The Juan MacLean and We Are the World haunt the museums
If you're not willing to fork over $500 or whatever the current Craigslist running price is for this year's Hard Haunted Mansion, you have other options for Halloween, and dare I say, better options, if you're the sort who doesn't need eight hours of retina-twitching bpms at the Shrine. It might not seem the most obvious of locales, but two of the best options are in museums, the Natural History Museum and the Hammer. Think about it: The first is freaky, with all those giant stuffed creatures from the Ice Age looming over you. And as far as the Hammer, well, I don't know how much of a holy horror an art museum can be, but trust that We Are the World, one of the acts performing at their Halloween in Hades celebration, will push the limits.
The only time I've ever seen these guys was at BetaLevel, a Chinatown basement that functions as a literary-salon-cum-karaoke-den-cum-wacko-performance-space. Outfitted in head-to-toe black catsuits, with large black hats and red panels of fabric attached on either side, they played loud, hard electro -- but smart and still melodic, a tough balance. Three of them danced in tight choreography, their limbs whipping from side to side, those red panels snapping behind them, while singer Megan Gold paced and sometimes danced aggressively at her crew. The highlight of the show was easily the outfit's lacerating, racing cover of the Cure's "Why Can't I Be You?" If memory serves, this was right around the time that BetaLevel's circuit blew -- not symbolically but in actuality -- and the warm, glowing basement was halfway plunged into darkness.
Needless to say, a show for the ages.
Ryan Heffington, one of the band's members, is like a mad Bob Fosse with a sewing machine -- he's co-artistic director of Hysterica Dance Company and designer of the Rock 'n' Sissy line seen on Gwen Stefani, Beck, Britney Spears and Mick Jagger. You can also find him kicking it to Duran Duran every weekend at his exercise class Sweaty Sundays.
We Are the World's "Why Can't I Be You?" will appear on Manimal Vinyl's just-released "Perfect as Cats: A Tribute to the Cure," along with Bat for Lashes, Hecuba (who also will perform at the Hammer on Halloween) and the Dandy Warhols.
As for the Natural History Museum, behold the Juan MacLean, DFA purveyors of icily perfect house beats. Normally a solo act, MacLean has assembled a crack live team who've already worked out the kinks on tour with Cut Copy, including LCD Soundsystem's Nancy Whang on vocals and keys, and Jerry Fuchs of !!! and Nick Millhiser of Holy Ghost. The Juan MacLean's new album, "The Future Will Come," is due in early 2009.
Earlier this year, we got a taste of the future with "Happy House," a new track that makes good on every element of its title, written by MacLean and Whang.
Something tells me they'll need to find a way to spook this up for Halloween.
-- Margaret Wappler
Top photo by jeaneenlund.com; bottom photo of Whang and MacLean by Ruvan Wijesooriya.
We Are The World with Hecuba and Discount Cruise to Hell: 7-11 p.m. Friday. Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd. Free. (310) 443-7000.
The Juan MacLean. 9 p.m. Friday. Natural History Museum, 900 Exposition Blvd. Free. RSVP at email@example.com.