With the possible exception of New Year’s Eve, Halloween is the holy grail of the concert season, where bands are just as likely to show up dancing around dressed in drag as they are to play their instruments.’ It’s a night where bands can pull out all the stops, reach into territory you never would have imagined (or hoped) they would go, and unleash a spectacle that fans talk about for years after.
Halloween shows are exclusive. Exciting. Boundless. Anything and everything could happen, and sometimes does.’ Bands treat it as a freedom festival, the one night of the year where they can set aside their image and do the craziest things they can think of, all in the festive spirit.
For an easy example one needs to look no further than Parliament-Funkadelic’s The Mothership Connection Live 1976 DVD, an hour and a half-long visual masterpiece on Halloween night that kicked off with the landing of the ‘mothership’ on stage and ringleader George Clinton emerging from the smoke.’ Throughout the show, as band members came and went wearing more and more outlandish costumes while Gary ‘Starchild’ Shider played guitar in his massive diaper, the group brought a musical experience that isn’t easy to forget.
While Parliament-Funkadelic went for broke that Halloween night, different bands use the holiday to celebrate in a variety of ways. This year in Greenville, South Carolina, The Roots will be getting out of Jimmy Fallon’s New York studios to host a small, intimate get together for which they sold only 300 tickets.’ The Roots are in high demand with a new album on the horizon and their stunted touring schedule due to the demands of being the Late Night house band, and this Halloween show is one of only six concerts they have scheduled for the rest of the year.
Some bands go all out with their costumes and others use All Hallows Eve to provide a musical treat to the costumed revelers who show up to celebrate with them.’ Umphrey’s McGee’s 2008 Halloween show in San Francisco saw them pull out live mashups ‘- think Girl Talk with live instruments.’ The combination of Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’ with ‘7 Nation Army’ by the White Stripes and Led Zeppelin’s ‘How Many More Times’ was impressive, but didn’t even come close to their version of ‘Another Brick In The Wall/Thriller.’ Who knew those two songs could come together so seamlessly?
Still other bands reach deep into their arsenal of cover songs and pull out crowd-pleasing rarities. Indie-pop band Of Montreal opened the encore of their 2008 show in Philadelphia with the ridiculous anthem ‘Day Man’ from television show It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia before closing it with the iconic ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’
Hard-hitting blues rock band Gov’t Mule has covered parts of albums in the past few years, doing selections from Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy two years ago in Minnesota and doing parts of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (dubbed ‘Dark Side of the Mule’) at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston last year.’ The String Cheese Incident has also performed all-cover sets during Halloween, and released a box set of their best ‘Hulaween’ shows on October 27.
Much of this cover song tradition stems from Phish’s occasional tradition of donning ‘musical costumes’ for their Halloween shows, where they allow fans to vote on which album they would like to see covered in its entirety.’ In the past the band has done The Beatles’ White Album, The Who’s Quadrophenia and The Talking Heads’ Remain in Light.’ This weekend, as part of the group’s continuing reunion run, Phish is hosting their 8th festival in Indio, California, during which they will put on another musical costume voted by their fans.
So whether you’re traveling to see your favorite band, staying in town to celebrate with The Cool Kids at Masquerade or Guster at The Orpheum, or just blasting your scariest tunes at a Halloween horror-fest in Allston, remember to throw on your costume, get in character, and enjoy the spirit of the holiday.