Old Halloween candy, new scene Web site

Eric Bianchi

Eric Bianchi

The concept is simple: Gather together a dozen of your favorite local bands, ask them to cover their favorite songs by dead people, make it a charity show for St. John’s Shelter for Women and Children and let the beer flow. Ask the audience to arrive in costume, which it does, and the place is packed full of happy Halloweeners enjoying song after mangled song. St. John’s gets a wad of cash, lots of bands get heard by lots of people, and everyone goes home to nurse a good November hangover.

This year, the audience at Old Ironsides’ annual Dead Rockstars Halloween Show seemed a bit subdued considering the relative madness of the stage show, which included sets by David Houston, Tony Schatz (supported by former members of Birthday and current members of Low Flying Owls and Umbravox), Carquinez Straits, Warren Bishop & the Holy Men, Pocket Change, Lookyloos, Simon Feck, Freight Train Riders of America, Milwaukee, Weird Harold, Go National (augmented by members of Popgun) and the Knockoffs. At times, the music was nearly unlistenable. But then there were moments in which the bands took songs and made them their own. (Simon Feck’s rendition of Neil Young’s “Down by the River,” the Lookyloos’ epileptic-perfect Joy Division and Carquinez Straits’ epic take on the Velvet Underground all were standouts.)

The band that took the prize, though, was Weird Harold. Each member of the trio dressed as Jesus, and the band ran through a Jesus-themed set ending with “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Host Eric Bianchi summed it all up perfectly when he quipped, “It’s your last chance to see Weird Harold before they all go to hell.” Brilliant and, true to its name, weird.

It’s sometimes too difficult to understand the inbred quality of Sacramento’s live-music scene. Bands form, break up, reform as new bands, change names, swap members, break up again and die on the vine faster than you can walk from the bar to the stage. Having some kind of skeleton key to Sac-area band membership would go a long way in helping music fans understand who came from what.

The good news is that Archbishop Dave Smith,” a member of the premiere Sacramento area Star Trek-themed punk-rock band No Kill I, has started just such a project. Enter “City of a Beer: Sacramento Inbred Band Project,” an Internet-based linking database of Sacramento bands, members, dates and details that could be the end-all source for Sacramento music. The problem, of course, is the “could.” The site isn’t quite serviceable just yet, but at least Archbishop Dave has started something. It’ll be up to Sacramento-area bands and music fans themselves to feed Dave the necessary information to get the site really up and running. For a tasty sample, check out the Las Pesadillas listing, a relatively complete catalog of the members’ pre-Pesadillas projects (including Mr. T and the Screaming Vikings, Old Man Homo and Stickman Lincoln, to name a few). You can find the site at inbred.nokilli.com.