Happy Halloween! Hopefully you've got fun plans tonight even if it isn't a concert, but many excellent shows have taken place on this most pagan of holidays over the years. Music Times opted to select six notable Halloween performances worth remembering:
Bob Dylan @ Philharmonic Hall (1964)
This is also a handy 50th anniversary for one of Bob Dylan's many historical shows. Although there was nothing concretely momentous about it, Sean Wilentz of The New Republic wrote an excellent essay on the show and it's impact. Dylan released two albums during the year: The Times They Are A-Changin' and The Other Side of Bob Dylan. The former is a classic to be sure but Wilentz argues that the latter is even more relevant in that it exposed audiences to another side of his songwriting personality, a more introspective and less political side that has contributed to most critics considering him the greatest songwriter of all time. He played these songs live at the newly opened Philharmonic Hall in New York City (now Avery Hall at Lincoln Center) with Joan Baez, using lyrics that would later reappear in famous tracks such as "Subterranean Homesick Blues."
The Stooges @ Somebody's House (1967)
Somebody decided to throw a Halloween party in Detroit and needed a band to play. No one knows whose house it was to this day but the event would be one of the most momentous concerts in punk history: The live debut of The Stooges. It was far from the shenanigans and style we know now but the foundation is there: Iggy Pop was still playing instruments at the time, albeit a Farfisa organ, and Scott Asheton's drum set was comprised of a snare, a set of timbales and an empty 50-gallon drum of motor oil. The equipment may have gotten better over the years but the attitude has been largely the same.
Frank Zappa @ The Palladium (1978)
Frank Zappa is noted for his Halloween shows in New York City. Although not an annual thing per se, he still managed to play 20 shows on the date in that city over his career. There are no doubt arguments between Zappa's fan base over which was the best but our research indicates that the 1978 gig was one to be remembered. His group played a 38-song set that stretched for more than four hours. Although many "jam" bands like to throw in some thematic covers to mark occasions on which they're playing, Zappa doesn't do any Halloween-themed bits, although Zappa superfan and blogger Richard Harrold notes the "head-banging heavy metal" theme running throughout the night.
The Grateful Dead @ Oakland-Alameda Coliseum (1991)
As the previous entry notes, jam bands tend to enjoy playing Halloween very much (Phish is also a big supported of playing a gig every year on the date). The Grateful Dead is not one of the groups that made it a "must" to play but its gig in Oakland at the coliseum sure hit the fright-night themes on the head. The band closed with "Werewolves" but the most famous/notorious track from the set was the bands performance of its classic "Dark Star." Ken Kasey, an author best known for his novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, came onstage during the performance and delivered a eulogy for both longtime San Francisco concert promoter Bill Graham (who had died six days earlier) and his son, who had at the age of 20 in a car accident during 1984. Graham had donated $1,000 to help out with a monument for the young man. His spoken sermon involved the quote "how do you like your blue-eyed boy now, Mr. Death?" from the e.e. cummings poem "Buffalo Bill's / defunct," making it all the more creepier.
KISS @ Dodger Stadium (1998)
KISS has always been about the most bombastic performances possible and the Psycho Circus Tour was to be no different. The band kicked the tour-the first to feature 3D elements-off at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, dressed for the holiday in their usual costumes. The show was the only one on the tour to feature Smashing Pumpkins (Billy Corgan is a noted fan of old-fashioned heavy metal), who did dress up for the event. The group came onstage dressed as The Beatles and even played music to go along with the act by covering The Beatles' version of "Money (That's What I Want)" as its opening song.