a Hairball concert is a 50-year-old standing next to an 8- or 10-year-old kid, “and they’re both singing the chorus to a song together.”
The band is doing good work in getting people face-to-face, rather than on their phones, he said. It’s good to know the band can “still get a few thousand people to come and see a live event happening with real guitars and real drums,” where “real magic” occurs instead of something programmed.
Hairball plays 120 to 130 shows a year.
Initially, the band focused on the Midwest. But every year, the group travels more.
“We’ve been to every coast and border,” Happy said.
The group will perform in North Carolina and Florida in the near future. After Grand Island, it goes to Denver.
The band has played Vegas multiple times, as well as Mexico and Canada. A few years ago, Hairball went to England as part of a visit to London by the Minnesota Vikings.
The group has had calls from Japan. For those trips to work out, Hairball would have had to cancel shows, and the band didn’t want to do that.
So there are still other lands and planets to conquer.
“I can see us playing on the moon eventually,” Happy said.