The Performant: Hell of a 'ween

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Getting scared with The Residents -- and other Hallowed traditions

Used to be that on Halloween you could be assured of catching either The Residents or The Cramps storming the stages of San Francisco; bands practically designed to blend in with the emissaries of the afterlife creeping through the thin membrane demarcating the spiritual plane. But with the sad passing of The Cramps iconic frontman Lux Interior in 2009, and the always-sporadic scheduling of The Residents, it seems like those days may be gone forever. But perhaps not coincidentally, in a unique twist on the Halloween season tradition, The Residents lead singer Randy Rose has been workshopping a disturbing cabaret all his own at the Marsh in Berkeley.

Entitled “Sam’s Enchanted Evening,” the production in its current permutation is a stripped-down acoustic medley of altered cover tunes and rambling monologues, blustery dispatches from the tortured depths of a character named Sam—an old high school chum, according to Randy. A broken-down shell of a former Casanova and Vietnam War veteran, a stooped and decrepit figure tottered onstage, walker and bourbon in tow, dragging the oddience down the claustrophobic rabbit hole of his pessimistic world view. Accompanied by occasional Resident’s collaborator and Marsh stalwart Joshua Raoul Brody on the keys, Sam warbled through an All-American pop-culture soundtrack from “Sixteen Tons,” to “Living the Vida Loca,” with desperate intensity. A haunting portrait of a twisted, tragic life, and possibly the scariest thing you could have seen during the long Halloween weekend.

As party-packed as the weekend was, for Halloween traditionalists, Monday night was still the real deal. And what better way to celebrate the scariest night of the year than at a bona-fide, old-fashioned, haunted house? For years, tiny corner grocery store Appel and Dietrich Market at 6001 California has been hosting haunted house mayhem in its basement, conceptualized and staffed by a stalwart crew of Richmond district denizens. An eye-catching guillotine and witch-burning stake out on the sidewalk entertained the passerby, while in the “dungeons” below the street, mouthy chopped off heads in baskets, strobe-lit tortures chambers, a mad scientist’s laboratory, and a sacrificial ritual lay in wait for the thrill-seeking horrorphiliacs who ventured down.

Later that evening, the third annual Halloween edition of FlashDance, one of the city’s most low-key yet exuberant howl-day traditions, occupied an anonymous pier on the Embarcadero, affording a great view of the Bay bridge, lit up in the background like a strand of party lights. While the mild evening pulsed with the soundtrack of the evening (heavy on the Michael Jackson, a favorite of FlashDance founder Amandeep Jawa), a costumed frenzy of flashdancers put their hands in the air like they just didn’t care. If there were any spirits walking that evening, they blended right in with the spunky aerobics instructors, zombies, and deep sea creatures otherwise disguised as party revelers, which is exactly the point of such revels, both for the living and the dead. It makes one suspect that whatever the afterlife has going for it, dance parties are not among them, so we’d best enjoy them now while we can.

Sam’s Enchanted Evening
Through November 26
The Marsh Berkeley
2120 Allston Way, Berkeley
$15-$50
(415) 826-5750
www.themarsh.org

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