Quick-change artists: Local bands don new duds for Halloween

First you have Astronomers...
Then you have Queen.
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The recent spate of local musicians hanging up their collective instruments and calling it quits is, admittedly, disheartening for the Charlottesville music scene. No one wants to hear that their favorite ragtag band is splitting up to focus on their real 9-5 careers elsewhere. Couple that with the cancellation of the annual Mass Sabbath concert, and what have you to attend this Halloween season?

Never fear, says ten of the remaining local force–- we're here to pick up the pieces. When Mass Sabbath, the must-attend for true Halloween junkies for the past five years, was canceled, the network of rockers in town collaborated to create something more diverse, more Halloween, and more accessible.

"It's bands impersonating other bands, in the spirit of Halloween" explains Nate Bolling of Astronomers.

"And it's can't miss–- if you get enough of the right people together, you can't miss it," agrees Hunter Smith.

The Frankenstein brain-child of Smith, frontman for Hunter Smith and The Dead Men, Bolling, and Marie Landragin, of Corsair, The Mock Stars' Ball was as much inspired by the dearth of Halloween happenings in town as the desire to collaborate with fellow Charlottesville bands for a mass showcase.

"I wanted enough of a mix, so it wasn't a pop show or a metal show, enough of a mix to make it the thing that people do," explains Smith. "I had a dream list of bands I liked, who had good followings, and who would pick cool bands to do."

It's a simple enough concept: bands literally reemerge as a cover band for the night, down to the look and feel of said band. Throw ten bands into the mix and you've got the makings of an epic festival of local talent. Over two nights and on two stages, witness the arrival of Spinal Tap, Queen, The Strokes, Tom Petty, and The Misfits, among others, as channeled through the likes of Corsair, Astronomers, The Sometime Favorites, The Petty Files, and Katherine Jackson. Each participating act was intrigued by the playful, yet challenging appeal of the show's concept–- to "dress up" as another band, mastering every lick and chord of an infamous' band's repertoire.

"We wanted to choose a band we all liked, that we could learn without having to kill ourselves, and still have fun," says Smith of his group's choice, The Cars. "It's a lot different from the nature of our stuff–- if we did something like us, it would be lame as sh*t, it would be John Mayer or Ben Folds. We were looking for something that's more fun than what we do."

"It's fresh to be able to do something different, to take a break from what you've been focusing and sweating over," adds Bolling.

One ticket gets you in for both nights and late-night DJs will keep the party rolling after the rock stars have moved on. Costume contest–- of course! Halloween drink specials–- why not? For all non-children touting dress-up fanatics, local music has essentially brought the party to you.

"Every band that's playing is a crowd-pleaser," says guitarist Katie Jackson of Teenagers From Mars. "It'll be a wonderful backdrop to Halloween dressing-up and having an awesome time."

While Mass Sabbath is an event sure to be mourned by loyal attendees, the Mock Stars' Ball reaches fans turned off by the hardcore appeal of Black Sabbath covers, while avoiding the spectacle of a Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift cover artist that would potentially dissuade rock-n-rollers from coming out. But it's not just the spirit of Halloween and dress-up that brings these bands together–- it's an obvious testament to the cohesion and mutual respect the still-thriving local scene has to offer, albeit through the melodies of The Beatles and the chords of The Cars.

The full Mock Stars' Ball line-up:
Saturday night:
Corsair as Spinal Tap
Astronomers as Queen
The Sometime Favorites as The Strokes
Hunter Smith and the Dead Men as The Cars
Borrowed Beams of Light as The Stooges

Sunday night:
The Petty Files as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Julius Hangman as The Beatles
Teenagers From Mars as The Misfits
Slick Willy & The Interns as Alice in Chains
Naughty Dynamic and the Design as The Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Mock Stars' Ball is Saturday, October 30, and Sunday, October 31 at The Southern. Doors open at 8pm, and tickets are $10 on Saturday (good for two nights) and $6 on Sunday.


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come see the teenagers from mars (the misfits) on night 2 and we will bathe you in blood, you heathen!

It's come to this: The Cville music scene is about what ones wears, not the music.

@Kyle: Hey Kyle!

@your internal monologue: just because metal is loud, distorted, and awesome doesn't mean that Queen, the Strokes, etc. are not incredible (and just as widely loved (and more diverse)) than a night of metal! More fun for more people. And hey, there's Spinal Tap, so no person on earth can complain.

@Tucker Rogers: Stephanie is probably referring to the ends of local acts Caninos and Drunk Tigers, who both called it quits within one week. It's been discussed quite a bit recently; both were good bands. Still a lot of great bands here, surely...but some notables have sadly disappeared :(

And @Bob: the next person who claims Cville's music scene is superficial, I may slap them. I apologize if you were simply making a Halloween play-on-words and I'm ruining the joke by taking it seriously, but I'm committed at this point, so onward I trudge: Cville's music scene is NOT so easily summarized as to be able to cover it with a derogatory blanket statement. People love doing that for some reason; maybe it's the invigorating anonymity of the internet, or maybe it makes them feel bigger to cast aside the whole scene as beneath their tastes. Charlottesville's music scene is many things, but being "about what ones wears" is not one of them. First off, this show is a *Halloween* show that does not even begin to take itself seriously. Secondly, I have been in several bands in Charlottesville, have played with or am friends with countless others, and am currently building my own; I can tell you with great certainty that there are lots of earnest, sincere musicians in this city who are making art that is true to them (not to mention booking agents who are committed to bringing in amazing out-of-town acts). If you are convinced that Charlottesville's music scene is a game of dress-up, then you must have stumbled into Coupe's on a bad night. You're missing a lot of great music from countless genres.

@David: Hey Dave!

I'm going to agree with Tucker. Three bands does not a "spate" make.

@ Kyle, Cosmonaut's Ruin also called it quite recently, but we've all known it was coming for some time. In hindsight, the Drunk Tigers split isn't all that shocking either...

@Dave Hey Dave!!


I've been involved with Cville music for many, many years. The search for fame and riches has replaced what used to be a natural soul in the scene.

That soul is still present in many individual musicians, but as a scene, Cville's charm has been painted over by the rouge of ambition.

No worries. It'll cycle back around. It always does.



jesus christ is everyone in charlottesville too much of a queen to play metal? its halloween people.. come on.. the cure?! i swear to god none of you deserve life.. atleast its not rap..

"recent spate of local musicians hanging up their collective instruments and calling it quits" - I don't get that part. Who are you talking about? Did you do a feature on that or something?

If not, could you do one, and give some depth to that statement?
I see a lot of people scrapping to bring music to this town on a continual basis, so it strikes me as odd to read that everyone's packing up and quittin?