As the music industry changes in the face of the digital revolution, live performances are beginning to become more important to an artist’s income. Therefore, good gigging is a vital component to any artist’s repertoire. For some artists, the live performance and their visual display is a greater part of them than their music. Others prefer to have more sombre outings, as they wish their sounds and not the sights to be the most important sensations.
Most memorably, some artists go into hyper-drive, enlisting all their mums and nans to make the greatest and most ambitious get-ups in human history. Everyone knows about Daft Punk and Lady Gaga, but here a few artists who so far haven’t received the return in eyeballs they were hoping to get from their outlandish costumes.
Some musicians have a passion for fashion, and others… well they have a passion for something else. Everyone loves a good costume and these five bands take it to the next level.
Buckethead, aka Brian Carroll, is an American guitarist who wears a bucket on his head, along with an expressionless white mask over his face. Pretty simple, but after the slightest research one gets the sense that Buckethead is a single-minded savant; his expressionless white mask becomes more foreboding.
Having played almost everywhere – he’s been around for 30 years now – and with almost everyone, most notably Guns n’ Roses, Buckethead has a rather extensive CV. He’s dabbled in almost every genre of rock and metal (albeit the less extreme half), and is considered to be one of the best modern guitarists around.
On top of that, and this absolute boggles the mind, Buckethead this year so far has released 99 solo albums – see what was meant by savant – as well as appearing on probably something like 1,000,000 more albums over his lifetime. It seems like there’s a lot going on in that head under the bucket.
The Locust are a band that, as their name might suggest, dress up in four matching insect-inspired costumes. This band has a predilection for eclecticism that goes beyond just this. They play a collection of extreme punk and metal, spliced with experimental rock (they started out as a powerviolence band), which while it isn’t as generally as exciting as their outfits, is still a bit exciting. They also play with the drums in the front, the drummer joining the other members in a line at the front of the stage.
On top of that, in between short, screamy songs about either not much in particular or some heavy social issue, The Locust sometimes interrupt their set to play out-of-the-blue new wave-ness, momentarily jumping in and partying with the crowd.
Many artists who wear costumes and masks do it for the anonymity, and The Residents are no exception. Having existed since 1969 – that’s 46 years ago – it’s hard to say if the same people who started are still with it.
This band’s get-up is hard to pin down, but the huge, single eyes they don (or have donned in the past) have become their signature dress. The Residents go further than just their costumes, becoming almost brutally erratic in their artistic output. The Residents are more accurately labelled as an art collective, and to that point they’ve released loads of different artworks, extending to music videos and various multimedia projects. But music is their day job, and it’s as weird as they are visually, tapping into all sorts of sounds and making up their own songwriting unconventions, and coming out with some extreme avant-garde art rock.
Trust the Japanese to be better at being weird than everyone else. Peelander Z is a punk band where the members dress up in colour-coded uniforms (and call themselves Peelander Green, Peelander Yellow, etc) with numerous goggles and other weird paraphernalia, sort of like those Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, amongst other strange things.
It’s pretty easy to get the gist of this band when they have song titles like Ninja High School and S.T.E.A.K.; it helps when these weird bands are just weird on the weekend and don’t devote themselves to the lifestyle. When Peelander Blue left, he revealed the reasons (“Unfortunately, I have to leave the earth and go back to the P-Planet. The king of P-Planet, P-King will be retiring and I have to take the crown because I’m a prince of P-Planet”); in real life, he was just getting married and housebound.
Whilst The Locust and Buckethead have dabbled in the vast tent of metal, Portal have pushed everything to 11. Whilst most death metal (now including Parkway Drive, apparently!!!!) feature grown men trying to sound scary singing about mutilation and the like, they fail because they sound like a caricature of a pig. Ditto for black metal bands, although replace mutilation with Satan, and they sound like caricatures of pigs with painted faces.
Portal on the other hand, is properly intimidating. The four members (who aren’t the singer) are covered in all black and wear executioners’ shrouds, complete with a rope tied around and dangling from their necks. The singer – called The Curator – meanwhile wears numerous different get ups, at times wearing an Edwardian clock on his head and others blacked papal headgear and wearing ghoulish widower’s clothing.
Couple that with the band’s dense, raw sound and The Curator’s guttural tones, Portal seems to have nailed horror as live performance. Although when you remind yourself that they’re all grown men sweating like pigs under those costumes, it sort of ruins it.