When we’re all finally able to go out and hear live music again, it’ll be great. But also weird. Particularly at smaller venues where everyone’s standing cheek to cheek, some in the audience may, understandably, want to wear a mask. But what about on stage? Will artists, for the sake of their fans and band mates, opt for some form of PPE? Seems possible. Maybe even likely. But it won’t be novel. Acts were covering their face while performing well before the dreaded coronavirus showed up. For some, it’s shtick, a part of their persona. Others disguise themselves to be mysterious — or anonymous. Either way, these artists will have an advantage when Dr. Fauci says it’s safe to enjoy live music again.
John Cale: Before “Friday the 13th” villain Jason Voorhees made it fashionable, Cale, a founding member of the Velvet Underground, wore a hockey goalie mask on stage — and on the cover of his 1977 album “Guts.” It was a sinister look, which matched the menace of some of the music Cale was making at the time.
Deadmau5: The Canadian DJ and electronic music producer — real name Joel Zimmerman — drops beats while wearing an oversized helmet that looks like a mouse with bulging eyes and giant ears. The fanciful hard hat is also fitted with blinking LED lights, which delights the audience, especially anyone who may have taken ecstasy before the show.
Daft Punk: How in the world do Frenchmen Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter manage to breathe in those shiny robot helmets they wear while performing dance hits like “One More Time” and “Get Lucky”? Easy: The chrome headgear, which enhances the duo’s mystique, has ventilators to prevent overheating.
Pussy Riot: The feminist punk band famous for their activism — they went to prison for protesting the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of Vladimir Putin — wear colorful ski masks. Problem is, the knit balaclavas have nose and mouth openings, which make them pretty much useless as PPE.
Buckethead: There’s something upsetting about the appearance of the talented guitarist who’s shredded for Guns N’ Roses, Iggy Pop, and Primus. It’s not only the upside down KFC bucket on his head. It’s also the creepy, expressionless mask he wears, which is reminiscent of the one worn by serial stabber Michael Myers in the “Halloween” movies. Honestly, I’d be concerned about more than coronavirus at a Buckethead show.
Slipknot: Same goes for these guys, who’ve been playing heavy metal in terrifying masks since their first show on Halloween in 1995. You’re probably familiar with the hideous clown mask worn by Shawn Crahan — stage name: Clown — but percussionist Chris Fehn wears a bondage mask with an oddly phallic, Pinocchio nose that he fondles onstage.
MF Doom: The British-born rapper, whose interest in comic books led him to cultivate a “super villain” stage persona early on, has collaborated with Danger Mouse and Ghostface Killah. The gladiator mask he wears in concert may have worked in the Colosseum, but since it doesn’t cover his mouth, it won’t protect him — or his fans — when he’s spittin’ bars onstage.
Sia: When Lady Gaga first became a star, she rarely appeared in public without a mask or veil, but she showed her “Poker Face” onstage. By contrast, Australian singer Sia Furler doesn’t hide her face in public, but she does cover it up onstage, usually with a wig or a hat. “I don’t wear this if there aren’t cameras around,” the shrouded singer told talk-show host James Corden. “I only wear this to maintain a modicum of privacy."
GWAR: This Virginia-bred metal act calls itself “the sickest band in the universe,” and who are we to argue? I don’t know what their specific affliction is, but take a look at lead singer Blothar the Berserker … dude does not look well. To be fair, it’s hard to be handsome when you’re wearing a pig-face horned goblin mask. The point is, pandemic or not, it’s probably best for all involved if GWAR continues to perform in those ghastly get-ups.