A few weeks ago, Twitter had a minor meltdown when an online wag posited that no one had ever heard the song “Monster Mash.” Here’s his thinking: The song Bobby Pickett released back in 1962 was only an “approximation” of his memory of the sounds of monsters dancing, not the actual song that the monsters were dancing to. This is, of course, a silly bit of hairsplitting (on Twitter? Say it ain’t so!), but it highlights the sad truth that, with one notable exception, there aren’t many qualifiers to establish just what “Halloween music” sounds like. Is it slow and eerie? Fast and frantic? Or does it have more of a hoedown, farm feel, in honor of the season?
Luckily, whatever your personal tastes are, there’s a venue and an artist somewhere in NYC hoping you’ll skip the parade and partake in the excitement of the holiday with some live music. The following are our picks for live concerts taking place tonight through Halloween.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27
The Sons and Heirs + Masters and Servants – ‘Cemetery Gates’ Halloween Tribute
Come costumed to give praise to Gothic mopesters and trend-setting New-Wave giants The Smiths and Depeche Mode at this evening length tribute in honor of the 54th Halloween birthday of Smith’s guitarist and songwriter Johnny Marr. Our resident in-house the Smiths fan gives local cover band The Sons and Heirs a black-lipstick kissed seal of approval.
Perfect for: Goths and Gen Xers.
The Bell House
149 7th Street, Gowanus
$20 advance, $24 at door
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28
This Japanese ensemble answers the age-old question, “What would it sound like if the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers started a punk band?” The group performs raucous, high-velocity rock in outlandish, color-coded costumes, with regular breaks for batty bits of pro-wrestling stagecraft and acrobatics. A recent Netflix streamable documentary on Peelander-Z, Mad Tiger, was released to strong reviews and has renewed interest in the band. Expect their set on the small stage at Baby’s All Right to rapidly get out of control.
Perfect for: Rockers who like gonzo-style live performances.
Baby’s All Right
146 Broadway, Williamsburg
$15; 21 and older to enter
The Sixth Annual MoMA PS1 Halloween Ball With Susanne Bartsch
The Museum of Modern Art’s Queens venue is hosting a madhouse party produced by ’80s nightclub icon Bartsch. Plan on DJ sets, cabaret performances, burlesque, and aerial work from artists who wear costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween.
Perfect for: The famous, the fabulous, and the fashionable.
22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City
$18; 21 and older to enter
A Wasabassco Halloween
Burlesque troop Wasabassco hosts a risqué Halloween-dress competition, followed by a collection of striptease performances that’s likely to be more sexy than spooky.
Perfect for: Anyone who likes seeing costumes come off.
155 Varick Street (between Spring and Vandam Streets), Lower Manhattan
Doors open at 7 p.m.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29
Galás is an excellent pianist, a subversive cover artist, a social activist, and a cunning songwriter. She’s best known, though, for the awesome and bizarre instrument that is her voice. By turns operatic and guttural, Galás boasts an acknowledged five-octave vocal range. Live, she attracts a motley crew of devotees; you’ll recognize the first-timers in the audience by their expression of slack-jawed awe. It’s been more than a year since her last New York show; you’d be wise to catch her while you can on the 29th or 31st at the former Union Temple of Brooklyn at Grand Army Plaza, recently restyled as the Murmrr Theatre.
Perfect for: Goth-rock classicists and musical oddballs.
17 Eastern Parkway, Prospect Heights
Doors open at 7 p.m.; show at 8 p.m.
$45 advance, $55 at door; 18 or older to enter
Into Sweeney Todd’s Woods With Sarah Rice, Ken Jennings, and More
Two of Broadway’s scariest musicals collide with live performances of songs from Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods by original members of both casts and a collection of musical theater actors that includes Victoria Cook, Scott Coulter, and T. Oliver Reid.
Perfect for: Theater buffs and Sondheim obsessives.
Feinstein’s 54 Below
254 West 54th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue), Midtown
Doors open at 5:15 p.m.; show at 7 p.m.
$45–$85, plus $25 table minimum
MONDAY, OCTOBER 30
Cypress Hill: Haunted Hill
The pioneering ’90s West Coast hip-hop band is known for sharp rhymes and 420-friendly blunted verses.
Perfect for: Hip-hop lovers and weed smokers.
319 Frost Street, East Williamsburg
Doors open at 7 p.m.; show at 8 p.m.
$35 (VIP $107 and up); 16 and older to attend
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31
Gwar: The Blood of Gods Tour
The multimember 34-year-old Halloween-costumed shock-metal band Gwar revels in kitsch, nudity, potty humor, earsplitting sound, and nerdy self-awareness. They’re also remarkably strong musicians, honed by decades of touring and a deep back catalog that includes a surprisingly listenable cover of Billy Ocean’s “Get Into My Car.” The group’s 14th album, The Blood of Gods, features a scathing, timely, and predictably homicidal single titled “El Presidente.” Newcomers to the Gwar experience should be warned that audience members are certain to be sprayed with fake blood and fluid from the stage; this is a feature, not a bug.
Perfect for: Metalheads and the truly adventurous.
17 Irving Place (between East 15th and 16th Streets), Union Square
2nd Annual Halloween Funkdown With George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic
The great Clinton, one of the more important voices in ’70s music, leads the sprawling Parliament Funkadelic collective in a performance that should hit all the band’s classics, including “Flash Light,” “Atomic Dog,” and “Give Up the Funk.”
Perfect for: Reverent Funkateers.
B.B. King Blues Club & Grill
237 West 42nd Street (between Seventh and Eighth Avenues), Midtown
Doors open at 6 p.m.; show at 8 p.m.
$45 advance; $50 at door; $85 VIP ($10 minimum for all tables)
Nona Hendryx: The Night Before the Day of the Dead
LaBelle alumnus and outspoken soul singer Hendryx has taken up the challenge of discovering what Halloween music truly is. She’ll be singing Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s “I Put a Spell on You,” Alice Cooper’s “He’s Back,” and the Ramones’s “Pet Cemetery.”
Perfect for: Anyone looking for a real Halloween treat.
425 Lafayette Street (between Astor Place and East 4th Street), Noho
Doors open at 9 p.m.; show at 9:30 p.m.