The line to get into The Annex in Madison, Wisconsin, was out the door on a rainy Thursday evening. Before any band has even taken the stage, a buzz is forming amongst the crowd, excited for the show. They press against the barrier that gets them mere inches away from the artists in the intimate, tiered club venue. With the Mushroomhead and Helzapoppin Circus stage setups already filling the space, the opening acts are given minimal space to work with, relegating the singers to the unlit pit in front of the stage, even closer to the fans.
Opening act FleischKrieg immediately gives off Rammstein-inspired vibes, from their merchandise visual style, their stoic and militaristic lead singer, and their crunchy guitar riffs. That’s about where the similarities end, and thankfully so, as it’s hard to adopt such a unique style without appearing like a cheap ripoff. The promising early turnout crowd was already giving their energy back to the artists, and it was easy to tell that the band was enjoying their set, especially interacting with the audience with their limited space. However, they would have benefitted from a unique stage setup complementing their visual style.
The following act, Kurt Deimer, was one that I was unfamiliar with. I wondered if he was a soloist from another band, but instead found that he was an actor featured primarily in horror films, including 2018’s Halloween. I noticed his acting experience, as he seemed incredibly comfortable on stage and was fantastic at playing with the audience and interacting with the crowd. His songs were fun radio rock tunes, but they left a bit to be desired, especially with Kurt’s fantastic baritone speaking voice getting lost in the mix. Above all else, the songs were catchy and had the audience rocking along to the set with Kurt and his talented backing band.
The third act of the night was a bit unconventional for your usual concert tour. Still, Helzapoppin Circus Sideshow is no stranger to performing on tour with various metal bands throughout the years. Ringleader “The Govna” opened the revue, stating that the audience would be seeing a mix of dangerous and mysterious stunts and acts from the traveling performers. Fire, swords, and razor blades were all swallowed by the amazing Willow Lauren, while The Govna returned to the stage throughout to shove various objects into his face, pulling some of them out of other orifices.
Anti-conjuror and Illusionist Dan Sperry, known by many for his numerous television appearances, brought the wows and laughs to the crowd alongside his routines, featuring a floating table and his many doves. The half-man Short E. Dangerously took the show's main event, pulling off the hidden spike trick with the help of a member of the audience. It was an entertaining performance, but the audience's energy dipped with it being placed between musical acts. I would have preferred to see their show on their standalone tour rather than adhere to a strict time slot between other acts.
The crowd is chanting for Mushroomhead to take the stage. As the lights dim, the room starts jumping as the orchestral intro leads into “A Requiem for Tomorrow” and “Seen It All.” Circle pits are going in the small venue almost immediately, and fans push forward to get as close as possible to the signature “water drums” that create the pulsing beats of their tracks and spray water into the air and onto eager fans.
There’s barely room for all of the members on stage, and many take turns moving to the back of the stage to rotate drumming roles. The fans turned up for “Qwerty,” and the vocalists began to surf and walk across the crowd while performing. They hit some of their most popular tracks in the first half of the set, with their female vocalist joining the fray for the show's second half.
Atmosphere and energy certainly excel at their show, and it seems that whether you are a fan of modern Mushroomhead or the Mushroomhead of 30 years ago, there’s something for everyone, and no matter what, it’ll be one hell of a show.