Familiar tunes performed in costumes ring in the Halloween season

TUNE OR TREAT: Covers will be played, costumes will be worn, and audiences will delight at several local venues this Halloween season. Pictured, clockwise from top left, are members of the Rocky Horror Music Show; Cam Girl; LazrLuvr; and Mac Sabbath. All photos courtesy of bands, except for Cam Girl by Sofia Campins and Mac Sabbath by Paul Koudounaris

As the Halloween season approaches, Asheville’s music calendar is robust with holiday-related events. But four shows are especially notable in their shared passion for repurposing music — often decades old — with a modern-day twist.

Let’s do the time warp (yet) again

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a box office failure on its 1975 release, but a groundswell of fanatic moviegoers eventually helped the film take its rightful place as a pop culture classic. The campy musical turned horror movie tropes on their head, introducing themes like androgyny into mainstream culture. And audiences’ participatory reaction to the film kick-started the cosplay concept.

As Rocky Horror heads toward its 50th anniversary, the musical shows no signs of losing its appeal. And Asheville is the perfect locale to stage another revival of the musical. The Rocky Horror Music Show takes place Friday, Oct. 21, at 9 p.m., at The Grey Eagle.

Drummer Courtney Cahill is spearheading the project, but he doesn’t consider the Asheville-based Rocky Horror a revival at all. “It’s a very unique staging of the material,” he asserts. “There are hundreds of ‘shadow casts’ that engage with the movie on screen, and theater companies that put on the musical, but we present it as a total rock show.”

The local production began in 2021 with a pair of shows, and in August the cast reconvened to prepare for a run of performances this fall. Even though this Rocky Horror is a stage production, Cahill’s cast bases its music and dialogue on the 1975 film, not the original 1973 musical.

“We’re going for [the film soundtrack’s] sound,” Cahill says, “and we’re certainly trying to channel the actors from the film.” He adds that the show includes “just enough interstitial narration to stitch it together for the newbies.”

The film starred a number of high-profile actors, including Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon. But the most memorable roles featured Meat Loaf (as short-lived delivery boy Eddie) and Tim Curry in the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. The Asheville cast features saxophonist Myles Dunder and drummer Troy Crossley, respectively, in those roles.

Dunder says he has taken part in shadow casts of Rocky Horror ever since his high school days. “Rocky Horror taught me that there is nothing more beautiful than a theater full of weird people excited about the same silly thing,” he says.

The band/cast members are drawn from among Asheville’s deep-bench musical community. “We’re a group of friends who have known each other for many years in different bands,” Cahill says. “But when we first got into our underwear and corsets, we saw each other in a much different light.”

Cahill remarks upon the ways in which the show resonates with Asheville audiences. “Even though the movie is not playing, the audience is still engaging with us [as if it is].” And he notes with pride that that interactivity continues even after the final curtain falls. “After the show, people always come up and tell us what Rocky Horror did for them in their journey seeking a unique identity.”

The Grey Eagle is at 185 Clingman Ave. Tickets are $17-$20. For more information, visit avl.mx/c24

Covers for books

An Asheville tradition for more than 20 years, the Halloween Cover Show brings together local music artists and music lovers for a night of community and familiar tunes. And it’s done in support of an underserved, marginalized part of society: incarcerated people.

This year’s event will be held Friday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.; the secret location will be revealed via Instagram (@avl.halloween.cover.show) a few days prior. Tickets are $20.

All funds raised from this year’s annual Halloween Cover Show will go to support the work of two locally based advocacy groups, Tranzmission Prison Project and Asheville Prison Books. Both organizations launched in the early 2000s, aiming to provide free books to incarcerated people. APB serves the Carolinas, and TPP mails books and literature to incarcerated LGBTQ+ people nationwide, explains Riley Carter, a volunteer with TPP since 2015.

About 30 volunteers are involved locally, and Carter emphasizes that while both organizations are “connected to a wider network of prison books programs,” those links are informal. Neither organization is a registered 501(c)3. “As a bunch of anarchists, we aren’t the most concerned with the money or status of the project,” Carter says. “We just want to send out books to prisoners until every cage is emptied.”

Carter believes that the work of TPP and APB is a radical act “because it resists the alienation and isolation perpetuated by prisons.” And he believes that the prison system is hostile to his group’s mission. “This is not easy work,” he says. “But with every package we send to our community behind bars, we’re succeeding in our goals.”

The two organizations have sent many thousands of packages to incarcerated people, Carter says. And many prisoners send letters of thanks in return. “Those thank-you letters are some of my most prized possessions,” he says. “They let me know that we are succeeding and that we have to keep going.”

The Halloween Cover Show is a way to support the efforts of these organizations while having fun. Carter says that he has been attending every year since 2013. “And I had the pleasure and honor of organizing the show in 2011,” he says. “We raised upwards of $6,000.”

At press time, Carter was keeping the lineup for this year’s show under wraps. “We try to get a good mix on the bill; nothing too obscure,” he says. But he did provide some hints. “You can expect to [hear bands performing covers of] Korn, Judas Priest, Britney Spears and The Specials,” he says. In other cities, Carter continues, similar events focus on punk. But the Asheville tradition “ends up landing in a swirl of irony and sincerity.”

Sponsored by Pansy Collective, this year’s event promises to be unique and eclectic. “You can expect food, a raffle, community safety volunteers, a photo booth by DIYabled, a costume contest and DJs,” Carter promises, calling the event “a completely DIY immersive Halloween experience.”

