There are not enough musical festivals dedicated to spooky music. Sure, there are alt rock and metal fests, which attract some goth and death metal characters, but festivals with lineups of bands that share imagery–in lieu of musical style–are rare. Granted, there are not a whole lot of events at which fans of horror imagery and entertainment can unify, in general [Horror Works is one website that promotes various horror-related events for fans to discover]; however, as far as a horror fest with live musical acts as its main draw is concerned, the LA Horror Show & Music Fest was an anomaly.
The festival took place at the Hollywood Sports complex, in Bellflower. And although the entire grounds seemed decked-out, all spooky-like, for their annual Haunted Hollywood Sports event last October–wherein there were haunted mazes and “kill zones,” where you could shoot live zombies using paintball guns–this event was restricted to the immediate courtyard and indoor performance area. This was fine considering there were not the hordes of fans who had come during October to shoot performers with faux weapons. Still, the courtyard featured a decent amount of space, which was occupied by various horror-related vendors and a side-show stage.
Given the mixture of excellent sideshow acts, the vignettes of the colorful vendors, the adornments of the guests (in some cases they dressed quite extravagantly, as the festival's Facebook page had encouraged), and alcohol, the courtyard scene, alone, would have made for a goodly gathering. Having mentioned the alcohol, the event was restricted to guests aged 21 and older. Furthermore, some of the vaudevillian-styled sideshow acts had elements of adult kitsch, including an impressive striptease act, performed by a skeleton marionette (which eventually shed enough layers to reveal twirling tassels mounted directly to its bare rib cage).
The musical acts ranged in their horror imagery from the overt skeletal make-up and costuming of The Rhythm Coffin, which seems to perform at most every horror-themed event in Orange County (and beyond) to the atmospheric Victorian garb of Unextraordinary Gentlemen. The playing styles of the bands were just as diverse and, variously, the stage was commanded by screeching, bouncing vocalists and tempered violin accompanists.[
On a number of levels, with some exceptions, the main stage acts matured as the night went on. Though the evening began with the mysterious and minimalist theme of Stanley Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut, as performed by Bloodpenny (and followed by the performance of a decent set – performed mostly behind a shroud of fog); The Rhythm Coffin, which was the second act, regularly performs high-energy, zany versions of songs such as “The Monster Mash.” The aforementioned Unextraordinary Gentlemen are much more genteel, but no less charming.
Next on the bill was the burlesque floorshow of Frankie Sin, which was followed by Psycho Charger, whose members frequently perform in their underwear and drenched in fake blood; finally, there was Calabrese, whose horror imagery is more or less confined to their music, as their appearance is more aligned with a rockabilly aesthetic.
Though festivals like this are rare, it may be that the tide is turning. It may not be all about zombies and psycho killers, but with the increasingly popular gothic and steampunk cultures converging with musical, burlesque, and vaudevillian acts at old school balls, masquerades, and festivals such as this, more horror-related subcultural events seem to be on the rise. As for activities at this particular location, LA Horror Show & Music Fest organizer Raul Salas and venue owner Giovanni D'Egidio have already scheduled the Zombie Blood Run (a grotesque obstacle course wherein zombies try to steal your brain [stylized flag]), and, in October, the return of Haunted Hollywood Sports.