(Refer to this web site for a same weekend report on the best of what people wore during Halloween costume parties).
With Halloween itself only two days following, this land is laden with Saturday costume parties — although some venues notably have decided not to partake because of their sheer pervasiveness — while others add things such as karaoke and even a prohibition theme or online contest.
The following is a primer on where to go in costume in the area on Saturday night, and possibly pick up a chunk of change. You can also listen to live music, with some of the acts very new and some old standbys.
– At Emma’s in River Falls will be a party themed after The Stranger television show, as the bartenders will dress up as strangely as characters from that program. This involves what the show calls The Up Side Down, and likewise, their bar is to be decorated earlier that day as such. They will tap a keg, but not just any keg, this being to provide $1 mystery beer pints. It’s no mystery, this special is a great deal, as they may take your soul, but not your gold. Things will start up in primetime, at 7 or 8 p.m.
– At the Village Inn in North Hudson, Solving 27 will be your solution. The band is influenced by the many musicians who only lived to age 27, such as Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimmie Hendrix, Curt Kobain and Amy Winehouse. Its members, all of whom are about that age, say they like to think outside the box as far as set list and feel there are no such rules in rock ‘n roll. They are lead vocalist Billee Jo Hall, lead guitarist Greg ‘OTR’ Boesel, drummer Chris Mikel and bassist Scott Cocchirella. Their set list of current and classic rock bears out that philosophy. It includes Adele, Led Zeppelin, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Fleetwood Mac, The Doors, Coldplay, Sugarland, Brandi Carlisle, Alice In Chains, Bryan Adams, Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Bruno Mars, Pink, The Police, Weezer and Nirvana. A local bartender, Matt, went to high school with Billie Jo and notes that she like many in the band have worked in the backup lineup for national acts, and that her voice has a tremendous range. As for the costume contest, there will be prizes, this one isn’t just for the pros who work for weeks on their get-up, as the winners will be determined by a drawing, not judging or clapping. And, you’ve just got to check out the literally smokin’ coffin on the table by the door.
– Over at Bobtown Brewhouse in Roberts, the prizes in addition to the costume contest, the value of which may be racheted up if there are a lot of people entered and the just-over-year-old place can often be packed on nights like this, is the Danger Rangers. From the twang of surf guitar to the seduction of the blues, from the power chords of rock ‘n roll to the fun of a Tex-Mex ballad, the Rangers bill themselves as western Wisconsin’s premier roadhouse band, and are out for a good time and bring everyone along with them. To that end, the place is all decked out in hundreds of orange-light decorations and similarly colored thick ribbons, as well as lots of white spider webs and even a sexy gray zombie “pretty tied up, hanging upside down,” to borrow a phrase from Guns ‘N Roses.
– At the Willow River Saloon in Burkhardt, the Halloween decore is more reserved and relies on the potentially eerie woodhewn designs of what’s already there rather than elaborate decorations. The band is Country Outlaws, a country rock group whose name speaks for itself although they put a different twist on some of the genre’s songs, a bartender said. They also took the stage last year at The Willow on Halloween weekend, that date being on a Friday. That’s important because the servers there have a tradition of dressing in costume on the night before their big costume party if the contest falls on a Saturday, like this year. There allegedly is a ghost at The Willow that shows up now and again, and you never know what beastie might appear from behind the massive old wooden beams, wagon wheels and statue carvings that decorate the place, especially in the middle area adjacent to the dance floor.
– At Seasons on North Hudson, they will again put the classic into classic rock as far as ambiance goes, with the decades-long band Thirsty Camel rocking the house like always, and the food special for the earlier part of the evening is the potentially Halloween appropriate prime rib (depending how you like it, it doesn’t have to be rare). When the band takes a break around 10:30 p.m. there will be costume judging for oft required first, second and third places. And of course, Seasons allegedly has its own ghost that at times starts in back and works his way toward the bar. Like the one at The Willow, he’s a well-mannered and not-terribly-scary lumberjack, although a bit of a prankster.
