Halloween Festivities 2013: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; Muertos III; and Cirque of the Dead

I can’t believe it’s been over two weeks since my last blog post! Excuses include: a concert was cancelled, I’ve been ill, I’ve been working overtime (and throwing in freelance hours on weekends), it was my mom’s birthday… you get the idea. Anyway, in between all that (and slotted in between World Series games) I did manage to attend three music-oriented seasonal events for Halloween and Day of the Dead.

The most recent one was called Muertos III: A Day of the Dead Fiesta of Local Food and Fantasmic Music. I don’t like to badmouth well-intentioned people too much in public, so I’m not going to name anyone but the bands. The dinner/drinks side of things was basically a disaster as far as I was concerned, so they are better left unlinked and unpublicized. (I’d been there for an hour and a half before I managed to score a glass of water, to give you an idea… and I only got that because one of the people giving out samples for Slumbrew , a local beer brewing company, was nice enough to take a moment to help me out when I was about to be turned away from the bar for the third time without a drink. I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer beer companies with kind employees!)

There were two bands playing at the Muertos event, and both of them were great: first up was Mariachi Estampa de America, who are – you guessed it! – a local mariachi band. They walked around the dance floor and played acoustically while people were (mostly) eating dinner and/or waiting in line for the buffet. I am not exactly an expert on mariachi music, but I thought they were good and I enjoyed their set very much. The other band playing was Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys (with special guest: Dr. Teeth) – I’m a big fan of theirs and it was the prospect of seeing them that dragged me out into the depths of Somerville. I was not disappointed!

That right there is Walter Sickert and Dr. Teeth, and yes, of COURSE they have matching sunglasses. Dr. Teeth was notable not just for being the only Muppet-American in the band, but also because he was the only band member not wearing skull-face makeup in honor of the Day of the Dead. There was a lot of that going around, really:

(Don’t worry… she got better!)

They played a really fun set overall, including some of their own recent material from 28 Seeds and Soft Time Traveler, as well as some fun covers, like Danzig’s “Mother” and the seasonally-apt Ghostbusters theme song (with a timely Lou Reed reference slipped in…I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in the original lyrics!). I took a couple of videos from the show, which you can see on my Youtube channel (and I’ll probably post them on the Concert Manic Facebook page soon), but they just released a pretty cool music video this week, so I’ll embed that here instead:

(“Pornival” is apparently short for “portable carnival,” and has nothing to do with whatever you were just thinking, so get your mind out of the gutter!)

The show I went to before that, on Halloween proper, was by the Boston Circus Guild, called “Cirque of the Dead,” held at Oberon in Harvard Square. They had a number of different types of performances: juggling, acrobatics, gymnastics, live music, etc. and they were all Halloween themed. It was pretty entertaining to see how they turned all of their circus acts into anything from campy horror-movie spoofs to creepy aerial performances. (How do you make an aerial performance creepy? Try gnawing your own skin off! Eek.) I think my favorite act of the night was the jugglers who ended up playing a panicky game of keep-away with big knives and a serial killer in a hockey mask. The live music that night was provided by a local band, Johnny Blazes & the Pretty Boys, who featured more skull-face makeup and played a lot of Halloween-y covers, like the “Monster Mash” and “I Put A Spell On You.” I unfortunately started feeling really unwell during that show and had to skip quite a bit of their set and go home early.

The first Halloween-themed performance I saw was at the Brattle Theater, also in Harvard Square – they had a really great lineup of Halloween films (almost all of which I missed due to being busy or sick, boo!) including the one I saw, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with a live score performed by Not So Silent Cinema. I was always a fan of German Expressionist films from this period, and Caligari is undoubtedly among the very best of the genre, as well as being very influential on modern cinema. I only wish they could have gotten a higher-quality version to screen, because the beauty of the film is really in the backdrops and sets, and it was a bit hard to make out some of the detail. I’d seen it before, though, so it wasn’t too big of a problem for me. The music, performed on violin, clarinet, bass, and keyboard, blended with the film fairly well and didn’t really jump out that much (which I assume was what they were aiming for – the performance was more about the film than the music). This is in stark contrast to some silent-film-with-live-score performances I’ve seen, where they treat the film as a sort of backdrop to the music. I think either approach is fair game, it just depends what the musicians are trying to do on that particular day.

Sorry once more for the slow blog updates – I’m going to concerts this Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday so things should pick up a bit as long as I don’t get sick again. See you soon!

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2 Responses to Halloween Festivities 2013: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; Muertos III; and Cirque of the Dead

  1. Ariela says:

    Your gorgeous (John Zorn) is writing a new score for the Cabinet in Dr Caligari. It has it’s premiere at the Berlin film festival 9th February. Mr Zorn will perform the score on organ. If you fancy a foreign concert trip!?

    • Sarah V. says:

      I always fancy a foreign concert trip! That sounds great… pretty unlikely I’d be able to swing it as I’m planning another trip a week earlier, though. Funny, I was talking recently with someone about how we’d love to see JZ do some scores for some old films like these…

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