Great stories are as integral to Halloween as candy and fake teeth. For us mere mortals, those tales often involve egging quaint houses or 2013’s couple’s costume as a Daft Punk-styled Bert and Ernie. Musicians, on the other hand, tend to have slightly more epic and terrifying stories around this spooky season. We collected a few such yarns from local artists and other cultural stakeholders.
Phoenix New Times Contributor Serene Dominic
“I never play gigs on Halloween night anymore. You’re competing with an audience in costumes ranging from a ‘sexy-insert-inappropriate-kiddie-cartoon-character-here’ to a guy with a severed head and a plasma pump. Your music will be wallpaper at best. At worst, the party host will cue up a Bobby 'Boris' Pickett mix-tape as soon as you’re done to help people forget you even performed.
“In 1998, I had a gig at The Green Room in Tempe and decided to pull double duty performing my same comedic singing waiter shtick at a party just a few blocks away. The act killed at the club but died at the party. Everyone there had just sucked a nearby helium tank dry. You would think it would make revelers more conducive to involuntary laughter. Instead, it was as if everyone stared at a strobe light too long and went off in a corner to be sick.
“I couldn’t pack up fast enough. When I started my car, the battery was dead. Now I had to go back inside and ask for a boost. A guy dressed as Satan, wearing the same black and red ensemble Mick Jagger sported at Altamont, snapped his matching jumper cables onto my battery with relish. He looked far more in control of evil than Jagger. It left me feeling my hell night was just beginning.
“I thanked Satan, as you would. My Corolla died again five miles away. I pushed it to the nearest gas station, where the mechanic wore a greasy striped jumpsuit. I could hear him telling someone on the phone, ‘The concussion wasn’t my fault, at least not at first.’ His boost got me as far as Scottsdale. Some frat boys with a then new-fangled cell phone called AAA for me.
“When I finally made it home four hours later, I couldn’t help noticing the third six in a row was about to uptick on my odometer. It got 'Devil In My Car' by The B-52s stuck in my head all week. Thanks for nothing, Satan.”
“Once, on a dark and stormy night (well, kind of windy, but still spooky), we had a show at the old Trunk Space location on Grand Avenue. We were playing with psychedelic rock bands Name The Band (our buddies from L.A.) and a local [act] called Painting Fences. We wanted to do something different and experimental to set the ambiance. Little did I know what I was in for!
“We planned out a dark ritual to invoke the spirit of dead rock star Jim Morrison in the supposedly haunted venue space. I made a circle of blood-red candles and filled a bowl with ashes, sprinkling them through the formation while speaking an incantation I pulled from the Wiki page for the TV show Supernatural. My band played in the background, grooving over [improvised] electric organ flairs and dense walls of reverb. A chill clung to the air and wind whistled through the cracks in the doors. It dared us to, ‘Break on through to the other side.’ I don’t know if we truly got through to the Lizard King, but I feel like the moment, as well as the whole weird show, was something he would have approved of.”
Peter Resendiz, Sad Dance Party
“I go through sleep paralysis, which is something I’ve never really talked or written about. The first time it happened, I was maybe 17 or 18 years old living at my parent’s place in Glendale. I’m easily startled, and so I sleep with the door closed or I’ll feel like my privacy can be invaded. I woke up and I remember seeing my bedroom door open. I’m looking down this long, dark hallway and my body’s immobile. I hear a shrill, high-pitch voice, and I can’t remember what it said. Then I heard this voice grunt angrily and then felt a hand slap down hard on my lower abdomen. I didn’t jump but bounced up in my bed.
“I talked to somebody once who considers themselves spiritual, and they said this [sleep paralysis] is all tied to negative energy or demonic entities. I started having a lot of these issues when I was still using drugs. I remember [New Times] wrote something about ‘following us through a lengthy Goth phase.’ [Our music] is pretty hard and daunting stuff. I think, even subconsciously, I try to get that out in the music, to not just apologize for myself but for other things I’ve done. The [paralysis] still lingers, but these days I’m not as worried about it.”
Ryan Avery, Related Records
“My old band, Fathers Day, got asked to play one of those Halloween punk rock cover shows in 2009. We were asked to play The Dead Milkmen, and we really wanted to. But they’re hard, especially past their first album. It’s pretty tricky stuff. So we then decided to do some songs by James Kochalka Superstar. No one knows about him ’cause he’s from Vermont and he never tours, but he’s good friends with Dead Milkmen and pretty similar. Just a lot simpler and more of a novelty. The biggest point was no one knew who he was, and everyone hated us. They despised us. I don’t think I’ve ever been booed so bad.
“I’d never been asked to do another one since — until last year when I was asked to do the one at Yucca Tap Room. I ended up doing a tribute to Wild Man Fischer, except for some reason they put me on after a Black Flag cover band. It started at 100 people and went down to maybe 30. When they’re good, Halloween shows can be fun. But in my experience, people don’t like it.”
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Abe Gil, Treasure Mammal
“I’m working on a synth-country album about Claypool, Arizona. It’s this mining town between Globe and Miami. There’s a song on there called ‘The House on Van Winkle Street.’ About eight years ago, there was this older couple living there. This wife wanted to open a pet store in her 900-square-foot home. She was a cat hoarder, and they had maybe 100 cats. After years of the husband bothering the wife about the living conditions, the wife kills the husband and drives off a cliff. So the husband’s body is locked up with these cats, and they start to eat him. When the authorities came to the house, not only do they find [that], but buckets of shit, because their cesspool had been condemned. I swear it’s all true!
“There’s a biohazard sticker on the door. It’s basically a haunted house, and it’s got the worst of the worst smells in the entire existence of planet Earth. So I bought the house for $2,000, and I’m trying to clean up the yard as they install sewers. I’m not superstitious, but something about mining towns, with the earth being deprived of its minerals. There’s this bubble of depression around, and now this animal hoarder. I’m hoping to do a show or maybe some kind of performance art with it.”