Ah, Halloween, the perfect time of year to go see all your favorite Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, Nineties, and Aughts bands reborn in the bodies of Brooklyn indie rock outfits. In New York in late October, there are Smiths and Fleetwood Macs aplenty, tossed together with Violent Femmes, Blondie, T. Rex, and more. It’s a musical weekend to remember, occupying a weird place in New York’s music scene, especially as it comes on the heels of up-and-comer paradise CMJ. Like CMJ, it’s a great chance to grow attached to new and local artists. Unlike CMJ, you get the chance to revel in your preferred musical time period. So whether you want to see reincarnations of Tom Petty or TRL, party for at least eight hours to a DJ set featuring LCD Soundsystem’s Pat Mahoney, or set your sights on Día de Muertos, there’s a place for you in New York this Halloween. Behold, our rundown of can’t-miss options for the year’s spookiest night.
Boo, Such a Good Show, Boo!
Aviv’s bimonthly music and comedy event “Oh, Such a Good Show, Oh!” is getting a Halloween makeover. Hosted by comedian and actor Ethan Beach, the night will feature a combination of big-name and up-and-coming comedians, as well as to-be-announced musical guests. The Halloween show is the perfect night to dress up like your favorite Wet Hot American Summer character, as John Early from the Netflix-rebooted Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp will be doing some stand-up, followed by comedians from the Upright Citizens Brigade and Late Night With Seth Meyers. Plus, they recently added an act called “The Amazing Amy” (not the Gone Girl character) to the lineup, who is apparently a 65-year-old contortionist.
The Sons & Heirs
Seeing the Sons & Heirs live is widely regarded as the closest fans will get to seeing Morrissey and Andy Rourke on the same stage ever again. And really, can you think of a better way to spend a spooky, dark holiday than with a bunch of guys singing “How Soon Is Now?”? The cleverly named singer, Ronnissey — alongside guitarist Ravi Marr, bassist Fredo Rourke, and drummer Flax Joyce — will bring back some grim, late-Eighties magic, and opening for the band are guests Doug Gillard (of Nada Surf) and Lower Wolves, who will pay homage to early R.E.M. Smiths cover bands aplenty will take over NYC venues this weekend, but only one will be the Sons & Heirs. Ready your normcore costumes.
The Halloween Show
Alphaville’s Halloween Show, hosted by arts mag 1.21 Gigawatts, is all about the classics, a fitting paradox to the just one-year-old bar and music venue and a fitting complement to the night’s sampling of Brooklyn bands — Heliotropes, Dances, Jangula, Piers, and Stringer. Taking on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, T. Rex, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, and the Smiths, respectively, each local outfit should bring a unique spin to all the songs you’ve probably heard before. For Heliotropes, that may take the form of a psychedelically inclined “American Girl.” For Dances, prepare yourself for a scuzzy pop take on “Bang a Gong (Get It On).” A surefire high point of the evening will be the ambient, hip-hop inspired Piers rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” a sonic match made in heaven.
Motion Studies frontman Tyler McCauley told Vogue in 2013 that “there was all kinds of really bad weird bedroom disco that [he] had to plow through” before he felt he could share then-single “Matter of Time,” a groovy disco-inspired pop song. It made sense, then, that Motion Studies would take on Prince’s catalog at Baby’s All Right last Halloween. But another year, another venue, another classic musician to conquer, and this time it’s Hall & Oates at Union Pool. It’s an apt time to be looking back, as McCauley just a month ago released a new album with Tara Chacon under the moniker Soft Lit, which DIY Magazine hailed as looking ahead to the future, from their “space-age, business time attire to their slick pop.” That should translate easily to the catchy Hall & Oates, who were forward-looking in their own genre-bending kind of way. Motion Studies will make our dreams come true if they offer a smooth pop varnish to “Rich Girl” or, even better, “Maneater.”
