What makes a Hairball show so great? It's 'rock 'n' roll church.'

The band Hairball, which performs arena rock covers, is like rock 'n' roll church, said one member.
Courtney Crowder
Des Moines Register

Musician Dave Moody and the rest of his Hairball bandmates are on a mission to save souls.

And their gospel is rock ‘n’ roll and hair spray.

“I want you to not walk away after our show, I want you to float away,” he says of the arena rock cover spectacular. “Because this is rock ‘n’ roll church, and the word will be preached.”

Moody and the rest of uber-popular Hairball were scheduled to play the Susan Knapp Amphitheater at the Iowa State Fair Monday and Tuesdayfor free. Last year, the audience at their shows ― which include all the antics, power ballads and pyrotechnics that marked beloved 1980s music ― rivaled some of the Grandstand acts.

“It's everybody just getting their teeth and everybody just losing their teeth,” Moody says. “You got little old men and little old women out there, and you got little kids.”

Or to put it in rock terms: He sees all kinds of fists in the air.

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Indeed, inclusivity is the point of their act ― and of this music, he says. Put on “You Shook me all Night Long” or “Don’t Stop Believin’” or “We’re not Gonna Take it” and see if any straight faces hold for longer than a chorus.

His favorite part of the show ― besides blowing fire as Gene Simmons, which he can’t deny is pretty cool ― is watching from the stage as kids get turned on to this genre by their parents singing at the top of their lungs, filled with unadulterated joy. And he sees that especially in Iowa, which “has the best rock ‘n’ roll fans in the world,” he says.

“Iowa and Hairball are like peanut butter and chocolate,” he adds, mashing his hands together to make the point.

“The amount of love that is shown in every single town in Iowa, I honestly believe that we could run for public office,” he says. “Only because there's just such a great fondness for each other.” (I mean, this year’s fair is ripe for them to throw their hats ― errr wigs ― into the race...)

Dave Moody, left, with bandmate Happy during a Hairball performance.

Raised by Gene Simmons and Alice Cooper: Hairball mimics the rock stars of their childhood

Born to a country music-loving family, Moody first found rock through cash-on-delivery records.

When a new crop of albums came in with the mail, he’d rush home from school to see what treasures might await in his stack. Maybe there’d be a Dolly Parton, possibly a Bob Seger, perhaps Steely Dan, and ― important to his story ― one month there was KISS’ “Destroyer.”

“Just looking at that cover took me in,” says the Kentucky native. “Then I put the needle on the record, and I’ve been infected ever since. I’ve just never looked back.”

“From that moment on, I knew exactly what I was going to do,” he continues. “Here I am, so many years later, still playing rock ‘n’ roll and earning a living doing it.”

Moody, who has been performing for 35 years, is celebrating his third summer with Hairball. And like the other members of the band, he grew up on the doctrine he preaches now.

“While a lot of people have Bert and Ernie raising them or Big Bird or Mr. Rogers raising them, we had Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley and Alice Cooper and Dee Snider raising us,” he says. “So we're all Evel Knievel and 'The $6 Million Man.' We grew up with the same mindset.”

The rock stars of their childhood were like superheroes, he says. They just wore boots, leather and makeup instead of armor, masks and capes.

In the show, Moody plays his idols Simmons, Cooper, Snider and Brian Johnson of AC-DC. Band members intend to mimic their childhood superheroes, imitating their rock star armor from the boots to the leather to the makeup as closely as possible.

“Our intention is to make you do a double take,” he says. “We want you to go, ‘Oh, I know, it's not them, but, God, that's about as close as you're gonna get.’”

A member of Hairball performing as Gene Simmons with KISS.

Having a truly uncanny resemblance is all part of the band’s goal to take you to a “spirit world” with their shows, Moody says.

They want to create an atmosphere where the audience forgets that the outside world and all its problems even exist ― at least for a few hours. Good vibes only, he says.

“I want them to feel good about themselves, about rock ‘n’ roll, about their country, about their town,” he says.

“I want them to feel like they're in the rock ‘n’ roll capital of the world. I want them to feel like, man, we didn't just watch something ― we witnessed something.”

He wants them to get infected. Just like he was when that KISS record appeared in his mailbox.

The band Hairball performs as Twisted Sister.

How to see Hairball

Hairball was scheduled to play the Iowa State Fair from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at the Susan Knapp Amphitheater. The show is free, but fans have to pay admission to the fair: $16 for adults, $10 for children ages 6-11 and free for kids under age 5.

Courtney Crowder, the Register's Iowa Columnist, traverses the state's 99 counties telling Iowans' stories. Her State Fair food must-get is the ice cream brick known as the Bauder's Peppermint Bar. Don't be ashamed to have seconds! Reach her at ccrowder@dmreg.com or 515-284-8360. Follow her on Twitter @courtneycare.