Set lasers to ‘fun’

In recent years, tribute bands have become a growing sector on the live music landscape. Some focus specifically on the music and visuals of one act, while others seek to re-create the vibe of a particular time. It’s the latter approach that forms the foundational concept of Asheville-based LazrLuvr, a seven-piece group featuring well-known local and regional musicians. The band will be the featured entertainment at the Lore and Legends Masquerade Ball on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m., at Continuum Art Gallery in Hendersonville.

Vocalist Raphael Morales developed the LazrLuvr concept with drummer Sam Frame. “From inception, the idea was to make a massive supergroup that brought people from the community together in the wake of the isolation and separation we all felt during COVID,” Morales explains. “We wanted to create a unique ensemble piece that brought something to the table for everyone, performing iconic songs that people couldn’t find in a live setting anywhere else in our region.”

LazrLuvr combines visuals inspired by modern-day synthwave artists and applies it to a nostalgia-filled set list that surveys the ’80s pop landscape. The five core musicians — Morales and Frame plus guitarist Eric Congdon, keyboardist Brad Curtioff and bassist Walker Astin — had never been in a room together before starting the group, Morales says. But once they ran through four representative songs by classic artists of the era — Alan Parsons Project, Van Halen, Bon Jovi and Loverboy — Morales says that “every light bulb we had turned on.” The success of ’80s throwback series “Stranger Things” influenced the group’s setlist as well.

The original concept focused on fashion. “Initially, it was going to be more Lycra than band,” Morales admits with a laugh. “But once we realized the scope of talent, we knew it would be so much more than that.” Morales says that LazrLuvr strives to avoid being genre-specific. “I wanted to be more decade-oriented,” he explains. That meant adding two vocalists, Fancy Marie and Hope Griffin. “Now we’re beyond fortunate to have a powerhouse vocal block,” he says. At present, Morales says that the group’s repertoire features “about six hours of music.”

Morales notes that a key to LazLuvr’s appeal is the “collaborative selflessness” of the group members, most of whom have worked fronting other bands. “LazrLuvr is a wild ride without a lot of room for ego,” he says. “We all share that space equally.” And visuals — props and costumes — remain central to the LazrLuvr aesthetic, as Morales and fellow members pour hours into their onstage get-up.

LazrLuvr is already booking well into next year, and Morales says that the group’s collective goal is to “stay fresh, adapt to demand and bring as much joy to the world as possible.” The costume-mandatory Masquerade Ball is technically sold out, but Morales emphasizes that 35 tickets have been held back for sale at the door. The event includes a Victorian-style dinner, bar and desserts. “And our set is going to be absolutely ridiculous,” Morales promises.

Continuum Art Gallery is at 147C First Ave. E., Hendersonville. For more information, visit avl.mx/c25.  

You deserve a Mac today

The music of prime-era Black Sabbath has served as inspiration for countless bands, applying the drop-tuned, doom-laden style of the Birmingham, England, foursome to their own creative ends. But perhaps the most unusual band to follow in Black Sabbath’s wake is Los Angeles quartet Mac Sabbath. The group plays The Grey Eagle on Halloween, Monday, Oct. 31, at 9 p.m.

The group’s sound will be familiar to many listeners: The melodies closely follow the music of Sabbath’s 1970s albums. And the group members will be eerily recognizable as well, but perhaps not in the way one might expect. Lead singer Ronald Osbourne is covered in clown makeup with a shaggy red wig and dressed in a baggy red, white and yellow suit.

The rest of the band looks suspiciously like fast-food mascots gone wrong as well: guitarist Slayer MacCheeze sports a giant head that looks like a mass-produced cheeseburger (with horns borrowed from Spinal Tap’s stage setup). Drummer Catburglar is a cartoonish cross between Kiss drummer Peter Criss and a masked thief. Bassist Grimalice … well, you get the idea.

The band doesn’t grant interviews, and band manager Mike Odd explains why, using a not-so-subtle Black Sabbath reference: “Ronald is … paranoid,” he says. Instead, he speaks on the group’s behalf and recalls how he first got involved with the freaky foursome.

“I got this call, and the guy says, ‘You’ve got to come down to this burger franchise in Chatsworth, Calif.; it’s going to change your life.’ Odd’s reply: “Yeah, I’ll bite.”

There he encountered a costumed quartet playing Black Sabbath tunes, but their lyrics sought to launch a “dinner rock revolution,” extolling the evils of fast food, processed ingredients, multinational corporations, genetically modified organisms and the like. Odd was immediately won over and began booking the group at venues in Southern California.

Inevitably — even in a cultural landscape overrun with high-concept ideas — Mac Sabbath got noticed. “I put a thing on YouTube, and it instantly went crazy,” Odd recalls. With a mischievous smile, he notes that “Fox News was the first major outlet that picked up Mac Sabbath; they said all these awful things about them!”

It didn’t hurt, either, when Black Sabbath’s official social media posted a link to the video. In short order, Mac Sabbath was invited to perform in England at the 2015 Download Festival, sharing a bill with Kiss, Mötley Crüe and Slipknot. They even played a private party given in honor of Ozzy Osbourne.

Yet, Mac Sabbath simply cannot operate according to traditional rules of rock ‘n’ roll. Ronald’s paranoia seeps through in his between-song banter, as he rants about other bands he imagines are stealing his ideas. Odd ticks off a list: “Cinnabon Jovi, Weezer Schnitzel, Burger King Diamond, KFC/DC … even Van HaLensCrafters. And they’re not even food! How dare they!”

Tickets are $23. For more information, visit avl.mx/c26



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About Bill Kopp
Author, music journalist, historian, collector, and musician. His first book, "Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon," published by Rowman & Littlefield, is available now. Follow me @the_musoscribe

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