Halloween came early this year to St. Louis, if the smattering of costumes displayed at the Nine Inch Nails show at the Savvis Center on Friday, October 14, was any indication. Amid the requisite band T-shirts (KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, Nirvana, White Zombie), some more elaborate get-ups were in evidence: pink leather pants, "Wicked Witch of the West"-esque striped socks, colored hair extensions and enough Hot Topic duds to stock the Galleria outpost.
Reznor's music wasn't quite as scary as it seemed in years past. Despite sledgehammers to the skull such as "March of the Pigs" or "Terrible Lie," Trent's sensitive side prevailed (cf. the somber "Right Where It Belongs").
Local clubs can't quite compare to the arena-size 'Nails spectacle, but they're no slouches when it comes to celebrating the spooky holiday. In that, ah, spirit, here's a rundown of the weekend's boo-tastic events -- judged on a Spook-o-Meter of one (a litter of kittens) to five (Freddy Krueger stuck in traffic on Highway 40).
Friday, October 28
Venue: Cummel's Café (1627 Washington Avenue; 314-231-9627)
Band: This Is the News
Details: Noodly, moody indie-rock outfit featuring two bassists and two drummers (along with occasional blues-grizzly vocals) that's steeped in the laid-back, textured instrumental tradition of Tortoise.
Spook-o-Meter: One. Costumes are encouraged -- but the show starts at a decidedly non-witching-hour (7 p.m.) at a cozy coffee shop.
Venue: CBGB (3163 S. Grand Boulevard; no phone)
Band: Pat Sajak Assassins
Details: No-wave-style contorted sax bleats, corrugated (but palatable) postpunk riffs and limb-loosening beats place Assassins somewhere between clattering noiseniks and a danceable Radiohead.
Spook-o-Meter: Two. Despite the confrontational name, PJS could totally be the goofy prom band in any of John Hughes' 1980s teen flicks if they had a little more pop oomph.
Saturday, October 29
Venue: Ramp Riders (2324 Salena Street; 314-776-4025)
Bands: Cardiac Arrest, the Breaks, My Regret and more
Details: The fifth annual Halloween hardcore show at this south-side skate park features costumed shredding and also serves as a release party for the Breaks' seven-inch EP Get Saved.
Spook-o-Meter: Three. Many adults might (unfairly) mistrust skaters, but the breakneck tempos these bands maintain is way more frightening than any potential mischief-mongering.
Monday, October 31
Venue: Creepy Crawl (412 N. Tucker Boulevard; 314-621-9333)
Bands: The Independents, Bullets to Broadway, Mark & the Vaders, AberZombie-n-Bitch and more
Details: This Helloween 2005 Fest features a midnight costume contest and enough Misfits/Damned-inspired spook-rock (the Independents, the Lurking Corpses) to satisfy the living undead.
Spook-o-Meter: Five. The Creepy's bathrooms are scary enough on a normal day; throw in a seven-band bill and a notoriously boozy holiday, and it's enough to induce a giant case of the willies.
Venue: Frederick's Music Lounge (4454 Chippewa; 314-351-5711)
Bands: Shit Sandwich, Jesse Irwin, Jonathan Baer, Black Cherry Werewolf
Details: Shit Sandwich is a Fred's Band Scramble contestant that continued to play after the contest ended; Fred Friction himself describes 'em as "grain-belt rock with sandpaper edges." Friction deems the other three on the bill open-mic singer-songwriters with "flair for the dramatic with their presentation and song material."
Spook-o-Meter: Three. You can never be sure what to expect when the theatrical Jonathan Baer -- who relies on the use of props -- hits the stage.
Venue: Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center (3301 Lemp Avenue; 314-771-1096)
Bands: Born to Die, New Flesh, Another Night Another Fight, Puppet Show
Details: The $5 reduced-admission-with-a-costume cover gets you into Lemp's Halloween punk extravaganza. Highlight is Another Night Another Fight's socially conscious, Clash-inspired Mohawk-rock.
Spook-o-Meter: Three. Mostly thanks to how frightening it is to ponder the social and political issues raised by the bands.