Trick or Treat?

Local bands play dress-up for the Beachland's annual Halloween show

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Halloween: the time of year when most of us can break out of our daily grind by slapping on a rubber mask for a party or handing out Smarties to a bunch of kids dressed like Iron Man.

This weekend, a bunch of local musicians will work out their rock & roll fantasies by playing dress-up as some of their favorite artists — we're talking costumes, mind-sets, and most important, the music of their heroes. It's all part of the Beachland's two-night Halloween IV bash.

Members of local bands like the Big Sweet, Chief Bromide, the Hot Rails, and Spacer Ace will perform sets filled entirely with the music of more famous bands.

Friday night's show includes tributes to the Cars, Faces, Guided by Voices, New Pornographers, New York Dolls, and Refused. The party will spill over to Saturday night (the first time the Beachland's Halloween event has stretched over two shows), with bands working up songs by Kraftwerk, Pavement, the Sonics, the Velvet Underground, and (for a double-length set) Guns N' Roses.

Ken Janssen — assistant booker for the Beachland, the Hot Rails' singer, and curator of this year's festivities — says that even though there will be some big rock-star moves onstage, there won't be big rock-star egos involved. So don't expect two-hour delays between bands.

Janssen is most excited about paying, and playing, an onstage tribute to one of his biggest inspirations. "I didn't get into a band until I was in my 30s," he says. "Guided by Voices was a big part of that. Robert Pollard was a math teacher until he was about that age. There was this huge stigma that it was too late to start at that point, and he proved that wrong."

But Janssen's Hot Rails bandmates don't share his passion for super-low-fi indie rock, which ended up launching a sorta trend for this year's Halloween tributes: band members mixing and matching to accommodate individual tastes.

"Most of the guys in my band are not GBV fans," says Janssen. "So we decided to take on different tributes this year." That's why guitarist David Paolucci is part of the GNR band, while drummer Charles Druesedow and guitarist James Rychak are in the New York Dolls group.

Rychak — who played in the J. Geils Band and Who tribute bands at past Beachland Halloween shows — is thrilled with this year's anything-goes approach. Drummer Druesedow is stepping away from the kit. Members of Spacer Ace are sprinkled through the mix. And Rychak's roommate, who's been onstage only once in his whole life, is singing.

Don't expect tons of mascara for the New York Dolls set or onstage belligerence during the GNR show. Nobody's expected to dress up or recreate a classic show note for note, bandana for bandana, like they do at House of Blues' tribute concerts. Still, Janssen admits that "dressing up is part of the fun of Halloween. If you look at this like a one-off performance of a play, you're going to put everything you have into it."

"It should be pretty wild," adds Rychak. "I'm sure there will be a lot of liquid courage going around."

One band that won't be sidling up to the bar is the Big Sweet, a group of 16-year-old indie rockers from Canton whose debut album, Shot of Bliss, has been netting comparisons to Pavement.

No surprise who they're dressing up — or rather, dressing down — as for Halloween. Frontman Sam Regas says they already have Pavement's casual off-the-street-and-onto-the-stage look down. "Although our drummer is going for the look of their first drummer, Gary Young," he laughs. "He was this hippie nerd, about 20 years older than the rest of the band."

Janssen hopes the audience enjoys the swings in styles as much as he does. He's been around long enough to know how this works. "Hipsters are a funny breed," he says. "They'll pretend they're going to see the Velvet Underground, but by the end of the night they'll all be singing 'Sweet Child o' Mine.'"

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