From flappers to rappers, Halloween night in Asheville this year offers something for every ghost, ghoul and goblin.
Don your best flapper duds and visit the Asheville Art Museum’s Roaring Twenties Party. Or, if rock ‘n’ roll (and one hell of a house party) is your thing, don’t miss Asheville’s 20th annual Freakers’ Ball, at Be Here Now. Stella Blue presents Stellaween, with the dramatic stylings of The Goodies and the red-hot rap of burgeoning local sensations M.C. Huggs and the Groove Crust. The American Business Women’s Association is throwing a masquerade bash in the Haywood Park Hotel Atrium. Vincent’s Ear will offer local favorites Luvsix, plus Squat Weiler (out of Charlottte). The Metro will serve up house music and host a costume contest, co-sponsored by the Octopus Garden, offering such prizes as an overnight stay at Harrah’s (complete with dinner and $150 gambling money); $300 cold, hard cash; and two tickets to Biltmore Estate, including a limo ride to and from. The Grey Eagle, sadly, says goodbye-for-now with an undoubtedly emotional grand finale on Halloween night featuring club mainstays Beth Wood, Jeff Tarayla, Rocket 88, Ron Neill & the Eleventh Hour, plus some surprises. Finally, Asheville rockers American Gothic fire it up at Black Mountain’s Town Pump — with vague promises of resurrecting a long-forgotten wedding dress (which will undoubtedly look as lovely as always on guitarist Jim Moseley).
For more details and a few highlights, read on.
Roaring Twenties Party
The Asheville Art Museum begins a new tradition by resurrecting an old one when it hosts the first annual Roaring Twenties Party at Pack Place.
“We’re putting down a dance floor in the museum, and it should be loads of fun,” promises Michelle Lappas, publicity director for the event.
The party was created in conjunction with the museum’s current exhibit, In the City: Urban Visions 1900-1940, a collection of masterpieces from the Whitney Museum of American Art, which closes on Halloween day. The exhibit showcases the works of a veritable who’s who of American artists, and traces the dramatic changes, both cultural and artistic, that marked the first four decades of this century in urban America.
Museum administrators felt that the unprecedented success of the three-month-long exhibit called for a celebration of urban Asheville’s heyday.
“The ’20s was a big time for Asheville,” notes Leesa Sutton, the museum’s director of external affairs, pointing to the city’s storied history and the Grove Park Inn’s peak of status — Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald hung out there, after all. “We felt that [the exhibit] gave us the perfect circumstance to put on this event,” she explains.
Costumes are not strictly required, but with antique cars parked out front, Prohibition-style bootleg punch within (we’ve been unable to substantiate rumors involving a bathtub full of gin), and the ’20s jazz stylings of 42nd Street on tap, partygoers should at least attempt to look the part.
“We’re really hoping people will dress up, so we’re adding quite an extensive list of costume prizes from local restaurants, retail stores and clubs,” reports Lappas. Possible loot will include a membership to Tressa’s, dinner at La Caterina Trattoria and gift certificates from Enviro Depot and Togar Rugs. A champagne brunch at Vincenzo’s Bistro will follow the event. Proceeds will help fund the Whitney show as well as other Asheville Art Museum exhibits.
The Asheville Art Museum’s first annual Roaring Twenties Party takes place on Saturday, Oct. 31, from 8:30-11:30 p.m., and then spills over to Vincenzo’s Bistro with a midnight champagne brunch. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door (plus $10 for the midnight brunch). Call 253-3227 for more info..
Freakers’ Ball, the 20th anniversary edition
“People always have a really good time. I can’t remember a negative vibe at any show,” says veteran Asheville rocker Bud Moore about Asheville’s most notorious Halloween event. “I never met a band that had an attitude that night — even [musicians] who had an attitude at other venues never had one at the Freakers’ Ball. If some guy would [burst] a snare-drum head, some other band would lend him one. Everyone was always really cool,” he recalls.
The 20th anniversary edition of the ball will be staged at Be Here Now. And though Moore — who’s played many Freakers’ shows over the years and will be on hand this time as a member of Alive and Well (one of three bands slated to play) — admits that the event has always been something of a “boozefest,” his memory is crystal clear when it comes to the creative attire of past years’ partygoers.
“There was a headless horseman one year on a [real] horse, and they wouldn’t let him in, because they knew he would have to win [the big cash costume prize],” Moore recalls. “There was also a Frankenstein that year … who was unbelievable. The guy was up on stilts; he was eight feet tall and literally looked like someone had stitched him together and sent [him out] to kick some serious ass.”
There’s something about the combination of costumes and good music that lightens people up, Moore believes.
“I’m trying to remember who it was, but one year, someone fell off the stage and still [managed] to play their ass off,” he says with a laugh. “They didn’t miss a lick, just got right back on and kept playing.
The Freakers’ Ball, the brainchild of local sculptor Danny Reiser, has passed through many managerial hands (and a wide variety of venues) over its two-decade run. But after being dorman for the past two years, what is arguably Asheville’s wildest Halloween party is back — which makes its anniversary reawakening at Be Here Now all the more deliciously ominous.
“It’s always the party of the year, and this year, we’ll have the biggest dance floor we’ve [ever] had,” Moore says eagerly.
Besides Alive and Well, this year’s ball will feature the reggae stylings of Mental Roots and the horn-heavy, high-energy R&B of The Incontinentals. A $500 best-costume prize is also on the roster.
The Freakers’ Ball gets under way at Be Here Now on Saturday, Oct. 31 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Call 258-2071 for more info.
Stella Blue will serve up two high-octane bands on Halloween night — the vaudeville-meets-high-opera-meets-psychedelic-rock of The Goodies, and the rap-rock of one of Asheville’s most original groups, M.C. Huggs and the Groove Crust.
Groove Crust guitarist Dave Tallevast reports that the band has a new manager and is busy making its first CD. The two-year-old Asheville group (composed of Tallevast, drummer Christian Gentille, bassist Gus Adams, and rappers P-Dog and M.C. Huggs) offers a uniquely mesmerizing mesh of rap and hard, groove-driven rock.
“A lot of rappers are against us, because we mix rap and rock,” Tallevast explains. “People have called Huggs a sellout. They’ll ask him, ‘Why do you want to play with these white guys?’ And a lot of rock purists have come up to me and said, ‘You’re a good guitar player. Why do you want to play rap?’
“People have tunnel vision,” he continues. “They hear one record and say, ‘This is the way it should be.’ They just don’t get it.”
Luckily for the Groove Crust, though, many people do “get it.” Even at this early stage, the band has a solid and rapidly expanding core of fans that trail them to gigs as far away as Myrtle Beach.
“A lot of people come to every show, and travel with us, which is cool,” says Tallevast (references to these faithfuls often make their way into the group’s raps).
For M.C. Huggs and the Groove Crust, songwriting is an intensely collaborative effort, according to Tallevast. “Huggs might try a rap [while] listening to something like Nirvana, and other times, I’ll write a riff and we’ll work it out, play it over and over again,” he relates. “We [practice] a long time to make the songs effective.”
Tallevast and Huggs began working together several years ago while temporarily living in New York City, and despite the band’s current local popularity, the guitarist misses the open-minded urban vibe that birthed the group:
“In New York, you had every kind of music you wanted,” Tallevast muses. “The Asheville music scene is in a lull, and to me, it needs a kick in the ass.”