– Shiner’s in Lakeland will again offer what’s becoming a tradition that they say will likely continue, a big long-running bonfire out back that day and night, just past their big heated patio that also offers a chance to warm up, especially if your costume is too skimpy. To that end, the group playing has as many words in its name as individual members, Revolver and the Secret Agents. Playing retro dance music from the ’60s and early ’70s, Revolver and The Secret Agents is a British Invasion-style dance band with an American twist, they say. It was formed by Minneapolis-based artists with a common theme of dance party music. In another twist, and seemingly perfect for Halloween, Revolver is the only band in the Twin Cities that uses vintage gear with guitars, drums and amps from that era, capturing the most authentic ’60s look and sound to be found. Their press guy is even goes by the name JLennon! Additionally, their is Rocko on bass guitar/vocals, Mick Shagger on drums/vocals, Agent Shagwell on keyboards/vocals/dance, Michael Fabian on lead guitar/lead vocals/back-up vocals, Kaity Heart as lead singer/percussion, as well as Agent 99, Agent Twiggy and Agent Go-Go/lead dancers. (That’s a lot of slashes).
– You’ve got to love a band that is vocal-driven, rather than that same old guitar, and offers “more cowbell” to boot. The Wax Tunes will perform these early and often when they play The Bungalow Inn in Lakeland. starting at 9 p.m. and going until 1 a.m. As far as the costume party with cash and prizes, you must get to the Bungalow as early as the band, and at the same time start taking in their performance, in order to register your costume by 9 p.m. You can then listen to a full three hours of music before judging at midnight. The Wax Tones say they offer a fast-paced set that will put people on the dance floor and have them singing along before they know it. From the Animals to the Zombies, they are faithful to the spirit and sound of that great old ’60s rock ‘n’ roll even though the band bridges all generations, using a professional approach and high-quality light and sound systems.
– You can get an idea of what’s offered at Guv’s Place in North Hudson by the table in the middle of things that’s completely decked out in Minnesota Wild colors and logos. Proprietor Jess is a big hockey fan, and top prizes include Wild tickets, something that’s a bit different than the gift cards commonly seen. Jess’ second love is Halloween, and the whole place is decked out in monsters, and on the four windows in the front of the place, three have big beasties (the unholy trinity) sitting on the right edge, looking both out at the parking lot and you and what you’re doing inside. With the costume contest, first and second place prizes will be given out at 11 p.m., with Guv’s being different than most venues in that judging continues on between 9 and 10:30., to accommodate as many people as possible and getting them all signed up for the contest — a long haul of hours, but hey, its wholly Halloween. Music is from an old war horse on Halloweens, the longtime acoustic favorite Kyle Kohila, and he starts at 9 p.m.
– There is a new bar, just open a week, where Guv’s Place used to be in Houlton, called The Next Stop, and in addition to their slickly designed new decore inside, they will celebrate their first Halloween with happy hour drink prizes not for just an hour or two, but all night for people who come in costume. The new place is run by a couple that have been fixtures in both the local community, and out and about, for years — experience they plan to draw on in their new endeavor.
– The relatively new Not Justa Bar location just north of Somerset — in addition to the outlet in Bayport — will kick of the pre-holiday even earlier, on Friday night, with the long popular group Brat Pack Radio packing their spacious venue. For 11 years, the Minnesota-based band has performed across the globe. Mixing quality musical performances with spoof and carnival theatrics, this is anything but typical cover band fare, they say. Co-frontman Ryan Lance is a four-time Emmy Award-winning songwriter, and a founding member of a cappella darlings The Blenders, who’ve produced 14 albums over the last 20 years, and scored a No. 1 European hit with “I’m in Love with the McDonald’s Girl.” Rather than focus on the arena metal and new wave that can characterize the ’80s, Brat Pack Radio slants toward dance-pop favorites and R&B hits. Adding to the visual spectacle, everything from knife-juggling and spinning keyboards, to stylish choreography and an LED light show, and you’ve got a Halloween hit.
The original Bayport version of the bar and cafe will be more lowkey and traditionally hometown oriented over the pre-holiday weekend, and being positioned right between Woody’s and the American Legion hall that have big and bold costume contests on back-to-back nights, may “serve” the role of providing eats for the partiers who have built up a quick appetite while not staying too long, (as they may show up in costume earlier at those places, and get tired of the ghoulies, then still get over to Not Justa Bar for their eating end of things before its kitchen closes at around 10 p.m.)
– Other noteworthy costume contests will be held on Saturday in Hudson at The Smilin’ Moose (with their whopping $1,000 first prize) and Dick’s Bar and Grill (which features two different judgings in more prize categories than you normally see).