OTTUMWA — Mike “Happy” Schneider had a dream growing up, and Saturday night, he’ll spend another night living out his dream.
The Hairball guitarist has been with the show for 18 years, and he’s looking forward to what’s ahead for the show in 2020.
“Hairball is celebrating 20 years this year,” he said. “It’s kind of timeless. The kind of music that we do, they play at sporting events to get people pumped up. It’s a childhood dream to be able to play in such a big production.”
The show is returning to Bridge View Center Saturday night and brings a variety of arena rock bands to life. Happy said there are about 12-15 bands the act emulates through the show.
“It grows every year. There hasn’t been a year we haven’t grown and expanded,” he said, with the constant addition of bigger amps, pyrotechnics, video effects and more. “It’s not a spend money to make money philosophy. That stuff happens because we love it.”
In fact, as he enjoyed some time off in New Orleans Tuesday, he said the crew was hard at work implementing some new stuff into shows for this weekend.
But to Happy, what keeps people returning is the show itself. “The showmanship we emulate is the standard,” he said of the performance. “We didn’t write this book; we just read it better than anybody else. It’s fun to watch it unfold, and it’s never the same twice. It keeps it interesting for us and the fans.”
He credits that to the huge catalogue of material Hairball has to work from, including the works of KISS, Van Halen, Motley Crue, Queen, Journey, Aerosmith and more.
“For me, a lot of times, if we have something new to the show, it’s kind of refreshing and fun to do,” Happy said. “Most of the people we emulate have gotten up and sang with Hairball for real. When you play with them, you start to understand why their music is still significant and why it’s lasted so long. It makes you appreciate what it is.”
Part of the appeal of the show, he said, is that there’s is a bit of something for everyone. “We play for a couple of hours. The cool thing about Hairball is that it continually changes in front of your eyes,” Happy said. “If you don’t like KISS, it turns into Journey in five minutes. If you don’t like Journey, it changes to Motley Crue” and on down the line.
Happy’s favorite moments of the show are the opening and closing. When he hears the roar of the crowd as the show is about to start, he knows they’re ready. For the people who have been before, he said, they get excited because they know what’s coming.
As for those who haven’t been before? “It’s exciting to see it on the the face of a first-timer that hasn’t seen the shock and awe of Hairball,” he said. “It’s fun to have that feeling of being immersed in a crowd that is really into what it’s all about.
“It reminds me of my 16-year-old self dreaming of playing in an arena and being part of a big rock show,” he said. “I always try to remember that and let that 16-year-old’s spirit out on stage.”