Mammoth: Wolfgang Van Halen Forges his Own Legacy

Wolfgang Van Halen performing at The Truman in Kansas City. Photo by Josh Chaikin

An hour before doors, a line of people was already snaking its way down the block around The Truman. Plenty of fans were wearing their MAMMOTH t-shirts; one fan was wearing a pair of shoes, whose design matched Eddie’s iconic Frankenstein guitar (no word on whether he was the owner of the car with matching Frankenstein car seats). It was clear that MAMMOTH had fans in Kansas City.

Kansas City was treated to the second night of the tour, after MAMMOTH kicked things off in St. Louis a couple of nights earlier. Any kinks that needed to be worked out through the tour were not apparent, as the night went off without a hitch.

Before MAMMOTH took the stage, were were treated to an electrifying performance by the renowned guitarist NITA STRAUSS. Having played lead guitar for shock rock legend, ALICE COOPER for the better part of a decade, in recent years Nita has seen huge success as an instrumentalist, with her own band, and album releases. Her latest album, The Call of the Void, has been a huge success; the track “Dead Inside” has hit #1 on rock radio, and the album features guest vocals from the likes of LZZY HALE, LILITH CZAR, and DAVID DRAIMAN, and many others. From the moment she launched into the opening song “Summer Storm,” the audience was hooked. Her skills as a guitarist were on full display, and once again made clear how she got the nickname “Hurricane”.

While Nita could easily follow in the footsteps of other contemporaries like JOE SATRIANI, or YNGWIE MALMSTEEN in featuring guitar centric rock (she headlined her own show at the Encore Lounge after all), Nita enlisted the aid of DEADLANDS vocalist KASEY KARLSEN to sing lead for the tour.

Though there were a few small bumps during the performance, like when the drum tech had to tighten a few bolts on Josh’s kit mid performance, or Nita miscalling Kansas City as St. Louis (and immediately correcting herself), overall, the performance was as good as we could hope. Nita was quickly forgiven after congratulating our Superbowl champion Chiefs (though she’s a Rams fan herself, and their official guitarist). Nita also made herself available at her merch table for selfies after her performance, where the line immediately rivaled that of the one to get in.

After a 30 minute break, it was time for the headliner, and the main reason for the show: MAMMOTH WVH. Without question, VAN HALEN is one of the seminal rock bands, due in no small part to Eddie’s contributions. So, expectations for Wolfgang were understandably high.

I had first seen Wolfgang when he was playing bass for VAN HALEN on their 2015 tour (replacing original bassist, MICHAEL ANTHONY), so to see the journey from supporting the legendary band with his father, to coming into, and fronting his own, was exciting.

Mammoth WVH took the stage with with minimal fanfare. Showboating is fine, but MAMMOTH let their music speak for itself. From the opening chords of “I’m Alright,” it was clear that Wolfgang Van Halen was forging his own path, determined not to live in the shadow of his legendary father. Handling both lead guitar, and vocals, Wolfgang showed that musical talent did not skip a generation with him.

In a heartfelt nod to his father, Wolfgang introduced “Think It Over” as his father’s favorite song. As the band launched into the track, there was a sense of reverence in the air. The audience joined certainly appreciated this celebration, and tribute, to the Van Halen legacy, paying homage to the music that shaped a generation.

Of course, bands enjoy having fun, and teasing the audience. Often times, they might launch into the standard “Kansas City” when playing here; tonight, things took an unexpected turn (at least for those who didn’t look at ahead of time) when Wolfgang teased the crowd with a brief snippet of Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” It’s always fun when bands show a little bit of personality like that.

Eddie Van Halen has certainly cemented his legacy in the annals of rock history. It would be easy for Wolfgang to ride his coattails to success, but he is determined to find his own way. This is clear with him not featuring the Van Halen name prominently. Apart from a tribute to his dad, and the EVH gear, there’s scarce indication of the relationship.

Wolfgang has worked hard to achieve his success, and while his style and sound is different from his father, without blistering solos, and minimal fret tapping, he has certainly found a path that is his own, and is on a certain road to success.

MAMMOTH has a healthy schedule of tour dates, both domestic and foreign, through the end of the year. So there are plenty of opportunities to see them. This is not a tour you want to miss. To see the remaining dates, visit

Words and Photos by Josh Chaikin

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