By Artie Capshaw
We lost our way between our third and fourth “Oh Nurse”s and ended up in the alley outside the Bullfinch puking. Whereupon a pack of musicians in werewolf masks set upon us with drumsticks and tambourines, demanding we join them on the “whoops” in the celebrated jungle anthem “Snake Bait.” It was our guttural upchucks which clinched the audition. The show went fine, and we didn’t vomit again until we went home.
The Disinheritors, an all-star supergroup, present ‘Tis the Season to Be Jelly” at the Bullfinch, with possible “Snake Bait” reprise… Shock III and Witch War at Hamilton’s… D’ollaire’s offers the multi-media, better-when-on-drugs Nightmare at 20,000 Feet…
My parents called. Told them how organized I’ve been. They asked, then, why I’d been missing classes and work. Who told them?
Thee Cormans, “Open the Gates” and a few other online samples from their brand new album Halloween Record with Sound Effects.
Every time I hear a new young instrumental ‘60s surf-punk band something interesting happens in my life. There is no greater, more pulsing, soundtrack to existence. Of course, The Cormans are devoted to death, destruction and bad taste, but since songs like “Fagenstein’s Freak Out” and “Werewolves in Heels” don’t have lyrics, the band can’t get into much trouble. “The Number Six” is an onslaught of impossible time signatures and unfettered frets. “Open the Gates” has ominous title-intoning, teen screams and a classic echoey surf-fuzz rumble. “Down Mit Der Fuzz” is punkier and uglier, but you can easily connect it to the surf stuff, and easily access these horror sounds year-round.
1. H.P. Lovecraft. In an age of pulp thrillers, he was scarily anti-sensationalist. His horrors tend to come in the form of first-person memoirs by people who are only just feeling that they’ve recovered from horrors which happened months or years earlier. They set pen to paper in order to set the record straight, or to prove to themselves they’re not insane.
2. Joseph Payne Brennan. He was a nationally known figure in the horror realm for a generation—as a novelist, as a short-story writer, as a horror fanzine editor and even as a horror poet. Joseph Payne Brennan is too little known now, even in his native Connecticut. His stories are particularly shocking to locals because they use the real streets and social issues of New Haven to elicit their shrieks. Brennan was appalled by the urban renewal which overwhelmed New Haven in the 1950s and ‘60s. He turned his dissatisfaction into stories where ghosts from the oldest parts of the city succumbed to the terrors of city planning. Brennan also created “Slime” (the obvious, uncredited inspiration for the film The Blob), “Canavan’s Back Yard,” “The Calamander Chest” and “Levitation.” But it’s New Haven stories which hit closest to home, coming from the haunted houses in his own neighborhood.
3. Cornell Woolrich. He’s considered a noir or mystery writer, but many of his novels involve spiritualism, the supernatural, or at least such avid beliefs in prophesy that the protagonists might as well be possessed. The deaths and tortures are highly disturbing, not the puzzle pieces they can be in a lot of mysteries. Woolrich characters are horrorstruck by nature. Their loved ones have suddenly disappeared. They’ve been told they’re going to die. They live in constant fear of past sins being discovered.
4. Dr. Seuss. When I was six years old, I carried The Sneetches and Other Stories with me everywhere, and could literally recite it forwards and backwards. The story which most captivated me, What Was I Scared Of? earned its own stand-alone glow-in-the-dark reprint a few years ago. (I purchased it at RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison along with a crafts book on how to fold origami werewolves.) My kids are terrified of it.
5. Thomas Ingoldsby. The model of mid-19th century European fantasy fiction. Where others would dabble, Ingoldsby wrote a whole huge volume of poetic, tragic, dreamlike horrors. For me, The Ingoldsby Legends outdoes even the creepy E.T.A. Hoffmann and his savage toy-terrorizing mice.
Quickly now, here’s another five:
1. Michael McDowell. From Alabama, he knew his swamps.
2. Richard Matheson. Such a confident storyteller, you follow so willingly that you’re completely vulnerable to his twists and shocks.
