You could argue that Halloween upstages even New Years Eve in terms of excitement and the opportunity for musicians to deliver truly memorable performances. Halloween has always been a special time for the players and fans of the improvisational rock scene. My first Halloween show experience in 1994 yielded The Beatles' “White Album” performed in it’s entirety and the chance to stumble away from a 1970’s style hockey rink in a cold drizzle at 3:30 in the morning... on a school night. Unlike New Year's Eve when there is immense pressure and a unavoidable 12 o’clock climax, this night allows artists to do as they do best, play at their own speed and create sound as unique as the costumes in the crowd.

Halloween 2002 is a full on assault of musical engagements from coast to coast. With multiple bands teaming up for co-bills and more than a few heading to New Orleans for the inevitably sleep deprived venue crawl NOLA has become famous for, it is time to reveal the obvious standouts and uncover the more obscure shows on the years darkest night.

Burlington, VT is a city with a rich musical history and filled with enthusiastic fans. This year they can fill their UVM baskets with a double helping of rock, featuring the Santa Cruz implants The Disco Biscuits and the New Jersey quartet RANA, who has just completed a West Coast run with shows in Palo Alto, San Francisco and Berkeley, California. These tri-state rockers have given credence to the much talked about prediction that guitar driven rock and roll is on it’s way back with a searing vengeance. Across New England in Portland, ME, The State Theater will be host to another co-bill featuring Addison Groove Project and Burlington natives Strangefolk. Strangefolk over the years has built itself to be one of the scene's mainstays, adhering to a regiment of endless touring and playing host to faithful fans at their annual Garden of Eden camping event each summer. These two are only a snack-sized portion of what’s being conjured up for this night. In Massachusetts you have another Burlington band, RAQ, pulling out all the moves at The Iron Horse Music Hall and Spookie Daly Pride at Harper's Ferry in Allston. Gotham (NYC) hosts a myriad of shows this year with Medeski Martin & Wood performing at The Hammerstein Ballroom, The New Deal and Topaz at B.B. King Blues Club and Seth Yacovone Band at Tobacco Road. Upstate hold its own against the city folk with headliner moe. and opener Particle in Troy at The R.P.I Fieldhouse, as well as Psychedelic Breakfast at Beardslee Castle in Little Falls, NY. Come as you aren’t.

With shows being announced daily and already over 300 shows announced, it is hard to keep track of all the happenings, but isn’t that what we're here for? Philadelphia is right on target with The Yohimbe Brothers featuring Vernon Reid and DJ Logic opening up for Robert Randolph and the Family Band at The Theater of the Living Arts, and Jurassic 5 at The Electric Factory. If your looking for a show with more of a local flavor check out e determined sounds of Brothers Past at Ulana's with Robots in Disguise and Z opening.

Down South is looking like it could be the place to be this All Hallows-Eve. Trey Anastasio takes his tour machine to the heart of Appalachia and the Asheville Civic Center, while masters of tweak, WEEN, throw a masquerade ball down the road in Winston Salem, NC at The Millennium Center. Further on down the road, Atlanta keeps its nickname of “Hotlanta” by packing two theaters with not to be missed shows. At The Roxy Theatre, Sound Tribe Sector 9 will be tossing out their version of harmonious grooves and steady beats while across town at the Variety Playhouse, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe will be heating up the night complete with Zak Najor on drums and the vicious yet smooth Brian Jordan on guitar. If you’re not in the city of the South you can head to JP's in Valdosta, GA for the refreshing southern soul sounds of Moonshine Still. If you’re looking to go deep, head to ULU at The Warehouse in Tallahassee, or Derek Trucks at Hal & Mal's in Jackson, MS.

Ok, my pick as being the Halloween show of the year……..Steve Kimock and Friends at Chester's Place in Fayetteville, AR. This show features Reed Mathis (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey) on bass, Jason Smart ((JFJO) on drums, Martin Fierro (Zero, Legion of Mary) on sax, Banana on rhythm guitar, keyboards and vocals, and special guest Steve Pryor on guitar and vocals. Can you say heady? I think you can.

Deep in the heart of Texas, Boston-based, The Slip will be performing a very special Halloween show overlooking the freak parade on 6th upstairs at Mercury @ Jazz. As far as bands who forge new paths by creating sounds with deep meaning and a memorable rhythm, these guys are the schnizzel. Across the way New Orleans groove masters Galactic will be lighting up Stubb's BBQ. This year Austin shows why it is the "live music capital of the world."

Let's head up the Mississippi River to the heartland of America and beyond. In Chicago, G. Love & Special Sauce sing songs of broken hearts and the love of cold drinks at The Vic Theatre while Halias is playing Wise Fools Pub and 1000 Vertical Ft. throws down at Boulevard Cafe. Out in Minneapolis, Ancient Harmony headline Cabooze and a band I’ve never seen but have a great name, Wookiefoot, play The Quest. In Milwaukee, WI, Recycled Future plays Onopa Brewing Company and The Big Wu plays The Barrymore Theatre in Madison, WI.

