July 12th, 2009
10:46 AM ET

All Good Festival :: Buckethead

Jarrett Bellini reports from the 13th annual All Good Festival in Masontown, West Virginia

Fifteen minutes before Buckethead was scheduled to play, my friends and I decided to go backstage to see if we might catch a glimpse of the famed metal guitarist who dons a creepy white mask and, yes, a KFC bucket on his head. It’s not just a clever name.


As we stood there in the back, I suppose I was expecting something completely normal – just some dude with a guitar walking up the stairs, only to be handed his mask and bucket before revealing himself to the crowd. “Here’s your bucket. Have a good show.”

However, the quest for seeing the real Buckethead quickly became the weirdest, and, perhaps, most memorable, part of our entire All Good Festival weekend.

Shortly after we arrived backstage, a non-descript SUV pulled up to the loading ramp, and was met by an All Good stage worker. The driver side window rolled down, and a man who might as well have been your dad, spoke to the stage hand in what seemed like a nervous hush. Had there not been this moment of slight tension, the general presence of the SUV would have more or less gone unnoticed.

Trying not to be too obvious, I uncapped my camera and directed it at the car, readying myself for a few hip shots if things got juicy – it was sort of like being in the paparazzi.

For another five minutes, nothing happened. The car just sat there. Then, as we settled back into our Buckethead holding pattern, either from the far side of the car or from somewhere beyond the stage, a man appeared with a mask over his face. It wasn’t the ghostly mask that Buckethead wears on stage, but, rather, a surgical mask.


Our immediate assessment was that this man was either trying to avoid the dust or, maybe, it was really Buckethead trying to keep himself just slightly hidden before going on stage. Either way, we knew that he was somehow involved with the Buckethead performance when he approached the SUV and, through the driver’s window, was handed a white Gibson Les Paul. Unquestionably, this was Buckethead’s axe.

He fitted the guitar with a wireless transmitter, and then returned it to the man inside the SUV – just a little pre-show prep.

It would be five more minutes before everything changed.

In a slight “this is the moment” fury, the surgically masked man opened up the car’s side door. Then, from a hiding position on the floor, covered by a blanket, Buckethead emerged, clad in Chucks, a one-piece jumpsuit, his mask, and the bucket. The guy had seriously been hiding there in that car all along. And it couldn’t have been comfortable. Buckethead is astonishingly tall and skinny, which ruled out my theory that he’s really Warren Haynes in disguise.

The man in the surgical mask helped Buckethead up the stage, holding his shoulders and directing him with both hands. Once he was situated, standing alone in front of the crowd, Buckethead proceeded to hammer away, slaying his guitar to backing music that came from, perhaps, an iPod, a DJ, or maybe Jupiter. The whole thing was so weird – I stopped asking questions.

In the photo pit in front of the stage, there was more press crammed together than I had seen for any other act all weekend. It was like, Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead? Nah… I’m here for the bucket guy.


Be it a fun gimmick or strange alter-ego, whatever it was that inspired this man – this Buckethead – was working. People were absolutely eating it up.

Now, I’m not into metal, but I stood there truly amazed at the performance I was seeing on stage. In actuality, it wasn’t really even metal. It was just… odd. But good. As I turned to my friend Ryan, he said, “This is like a train wreck. I can’t turn away.” Next to him, my other friend, Andrew, said nothing, only allowing his jaw to drop.

The day’s plan for us was to watch one Buckethead song and then head back to camp to cook a quick dinner. However, fifteen minutes into the set, we were still standing there, dinner be damned.

Finally, Ryan tapped my shoulder and mimed eating with a spoon, the international signal for I’m hungry. Later, he would explain, “I felt like one of us had to make a move. Otherwise we would have been there for an hour.”

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Lee M.

    also, you shouldn't leave a Buckethead set for food.

    this was one of the best sets of the whole festival! this and Ben Harper and a few others really caught me.
    plus I was front row the whole time 🙂

    August 17, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lee M.

    Buckethead is for real...
    the bucket and the mask=no gimmick

    it's all real. I'm a true believer that he really is an insane (yet unquestionably/inhumanely talented) man.

    did you know when he recorded with Guns N' Roses he required that the studio be turned into a chicken coop complete with the animal feces on the ground :/
    do whatever you have to do to keep him happy so he can continue making the most unique music I've heard since Frank Zappa!
    (for the record, I like Buckethead better than Zappa)

    August 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DoctorPrincess

    Congratulations. You've managed to write an article that only interests Buckethead fans... and simultaneously infuriates them. Nice angle.

    August 8, 2009 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jenimatic

    As a long time Buckethead fan, and student of music, it scares me that a music journalist would choose to go eat slop over bearing witness to a man that embodies the rawest expression of musical talent there is out there today. Maybe that is why popular music resides in such a heap of disgrace. You spent more time trying to get a picture of him without his mask than you did listening to his music. That's perfect. It says it all right there.

    August 6, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. soothsayer2231

    This show was top notch Bucket worked the crowd with more energy and Mjacksonesque dancing than I had witnessed in previous shows...his set list was average but the sweat dripping from his mask told the tale as he stared down the set managers and kept playing despite clearly going over set time....Amazing Guitar player...

    July 17, 2009 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. John

    First of all, if you have ever heard Warren Haynes OR Buckethead play you'd already know they're not the same person, since they play absolutely NOTHING alike. Secondly, 'Metal' would describe Buckethead's music as much as the word 'red' describes a pack of m&m's. You're a music journalist????

    July 16, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. kpwxyz


    go to tdrs.com for a great selection of Buckethead cd's

    July 15, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. toymachine

    suckithead wow how original.

    July 15, 2009 at 6:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. kevin

    I must say I was disappointed in Buckethead's performance. Overall, it was a good set, but I just couldn't get into it. The other thing that really made me lose interest was the fact that he had to replay the horrible circus-esque song over and over for him to hand out the toys. Maybe it was a different show for the people up front, but from where I was standing, I heard many people yell out "suckithead" and booing. I thought this was a little uncalled for, but it just shows that I wasn't the only person disappointed with his performance.

    July 14, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. roberts

    a wizard, a true star....!??
    nah, ...it's Buckethead.
    yeah, i listen to Buckethead ...
    his cd 's are hard to find, but everytime i see one i immediately buy it.
    i recommend this art to others / he has a message.
    it's the message of hope....the hope, that yeah, there are still original artists out there in a sea of minimal absolutism and elevated corporate top 40 in every frickin' store you go to...

    July 14, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. murdoc666

    Buckethead wasn't handing out trash, he hands out toys at everyone of his shows, handed me a star wars galatic heros action figure at All Good

    July 14, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. russ

    buckethead was so great. how about him giving out trash at the end? everyone thought it would be buckethead stickers or cd's.... but no. just a big bag of trash for the fans. what a statement.

    July 14, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. danman

    Buckethead is a living legend. No one on the planet plays like he does. The deli creeps in the early 90's were fabulous.

    July 14, 2009 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. toymachine

    Buckethead > food

    you fail

    July 14, 2009 at 4:00 am | Report abuse |

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