I Remember Halloween
Music community celebrates the biggest year ever for the annual Halloween cover band party
By Chris Mastrovito 10/28/2010
You can learn a lot from someone’s Halloween costume. Some people dress to look provocative, some dress to scare the crap out of kids, and others become their alter egos. For the local community of punk and rock bands who, every Oct. 31, transform into their heroes for the Halloween cover band party, the costume itself is the performance.
In 1999, John Crerar (The Missing 23rd, Stop Breathing, T.F.W.) went to a Halloween party dressed as Mike Muir from the legendary L.A. punk band Suicidal Tendencies (a look consisting of little more than street clothes and a blue bandana). “All night,” Crerar remembers, “I thought how much cooler it would be if I was doing a Suicidal band and playing the songs of the person I was dressed up as.” Running with the idea, the following year, together with Salzer’s Records co-worker Kai Dodson (Army of Freshmen, The Calamity), he planned the ultimate Halloween party cover band: The Misfits. With the support of a Guns ’N’ Roses tribute featuring members of The Missing 23rd and Glass and Ashes, at a party at a friend’s East Ventura farm house, at the dawn of the new millennium, what was to be the first annual Halloween cover band party was born. And it was good.
Each year, the party grew in attendance and was moved between house parties (where they risked being shut down) and local bar settings. Over the next decade, members of the most active local bands, such as Franklin for Short, Annihilation Time, Army of Freshmen, and Le Meu Le Purr, got involved, often switching up instruments.
For most involved, it is an excuse to play their favorite songs for a crowd, but it’s also an exercise in dramatic performance. Says Jeff Hershey (Jeff Hershey and the Heartbeats, No Motiv, Hybrid Moments), a regular participant in past years who is also leading the Danzig tribute for this year’s edition, “It’s more like an acting gig than a music gig. You really have to channel it.” For the musicians, paying homage through imitation is a way to embody their musical aspirations. Regardless of how their real bands are doing, for a night, they are legendary and timeless.
To date, bands they have paid tribute to include The Adolescents, Bad Brains, Black Flag, The Clash, the Dead Kennedys, Descendents, Minor Threat, Operation Ivy, the Ramones and X, Nirvana, Devo, Kiss, Weezer and many others.
Oct. 31 doesn’t always fall on a cushy weekend, and while some Halloween parties would adjust to that fact to maximize convenience, these party people are purists. Crerar and Hershey, in separate interviews, echoed each other, both insisting “October 30 is not Halloween.”
“This is by far the biggest party we have done,” says Crerar. The 11th annual show boasts five tributes: Danzig, Motorhead, Joy Division, The Kinks (members of Franklin for Short) and, bringing it full circle back to the band that sparked the original idea, the early music of Suicidal Tendencies. To add to the nostalgia, four of the musicians from 2000’s original house party are performing, Crerar, Dodson, Roger Camero (No Motiv) and Jesse Jenny (Glass and Ashes, Stop Breathing). Now a bona fide institution, this year the show takes place at a venue that is no stranger to hosting the biggest parties of the year, Bombay Bar and Grill in Ventura, where the bands will perform on two stages, including one in the back room normally reserved to segregate the swanky-dressed dance clubbers from the rockers.
The show is free for those in costume (strongly recommended) or $5 at the door without. Crerar promises, “It’s a fun little break from reality,” and that’s something we can all use.
11th Annual Halloween Cover Band Party, Sunday, Oct. 31, 8:30 p.m. at Bombay Bar and Grill, 143 S. California St., Ventura, 643-4404.