Live review: KCRW's Masquerade with DJ Shadow, Sea Wolf and more
What could be better than dancing to DJ Shadow, spinning live from a crate of vinyl in a small ballroom at L.A.’s Park Plaza Hotel with an almost-full moon pouring through the patio windows? Doing it with that room full of people in outrageous Halloween costumes.
L.A. came out swinging for Masquerade, KCRW’s Halloween Ball, filling the neo-Gothic Park Plaza with thousands of epic costumes such as matching luminous jellyfish, a giant blue “Yip-Yip” from “Sesame Street,” a human marionette, an iPhone and a “missing” face on a milk carton -- all of it proof that we live in a town full of prop shop folks.
Of course, there were also miles of sexy Spartans and schoolgirls and Bo-Peeps and whatever else you were looking for.
The five opulent and differently themed rooms were hot (despite the cool evening) and nearly packed, and Shadow had his fans jumping up and down from the very first wild outburst of scratching. Minutes in, he laid into an inspired mix of “Bustin’ Loose” from Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers entwined with the Zombie’s version of “Time of the Season,” with the phrase “Who’s your daddy” hiccuping out every few bars.
“Y’all ain’t ready for this next one,” Shadow dropped enigmatically, saying his next piece was “where Kanye West meets Metallica.” It wasn’t nearly as well received, but like he said, we obviously just weren’t ready.
Upstairs in the Terrace Room, KCRW’s Liza “Diva of Death” Richardson held it down in a gorgeous white tangle of corsets and what she called “rehearsal skirts” for doing Shakespeare and Moliere, topped with creepalicious face paint, as she turned over a good-size crowd to a live performance by Sea Wolf.
The local band came out in really cute Dia de los Muertos full-body skeleton costumes and whiteface, and their driving indie-pop sound set the room back on its heels a bit on a night characterized by DJ acrobatics and more experimental music like the pumping electronic set from Gothenburg, Sweden’s four-piece, Little Dragon. You’re about to hear a lot more from Sea Wolf, by the way, on the new “Twilight” movie soundtrack, on which they have a starring role.
Turns out they were also a very warm warm-up for the closer to the rock ’n’ roll portion of the evening, as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros brought Halloween to a cheery end as if they were celebrating New Year’s Eve. A 10-piece orchestra with a rambunctious garage rock sway, the act’s vintage synthesizers and sunny brass notes made for an upbeat ballroom dance party.
The setting, with its high ceilings and ornate columns, sometimes made the Zeros’ buoyant symphony feel like it was channeled from a bygone era. Yet with Southwestern guitars, merry whistling, shout-along choruses and winning melodies, the sound was still wholly present, and they had those ghouls and zombies doing the monster mash.
After Edward Sharpe’s set, there was something of a migration to the outdoor patio area. Food trucks, including one from Santa Monica’s Border Grill, offered what seemed like miraculous fare, especially when one considered it was being served under heat lamps in what was ordinarily a loading area for the rear of the hotel.
As “Morning Becomes Eclectic” host Jason “Nosferatu” Bentley (who had some wicked makeup) had ‘em sweating in the Grand Ballroom upstairs, KCRW stalwart Garth “The Thriller” Trinidad got the crowd on that downstairs patio area on its feet with the tried and true, launching into a night-ending set of Michael Jackson tunes that had all the boozers lurching into action.
A huge set piece in the form of a ball masque looked down on the patio with disturbing, projected eyes twitching back and forth, and the near-full moon blazed; is it any surprise that “Thriller” would be the perfect nightcap under those conditions?
If this KCRW ball is to become an annual event, let’s start thinking now about that costume. Because this is a night befitting the lavish surroundings, big enough to trot out even your grandest creation.
Top photo: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Credit: Gary Leonard
Second photo: Masked guests at the Masquerade. Credit: Gary Leonard
Third photo: Sea Wolf. Credit: Jeremiah Garcia
Fourth photo:DJ Shadow. Credit: Jeremiah Garcia
Want to see more pictures? The above photos are used with permission of KCRW, and the station will be posting a full gallery of artists and guests on Monday morning. Visit KCRW's official site for more.
(Additional reporting by Todd Martens)