A Giants victory parade, Halloween, and the sold-out Total Trash Halloween Bash all on Friday were enough to make my head explode. I’m not sure how much overlap there is between fans of each of these events, but the latter two were enough to make it hard to concentrate at work during the day. Eventually free, I headed across the Bay Bridge, cloaked and holding my non-emotive and decidedly creepy mask for my Tom Cruise costume. I’d be Eyes Wide Shut Cruise, the curious philanderer from the flick that came at the tail end of Stanley Kubrick’s career.
Once we got to Leo’s Music Club in Oakland I put the mask on, a virtual muzzle that made it hard to communicate on a few levels. No one could hear me. Reading my lips was impossible and the expressionless mask really seemed to freak people out. Fine by me; I never took the mask off. I’d rely on my perspective from behind eye-slits that blocked my peripheral vision (not good for Leo’s uneven floors) and ears to take in the annual tradition of bands covering other bands. [Note: Some slightly NSFW shots after the jump.]
[jump] I’m not exactly a Metallica fan per se, but Shannon and the Clams took us all off to never-never land with pretty spot-on renditions of classics like “Enter Sandman,” “Master of Puppets,” and “For Whom The Bell Tolls.” Would Kirk Hammett approve? Maybe. The band, re-christened for the night as Clamtallica employed some big guns for a most metal-fied sound. Yogurt Brain’s Steve Oriolo was brought in to shred on lead guitar and convincingly handled the solos like a rock and roll mercenary for hire. Meanwhile, Cody Blanchard and Shannon Shaw sang with an extra growl in their voices. And their costumes? Crispy, big-blonde, '80s wigs (Shannon had a stache!) to match the crunchy monster riffs people in the audience had no trouble thrashing, fist-pumping and singing along to.
Oriolo did double duty, performing as Smashing Pumpkins earlier in the night. He did them justice, along with East Bay versions of D’Arcy, Jimmy Chamberlain, and a pretty good James Iha. “Billy Corgan” wore a bald cap, slacker style, with the rest of his hair stuffed in a nylon stocking. Of course it looked ridiculous and his untamed mane found its way free by the set’s end. I’m old enough to have seen the Pumpkins live and let me just say “1979” sounded as good in 2014 as it did in 1997.
Hunx performing as Gayracula only did two songs, as expected. His set made for a nice transitory interlude. He moaned, teased, tantalized, and even showed us his G-string underwear. Aside from providing a few pounding, dancey, electro beats, he also hosted the annual costume contest. Clearly annoyed (or simply in character) by the cluster-fuck of contestants who rushed the stage, an overwhelmed Hunx seemed to make up the rules as he went along and claimed he was not the organizer of this event. He did have fun giving the doorman working security that night a hard time. He was wearing a cop uniform and was simply trying to announce that someone had lost their ID and that he had it, but Hunx was more interested in his name.
Salvador Dali Lama, a pair of ladies dressed as Heathers (the movie), a flapper who received absolutely no applause, and a strikingly great Walt from Breaking Bad were some of the 20-something people who were lucky enough to be acknowledged by the emcee. In the end the winner was a “Tenderloin” pigeon who of course looked a bit worse for wear.
I didn’t realize night two at Eli’s Mile High Club had an early 6 p.m. start. Unfortunately I missed a few bands, but I seemed to walk in at a perfect moment during Charlie Megira’s set. Moody red lighting combined with subdued vocals into a vintage-looking microphone conveyed a distinctly Lynchian atmosphere. The band remained within the constraints of the rockabilly-surfer vibe that prevailed throughout this evening, but had their own spin of hushed and intimate intensity.
Cool and graceful was their game. Megira crooned in the dimly-lit bar joined by his Berlin-by-way-of-Israel crew. Clad in shades and at one point shrouded by garments that covered his wiry pompadour, Megira fronted and handled lead guitar while a barely audible percussionist with bongo-ing hands looked busy nonetheless. The Dead Girl, a fitting name for the bassist’s goth-prom aesthetic, looked pretty cool too as she held down the low end.
Close encounters at the trough-style urinal in the men’s room aside, the rest of the night included thrills from Sacramento’s Scouse Gits, who ran through a number of blues-rock oldies with enough shake appeal to get the floor moving. Then a wild set from San Francisco’s Teutonics, which borderlined comic relief and disaster thanks to the Pabst Blue Ribbon-fueled frontman, who was all over the place. This band singlehandedly solidified the fest’s namesake by indiscriminately dousing the audience with shaken beers, usually by dumping them directly onto spectators' heads. Eventually a trashcan had to be brought near the front of the stage as a makeshift caution sign for the barf that was spewed onto the floor.
Somewhere in between the retching and the precarious threat of a madman band member on top of an amp with a crazy glimmer in his eye, they managed to conduct a raffle in silly German accents. Winners spun a wheel of fate where the prize was heavily rigged towards being baptized in more cheap beer. Phantom Surfers headlined and actually came off as the more serious act, despite corny jokes and lengthy stage banter. Highlights included proficiency with their instruments and choreographed rock poses that looked badass as they wore matching trademark velvet-purple blazers with Lone Ranger masks. Long live Halloween.