The Chicago rock scene has a long tradition of pulling out all the stops on Halloween, whether it’s local bands donning the look and sound of some of their musical idols for special one-off cover sets, or local venues booking the most frightening sounds from across the country in honor of our scariest holiday.
Here is an alphabetical look at the very best tricks and treats in club land commemorating All Hallows Eve, 2008.
The Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace
This year, the Abbey is hosting two nights of costumed cover fun, starting on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. with Big T1me as Tom Waits, the mighty Jinx Titanic as Meat Loaf, Canasta as the Decemberists, All City Affairs as George Michael, the Webstirs as the Flaming Lips, the Delafields as the Velvet Underground and the Getouts as Neil Young. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door.
Taking the Abbey’s stage at 8:30 Friday, Dead Electric becomes AC/DC, the Bon Mots are Tom Petty, Fringe Benefit is the Cars, Phil Angotti and Brad Elvis tackle the Who, Nick Tremulis pays homage to the New York Dolls, John Aselin does the same for Tommy James and the Shondells, and Avalanche Rescue Team is the Smiths. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door; for more information, call (773) 478-4408 or visit www.abbeypub.com.
The Abbey’s also got some scary delights on Saturday courtesy of “The Graveface Records Day of the Dead Showcase” with psychedelic/noise-rockers Black Moth Super Rainbow, Kid Dakota and Dreamend, plus DJ stints by the infamous Scary Lady Sarah and Hospital Ships. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $14 in advance or $16 at the door.
The Bottom Lounge, 1375 W Lake St.
Simultaneously celebrating its sixth anniversary (though it’s only been reopened in its new location for several months), the Bottom Lounge presents an act that, if it isn’t exactly chilling, is certainly alien in the very best way: psychedelic soul man Aris “King” Khan. One of the highlights of last summer’s Pitchfork Music Festival while performing with his noise band the Shrines, his appearance this time around is billed as the King Khan and BBQ Show; we’re not sure exactly what that means, but it certainly summons images of the fires of hell. Opening are venerable local garage-rockers the Goblins, CoCoComa and the Velvet Underground-inspired band Women. The show starts at 9 p.m. Friday, and tickets are $12 or $15.00 at the door. For more info, call (312) 929-2022 or visit www.bottomlounge.com.
The Bottom Lounge also has a spine-tingling treat in store on Sunday starting at 9 p.m. courtesy of Swedish rockers Dungen, who cast magical, mystical spells in a nether region of progressive, psychedelic and indie-rock. Tickets are $15 in advance or at the door.
The Congress Theatre, 2135 N. Milwaukee
An argument can be made that every day is Halloween for Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco, who is as likely to spin rhymes about the mysteries of outer space as the horrors of inner-city life (or the joys of skateboarding), and he’s making a tradition of coming home for the holiday. The doors open at 6 p.m. Friday and tickets are $27.50 to $30. Visit www.congresschicago.com.
Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee
The club that started the Halloween cover bands trend keeps it going strong starting at 9 p.m. Friday when the Sleepers become Aerosmith, Blackbox is Michael Jackson, the Midnight Shows are eddie money, My Cold Dead Hand does the cramps and the Slingerland Ride impersonates Tom Waits. The cover is $10.
Much more terrifying, on Saturday the headliners are those Chicago-bred, San Francisco-based masters of hardcore punk and sheer onstage chaos, the Dwarves, making one of two Chicago-area Halloween appearances. (The other is at Reggie’s on Halloween proper, and both feature former Queens of the Stone Age terror monger Nick Oliveri playing with the band.) Maggot T—, Knuckle Dragger, Audio Violence and DJ Timebomb open, and tickets are $10 advance or $12 at the door. Call (773) 489-3160 or visit www.doubledoor.com.
The Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western
Linking up with the Chicago Underground Film Festival, the Empty Bottle presents its 9th annual “Jukebox of the Dead” on Friday with local rockers Detholz! The band promises an evening of “deconstructions of soft rock and adult contemporary hits–the songs you love to hate to love.” Also on the bill: electropop duo Aleks & the Drummer and mash-up artists the Hood Internet. The show starts at 10 p.m. Friday and tickets are $12 in advance or $15. Call (773) 276-3600 or visit www.emptybottle.com.
Fitzgerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn
The coolest roots-rock club in the universe is throwing a twist into its celebration this year, abandoning its annual “Ghosts of Rock” night for an evening dubbed “Ghosts of Elections Past.” The free Halloween costume party starts at 8 p.m., is hosted by Eric Brightfield and is inspired by the cable TV hit “Mad Men” to celebrate “all things adult and toxic” with cool music, classic cocktails and vintage political films. Call (708) 788-2118 or visit www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com.
The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia
The friendliest club in Chicago gets mean, loud and most of all heavy on Halloween starting at 10 p.m. with a bill featuring the Jucifer-inspired doom combo Rabid Rabbit (celebrating the release of its first full album on the local Interloper Records label), the Boston metal band Grief, the aptly named Bloodiest and DJ Kevin Drumm. The club notes that “costumes and corpse paint are encouraged,” and the cover is $8; call (773) 227-4433 or visit www.hideoutchicago.com.
The House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn
HOB is a day early with its Halloween celebration this year as those costumed metal goons and buffoons GWAR take the stage Thursday night after opening sets by Kingdom of Sorrow and Toxic Holocaust starting at 9 p.m. Tickets are $21 or $23; call (312) 923-2000 or visit www.hob.com/venues/clubvenues/chicago/.
There’s nothing overtly frightening about Mexican rock/rock en espanol, but HOB’s Halloween headliner Jaguares does include among its members one Csar Lopez, aka “El Vampiro.” The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $37.50 to $43; call (312) 923-2000 or visit www.hob.com/venues/clubvenues/chicago/.
Martyr’s, 3855 N. Lincoln
Martyr’s goes underground metal for the holiday with hard-hitting and ultra-theatrical headliners Cealed Kasket, whose front man Mortal Death brags: “To spend a moment on my stage would be to spend an eternity in a blood fart.” Opening is the Martyr’s Halloween house band Vlad the Impaler, a tribute to all-time horror-rock gods Black Sabbath. The show starts at 9 p.m. Friday and tickets are $10; call (773) 404-9494 or visit www.martyrslive.com.
Metro, 3730 N. Clark
The early-evening double bill of reggae-rockers Pepper and Passafire in the main room of Metro at 6:30 p.m. Friday is frightening only in the wrong way, but the club does boast a true Halloween highlight when the annual Nocturna All Hallows Eve Ball possesses the space from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. In addition to the best chilling goth and darkwave sounds courtesy of the inimitable DJ Scary Lady Sarah, there’s a costume contest on the main stage with bounteous prizes; frightening film features and a Halloween-themed belly dance performance by Read My Hips. Admission is $10 with a costume, $15 without, and tickets are only available at the door. Call 773) 549-4140 or visit www.metrochicago.com.
Phyllis’ Musical Inn, 1800 W Division St.
Among the acts taking the stage at this favorite Wicker Park Dive on Halloween is New York’s “instrumental surf/punk/sci-fi band,” the Coffin Daggers, who are guaranteed to deliver the appropriate cool and creepy sounds. Also on the bill: the Heavies and Johnny Roger. Call (773) 486-9862 for more information.
Reggie’s Rock Club, 2109 S. State
Making the first of their two scary weekend appearances, the Dwarves headline what Reggie’s is billing as “the Coffin Bangers Monster Mash Party.” The insanity starts at 9 p.m. Friday and also features a menagerie of performers including DJ Coffin Banger, rock ‘n’ roll dominatrix Miss Maya Sinstress, Sajula the Sultan of Suffering, Nu Ethix Suspension, Pain-Kurt Girls, Thomas the Geek Magician and Wray Gun. Tickets are $20; call (312) 949-0121 or visit www.reggieslive.com.
Ronny’s, 2101 N. California
A new contender in the Halloween cover band face-off, Ronny’s hosts Smoked Pork, a tribute to Body Count, Ben Weasel Don’t Like It, a Chicago punk cover band, a Misfits cover band and surf-rockers Nature of the Beast starting at 9 p.m. on Halloween. For more info, visit www.mpshows.com.
Schubas, 3159 N. Southport
Finally we come to what Schubas bills as its “Halloween Thing 2008.” Starting at 10:30 p.m. Friday, DJ Mister Wolf warms things up for Haulin’ Boats “and their ’70s AM gold classics.” The cover is $6; for more information, call (773) 525-2508 or visit www.schubas.com.