Mariachi El Bronx, Dengue Fever make KCRW Halloween party a scream
Halloween, a holiday inspired by the grateful dead, can make those of us who are gratefully alive reflect on, and revel in, the pleasures of the temporal realm we inhabit.
In Los Angeles, one of those fleeting seasonal gifts is KCRW-FM (89.9)'s annual Masquerade dance party. On Saturday, the costumed bacchanal took over the Legendary Park Plaza hotel -- built in 1925 and overlooking MacArthur Park -- with a musical lineup that included Moby, Mariachi El Bronx, Dengue Fever, Milagres and the Santa Monica-based radio station's own gifted mash-up artists (Jason Bentley, Liza Richardson, Chris Douridas, et al).
Roaming the Art Deco hotel, patrons dressed as zombies, airline stewardesses, Black Swans, Travis Bickle and Cap'n Crunch (among many, many other guises), swigged drinks and sampled tunes across a wide sound spectrum, spaced across various lounges and ballrooms on two floors.
One of the evening's early revelations was Milagres, a Brooklyn-based band that, after changing its name and reshuffling personnel, deserves to find a wide audience for its ethereal, haunting compositions such as "Halfway." Kyle Wilson, the group's lead singer and principal tunesmith, hits high notes with the breathy eroticism of a young Prince, while his bandmates assemble a sophisticated sonic skeleton that evokes Radiohead and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
Later on, in the same Grand Ballroom, Dengue Fever reinforced its reputation as one of Southern California's pre-eminent party bands, grafting soulful Cambodian melodies onto surfer-guitar riffs with a dexterity that Dr. Frankenstein might envy; lead singer Chhom Nimol, fetchingly attired in a midnight-blue corset and tiny top hat, vamped and cracked a whip.
Meanwhile, in the first-floor Bronze Room, hometowners Mariachi El Bronx, the alter ego of punkers the Bronx, showed up in their trademark charro suits, augmented by Day of the Dead face paint, to deliver a swaying-room only set of cleverly crafted songs such as "48 Roses," with its pitch-perfect blend of pathos and raw energy.
The tightest dance crowds, however, assembled in the second-floor Terrace Room, where André Allen Anjos, founder of the remixer collective RAC, kept them hopping with an excellent set.
Moby carried revelers past the midnight hour with his own guest DJ set -- at least, those revelers who were able to squeeze into the Terrace, down a corridor more cramped than a Tokyo subway car. Some of us retreated to the Bronze Room, where more beats from KCRW's Garth Trinidad drew restless souls onto the dance floor and floated out into the early morning air.
-- Reed Johnson
Photos: (Top) Moby fist-pumps the crowd. (Middle) Mariachi El Bronx raises the dead. (Lower) Just married or just deceased? Credit: Jeremiah Garcia.