Modelo Day of the Dead: We Are Scientists
Rough Trade NYC
$6.66 in advance; $7 day of show
In a break from bands paying homage to older, more famous bands, Brooklyn rockers We Are Scientists are hosting a Day of the Dead–themed show at Rough Trade NYC, where they’ll play as dearly departed versions of themselves. In addition to the holiday, it’s also the tenth-anniversary month of the band’s killer debut LP, With Love and Squalor. Over the years, We Are Scientists have retained their unique brand of scrappy, rhythmic pop even as indie has transformed into something totally different from what it was at the time of the band’s inception in the early 2000s. After a four-year hiatus, We Are Scientists put out TV en Français in 2014 and a live re-release in 2015, still as catchy and riffy as ever, reminiscent of bands you loved in the 2000s, like the Strokes or the Killers. The band’s remarkably consistent and always good live — perhaps Pitchfork put it best when they reviewed the band’s third record, Barbara: “Bass riffs align themselves into right angles, sharp synth lines blare, hi-hats sizzle, hooks dissolve on contact, and 2004 never ends.”
Halloween Tribute Night
If Alphaville’s Halloween Show mainly honors classic rock, Cake Shop’s Halloween Tribute night is more punk-inspired, à la the Ramones, Violent Femmes, and a little bit of Blondie. Hellbirds, for one, are coming to the party as the Ramones, and they’re no stranger to covers. Earlier this year they released a very weird mash-up of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” and the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” as part of a project called Pet Peppers that is indicative of the postmodern vibe they seem to be super fond of. A description on the band’s website reads, “Think Andy Warhol through the lens of Matisse’s cutouts, but in sound.” Now fashion that into the Ramones. Another of the show’s highlights should be Oh Golly (jokingly self-described as “kindergarten hardcore”) as a shade of Violent Femmes, meaning we’re in for a creepy Halloween indeed.
Dred Scott’s 9th Annual Halloween Show
Rockwood Music Hall
For nine years, swing institution the Dred Scott Trio have inflamed Rockwood Music Hall with their alt-jazz groove on your favorite Halloween classics. As per usual, they’re bringing several guests to the show as they ring out the spooky evening, including Carol Lipnik, Julian Velard, MC Extra Cheese, Sasha Dobson, and Marilyn Carino. Dred Scott shows are a lively take on jazz, with no smoothness to be found in the funk and no apparent method to the madness — and their audiences reflect this rock ‘n’ roll feel.
The Paper Box
If you’re looking to party from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. dressed as a zombie in a haunted Brooklyn warehouse, look no further than Spooky Mansion, presented by The Wild Honey Pie. Though Spooky Mansion has events spread across the four days leading up to Halloween, it’s Saturday you won’t want to miss. Broad City’s Arturo Castro is hosting, and in addition to games and other performances during the night, Pat Mahoney’s Museum of Love is playing a DJ set. The former LCD Soundsystem drummer has been singing and making music with Museum of Love since 2013, releasing a critically acclaimed debut full-length about a year ago. Other performances include the psych-punk Acid Dad and Brooklyn DJ Vosters, with the sheer amount of music and dancing making up for the steep price tag.
The Silent Barn
$10 with costume, $12 without
Back in September, the Silent Barn was badly damaged in a fire that forced it to close temporarily. But thanks to donations and benefit shows, the Barn raised $25,000 to help recover its losses and reopened in time for CMJ. Luckily, that means the third of Silent Barn’s wildly ambitious Halloween cover shows is back on. As usual, this year’s event will cover a large amount of musical ground, from the Ramones to Smashing Pumpkins. In between will be Alanis Morissette, just in time to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Jagged Little Pill. To top things off, Dear Leader and friends will be re-enacting MTV’s Total Request Live, featuring Carson Daly, Missy Elliott, Aaliyah, and Britney Spears. Here’s hoping they get around to that most perfect of Halloween anthems, Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On.”
Baby’s All Right
If you’re only going to attend one tribute show this Halloween, you might as well make it Mr. Brownstone’s Guns N’ Roses–inspired set, the “drunkest tribute to Guns N’ Roses ever.” Comprising members from various indie bands (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Boss Tweed, the Common End, and Takka Takka), the group has had a surprising amount of success, appearing on the Late Show With David Letterman and playing Bonnaroo. But the tumultuous Mr. Brownstone are forever breaking up and having final shows, while also forever resurrecting themselves (not unlike the originals, who, rumor has it, might be ready for a reunion). Mr. Brownstone summed up what their show will be like on the band’s Facebook page ahead of their last Halloween show, at Brooklyn Bowl: “Get ready to hate yourself on November 1st Brooklyn. You’re welcome.” Just as Halloween should be.