As the chill of the northern Ohio winter had music lovers hurrying across the parking lot with their chins tucked into their chests, Dan Butch and Haymaker tuned their instruments inside Longboyz as they prepared to deliver a performance hot enough to drive the chill from their fans’ bones. Longboyz, a popular venue known for hosting only the best of area bands, quickly filled with patrons eager to see the popular power quartet known for delivering high-energy shows. Haymaker has a devoted fan base that travels to the band’s various gigs to dance, socialize and rock out to hard-edged covers of songs from the 1970s-80s.
“Our fans are very knowledgeable about music,” Butch said as the crowd filled the room before the show. “We sometimes do requests for them when we can work them into the set. They take care of each other; make sure everyone gets home safely. They’re great people.”
The crowd may have been cold in the parking lot, but they quickly warmed up as Haymaker wasted no time in bringing the heat.
They launched the first set with the classic Night Ranger hit Don’t Tell Me You Love Me, setting the tone for the night as the dance floor filled immediately. Butch’s powerful tenor voice sets the tone for Haymaker as he cuts even the most difficult changes to shreds. The band’s regular drummer, Ron McCloskey, was unable to play due to an injury; enter Chris Koshock. The signature high-energy Haymaker sound stayed on-time as Koshock displayed both speed and precision in banging out the different songs in the set list. The steady thunder of bass player Jerry Dungan filled the room with a thick layer of energy as he worked with Koshock to supply the rhythm. Guitarist Don Conti was all over the neck as he delivered a performance as powerful as any seen in the Valley for some time.
While Dungan’s bass provided the pulse for Haymaker, Conti’s guitar provided the adrenaline rush. His ability to deliver long, high-energy solos and crunchy hooks is the perfect complement to Butch’s ability to reach any note and hold it in tune. The four meshed their talents to produce their signature Haymaker sound and shook the walls of Longboyz with a delicate sound of rock and roll thunder.
Butch sat down to share some of the band’s story with us. He says it is the people comprising the Haymaker family who allow the band to thrive the way it does. “Our core of dedicated fans is pretty big,” Butch said fondly. “They’ve become like our best friends.” Butch said some of their fans schedule their weekends around Haymaker gigs. “I have sung with some bad sore throats because I knew how much the fans were looking forward to the show. They’re loyal to us, and we want to reward that.” In eight years, Haymaker has never cancelled a show. Butch speaks with an obvious affection for Haymaker fans, and it is equally obvious it is a two-way street.
Butch spoke lovingly of his wife, Wendy, and his three kids who patiently support his efforts. “Two practices a week and one gig; she is really the best,” Butch said. The band members’ families enjoy cookouts and concerts together, and everyone supports the band’s collective effort. Haymaker has been pumping out its powerful sound since its formation in 2008. “We choose covers that aren’t the standards,” Butch said. “We like to play songs other bands don’t.” The set list on most nights consists of hard rock from the eighties but will sometimes include popular metal favorites. Butch’s powerful voice can more than handle such tunes, as he also fronts an Iron Maiden tribute band, Edward be thy Name. Butch says it is the love of music that keeps him going, and he says the band will keep playing until they can’t anymore. Haymaker has opened for some prominent national acts including: Vince Neil, Skid Row and Warrant. The band is an annual performer at the Hot Rod Super Nats each summer where they play to thousands of people.
Sharing a stage with a powerhouse act like Skid Row might seem like a daunting proposition, but after seeing their cover of Styx’s Renegade, there is no doubt they can hold their own with the best. Haymaker ramped up the energy inside Longboyz throughout their first set and got everyone’s blood pumping with the classic rock anthem. There is one song Haymaker is a bit tentative to try to conquer live. “Painkiller by Judas Priest” said Butch with a laugh when asked. “One day…”
"Our fans are loyal to us,
and we want to reward that"
Haymaker regularly plays several area locations including: Leon’s (Howland), Ice House Inn (Austintown), New Manhattan (Hubbard) and Longboyz (Champion). The band plays various other venues and enjoys the opportunity to take the Haymaker experience to new people and places. Just give them a place to plug in and prepare yourself for a rock and roll show with real power. When asked what could take the local music scene to the next level, Butch’s answer was unexpected: “Self-driving cars,” he said in all seriousness. “The Google car would let people not have to worry about being pulled over on their way home from a show, so they could come out and have a good time.”
Haymaker may not have cars that drive themselves, but they do have the devoted base of Haymaker fans who take care of each other. These people greeted us and made us feel wanted and at-home as we took pictures and shot video of the band. They were friendly, well-mannered and very enthusiastic as the band was preparing to begin the show. When you come out to see Haymaker, prepare yourself to meet a lot of good people as you enjoy one of the great acts in the Mahoning Valley music scene.
Longboyz was fully staffed by friendly, professional servers who somehow made sure nobody ever waited on a drink, and everyone got their food while it was still hot. This is a great venue to see a show. It has plenty of seating and a good-sized dance floor. The chairs are comfortable, the restrooms are clean, and there is even an adjacent bowling alley. People can come early, bowl a game or two, have some dinner and enjoy some of the best rock and roll entertainment found not only in the valley, but in all of northeast Ohio.
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