3. Robert Bloch. Effective because the writing is so feverish, edgy, unhinged.
4. Clive Barker. A clinical obsession with human anatomy and peeling flesh.
5. Stephen King, of course. Recent stuff like Blockade Billy and Under the Dome are as surehandedly suspenseful as any of his classic ‘70s novels. Personal all-time faves: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Hearts in Atlantis, Pet Sematary, It, Misery, Needful Things, The Stand and Cell.
‘Twas like the Christmas before Nightmare. On Saturday afternoon, the girls built a snowman in the fresh-fallen Nor’easter, then we went to the Halloween party at Barnes & Noble (a beautifully run affair, with a trick-or-treat parade through the store and all the staff in costumes). On Sunday, church was cancelled due to snow, so Kathleen took the girls sledding. Today, Mabel dressed up as a Time Travelling Fashionista for a Halloween-timed living book report project at school. Tonight, they trick & treat outdoors. Chilling.
One Halloween/snowstorm connection we were happy to avoid: a plunge into darkness. Whole towns in Connecticut lost power. Our house did not lose power. Nor did we lose power from Hurricane Irene. Our house is protected by the spirits of Franklin, Edison and Tesla.
Watched the Halloween episode from the first episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch Saturday at midnight with Mabel. (Neither of us could sleep). It’s a classic, with gags about the expiration dates on party snacks, streaking and zapping annoying people into bottles as if they were household pests. Harvey throws a party and announces his costume will be James Dean, because all he needs is a T-shirt, jeans and something to lean on. We visit the party later on, and every boy at it is doing James Dean.
Another teeny-bopper TV Halloween treat is from the first season of the Disney Channel series Sunny With a Chance. The sitcom is disguised as a full episode of its show-within-a-show, a kid version of Saturday Night Live called So Random. Since the departure of star Demi Lovato, the series has since become So Random for real , but at this time it was a novelty, with actual guest stars such as Shaquille O’Neal, boy All-Star Weekend and “So Random’s own Sonny Monroe” (Lovato) doing a pop solo. The humor can seem spicy to adults, as when pint-sized character Zora Lancaster gets her monologue interrupted by Shaq and retorts “Do I go down to where you work and slap the ball out of your hands?”
It’s a party, all fun and games, until somebody dies onstage.
They say that the Frolicsome Frolictones could make the dead dance. That would be useful this time of year, yet so far we’ve only seen them make the dumb dance.
Friday’s case in pointless point: inviting the most obviously wasted folks in the singer’s sightline to stumble onstage and join in the festivities during the conga-line showstopper “Kinga Conga.” Thankfully, the dancers were not atop the Empire State Building, or their uncertain dancesteps would quickly have sent them to certain doom.
The Yell Chins and Calling Feral at the Bullfinch. Boo!… The Tonicollettes and the Imagine Poots at Hamilton’s, a scarified night where the decorations cost more than the bands will make—which is how these two makeshift acts were able to get on the bill… DJ Frite Nite at D’ollaires, where the live music is limited to hearing the costume pimp hats and the real suburban high-hairdos slap together…
They let me keep my room the way I’ve painted it. For a fee.
Jigsaw Seen, Winterland.
Jigsaw Seen’s been around for a while and hasn’t changed with the fashions, and it’s just great to hear a band that sounds like themselves and nobody else. Oh, there are allusions to say, The Hollies or a lot of power pop pioneers, but nothing which demands a comparison note. Jigsaw Seen brims over with confidence, creativity and intelligence. They sound eternally out of place, on their own plane of existence, mixing past and future in some alternate present where bands know exactly what they’re doing and don’t kowtow to trends.
The Yale papers all did Halloweeny features for the weekend—I particularly like the Yale Herald’s haunted walking tours of campus. But my fave spooky headline was this, on the cover of Friday’s Yale Daily News:
Podolny Holds Mysterious Job.
It’s a Jobs job. Three years ago, Joel Podolny abruptly stopped being Dean of the Yale School of Management and started began building the secretive management-training program dubbed “Apple University.” The story makes Podolny’s switch from academia to Applemania seem shrouded in intrigue. We should go as him for Halloween.