Every Halloween, an increasing number of local bands decide to dress up and pretend to be a band they're not. Over at SF Weekly, Jessi Phillips has a fine roundup of these Halloween cover-band shows, including bargain-basement tributes to the Cure, Prince, Devo, Thin Lizzy, Sleater-Kinney, David Bowie, Bikini Kill, the Ramones and many more.
But what if your tastes run counter to pure novelty? As usual, there's more music happening in the Bay Area this weekend than one might know what to do with. Here are our picks -- which don't require a costume for entry.
Thursday, Oct. 29: Danzig at the San Jose Civic. The king of horror-punk doesn't need to dress up for Halloween -- as the former lead singer of the Misfits, Danzig essentially is Halloween. When he's not out shopping for kitty litter, he's still one of punk's most captivating, bellowing dramatists. Details here.
Friday, Oct. 30: Kool Keith at Social Hall SF. We'll be the first to admit that Kool Keith has delivered his share of spotty shows (a particularly phoned-in concert at the Maritime Hall after his epic Black Elvis/Lost in Space in 1999 still stings), but the twisted genius of the man born Keith Thornton is worth the risk. Styled as a Sun Ra / George Clinton for the 21st century, the producer and rapper is a true American original, here promising "the return of Dr. Octagon," his 1996 gynecologist alter-ego. Details here.
Friday, Oct. 30: ROVA Sax Quartet at Center for New Music, San Francisco. The ROVA quartet are a Bay Area institution that we often take for granted; in fact, they're soon journeying on a European tour to bask in the appreciation of overseas audiences. Before they go, Bruce Ackley, Steve Adams, Larry Ochs and Jon Raskin perform compositions both new and decades-old at this intimate space which, along with presenting the city's most daring new music, nobly gives 100% of the door's proceeds to the performers. Details here.
Saturday, Oct. 31: HBK Gang feat. Kehlani at the Warfield, San Francisco. Richmond's homegrown hip-hop collective has already seen hits with Sage the Gemini's "Red Nose" and "Gas Pedal," and a steady creative output from rapper Iamsu (who KQED profiled last year). But there's no disguising this year's star: Kehlani, raised in Oakland and poised on the precipice of stardom. With a huge fan base and a catalog of raw, honest songs, the 20-year-old dazzled us in a sold-out show earlier this year; this is the second of two sure-to-be-packed nights. Details here.
Saturday, Oct. 31: Death at Oakland Metro. One of the more surprising comeback stories in recent history belongs to this trio of black brothers from Detroit, whose proto-punk style might have been lost to the dustbin of history were it not for rabid 45 collectors and the good taste of Drag City Records. Now, with three albums and one documentary to their name, the band has transcended the "Bad Brains before there was Bad Brains" storyline. Hear powerful songs like "Politicians in My Eyes" when they come to Jack London Square. Details here.
Saturday, Oct. 31: Howard Wiley at Cafe Stritch, San Jose. There's no Bay Area saxman quite like Howard Wiley, who graduated from Berkeley High's esteemed jazz program and has been an independent force of nature since. In the mid-aughts, Wiley released TwentyFirstCenturyNegro, an incredible album whose centerpiece "Big Daddtay's Boogie" deserves more YouTube views. Lately, he's worked with the jazz vocalist Tiffany Austin in an inspired pairing; on Saturday in San Jose, he promises a "Halloween Spectacular." Details here.
Saturday, Oct. 31 and Sunday, Nov. 1: Grimes at the Fillmore, San Francisco. Like Joanna Newsom and Bat for Lashes before her, the electronic pop musician Grimes (neé Clare Boucher, from Montreal) is often branded as an elfin faerie or forest waif or [insert lazy descriptor from the critic's favorite fantasy novel here]. She's been outspoken about this type of infantilization, and, as if to kick back, recently started making fantastic out-and-out jams meant for Rihanna. Her newest video, "Flesh Without Blood," is just two days old -- a perfect red carpet for her shows at the Fillmore. Details here.
Sunday, Nov. 1: David Conte's 60th Birthday Concert, San Francisco Conservatory of Music. One of the last students of the great Nadia Boulanger, David Conte is a composer of remarkable tenderness who serves as chair of composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He's also turning 60, and he's celebrating it in style; to wit, with world premieres of his “Sinfonietta for Eleven Instruments" and "American Death Ballads," as well as 24 preludes and a dance suite by SFCM alumni. The afternoon concert is free. Details here.