On to the mountains and the devilish cold. Colorado is a state that has a serious population of music-loving, late-night booty-shakin, don’t stop 'til you drop, and well, good-natured freaks! So it is no surprise that they are comin’ up tough with the Halloween shows this year. Last year The Fillmore in Denver, CO was host to Oysterhead’s crazed antics complete with a guitarist dressed as a drummer and a 10-minute digital delay loop to open the show. This year, The Fillmore will switch gears as Colorado’s own Leftover Salmon and Chicago scenesters Umphrey’s McGee invade the city for a night with serious potential. In Boulder, The Motet get superstitious for their hometown fans at The Fox Theatre on “the hill,” while Granola Funk Express and The McCloskey Brothers Band duel it out for the rights to Colorado Springs.

Missoula, Montana has a long history of Halloween happenings. In its 6th year, "The Barn Burner" has been the scene of many hair raising events. From the inaugural burner down in Stevensville, complete with an actual burning bus, to STS9’s epic Wilma Theater performance in 1998 and last year's Garaj Mahal throwdown, this has always been a highlight of the fall. This year, with three events taking place in three locations around the country, the ambitious team in Big Sky country and beyond aim to outdo themselves once again. Performing in Humbolt (Eureka) CA, are Alan Hertz & Friends, Strut and DJ Gideon and Raging Family while Global Funk Council, Signal Path and Cold Mountain hold court in Missoula, MT as New Orleans Juice and Kung Fu Mama will all perform way down in Weeks Bay, AL. Always ambitious, this is shaping up to be another great time.

Out on the Coast this October 31st, it is a nice mix of new and old. The String Cheese Incident plays the hallowed Shrine Auditorium with a show dubbed “SCI Hulaween, The AcadaMummy Awards,” go figure. Not too far away, The Rolling Stones play the monstrous Staples Center and I would have to say there won’t be an intimate, acoustic version of “Wild Horses” but I could almost guarantee a "Sympathy for the Devil” bust out. George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic will pack the band into the House of Blues in Anaheim with a show that is pretty much out of hand and full of costumes regardless of the date.

Heading North to the vampire infested seaside village of Santa Cruz, CA, I will be lurking in the dark corners near the Robert Walter's 20th Congress show at The Coconut Grove. Up Highway 101 in San Francisco you can't choose only one show to attend. This year S.F. is host to several shows worthy of riding on the MUNI for. At the Last Day Saloon you can catch the guitar wizardry of Fareed Haque, Zenith Patrol Trio will be at the Boom Boom Room, Hamsa Lila at the Justice League, and Tin Hat Trio at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. If you're willing, head up to Santa Rosa for the double billing of Taos Hum and New Monsoon at The Friedman Center.

Wrapping up the West Coast swing, we visit beautiful Oregon. Known for being a state that has several great places to hang your hat, you can pick and choose as there is great music being played all over the state. In Ashland, Old Man Clemins will be playing Siskiyou Brew Pub while in Eugene, Tympanic plays to the hometown at Taylor's Bar & Grille. Up in the big city of Portland, Jon Fishman’s side project, Pork Tornado play The Roseland Theater and across town Ani DiFranco headlines Schnitzer Hall. Something tells me these two won’t be surprising each other with "cross pollination".

O.K., we’ve covered the rest of the country now lets get down to business, shall we? New Orleans, LA, known for its late night shows, good food and horrible smell, delivers a proverbial bitch slap of shows on the day of and directly after the un-official holiday. This is in great part due to the absolute kings of the three-day run, Widespread Panic heading back, back, back down to New Orleans. But while they are relaxing after the shows at Lakefront Arena on the 31st, 1st and 2nd, the rest of the freaks will be gearing up to “play through” 'til the next day and then the next. In true NOLA fashion, it won’t be what you saw, but what you missed to see what you saw.

Galactic delivers two shows at Tipitina's Uptown on the 1st and 2nd with Mofro opening on Friday and Topaz opening on Saturday. Karl Denson hits the House of Blues in the French Quarter for two shows on the 1st and 2nd as well. Over at the Orpheum Theater, Gov't Mule and Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers hit you with a one two punch on the 31st and 1st while Particle, Topaz and The Wailers heads over to Twiropa Mills for a “Voodoo After Dark” show. Particle and Topaz will both be opening for Panic on separate nights. Not to be left out, on the 31st, New Orleans' own Funky Meters will call to the moon at The Howlin' Wolf while Mofro tear up The Maple Leaf.

With so much going on this Halloween I don’t think anyone needs to worry about making it to a great show. Remember, good music is everywhere and it comes in all shapes and sizes. You don’t need to drive or fly hundreds of miles to see a good show; sometimes the best music is right around the corner. I said, "sometimes." So be safe and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!!

Andrew J. Warren
JamBase | Mill Valley
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[Published on: 10/16/02]

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