“All right, Halloween is coming. And who can tell with this crowd? We dress scary every day,” subversive filmmaker John Waters, the emcee of Halloween Meltdown in Oakland said, before inviting onto the stage the hosts for this year’s costume contest — artists Shannon Shaw and Brontez Purnell.
The crowd, gathered at the small amphitheater in Mosswood Park, witnessed a series of performances by Naked Roommate, Drug Apts and Chaki the Funk Wizard, and eagerly waited for their turn to hop on the stage and play their characters at the costume contest on Saturday afternoon.
The two-day concert lineup included Body Double, Seth Bogart, Bodhi’s War and more, with Osees headlining Saturday and The Mummies topping the bill Sunday. However, the highlight of the Saturday afternoon was the costume contest with the participants eyeing the $500 prize money. They dressed as a variety of characters including Cheech & Chong, the “Shining” twins, the Stepford Wives, a vampire cop and a baby John Waters.
“How about dress up as your sexual opposite? That’s an original costume,” Waters remarked. “If you’re a queer guy, dress straight for Halloween and see if you scare your gay friends.”
The music festival, formerly called the Burger Boogaloo and held annually in the summertime, was on a COVID hiatus last summer when founders of the festival’s namesake, the Fullerton-based record label and store Burger Records, were accused of fostering a culture of sexual abuse. Festival regular Justin Champlin, who performed as Nobunny, released a statement in July 2020 saying, “I used my power and influence to take advantage of young women and teenage girls.”
Oakland’s Total Trash Productions, which maintains it always ran the Boogaloo independent of Burger Records, severed all ties to the now-defunct label. Its two-day festival returned for the weekend of Oct. 16-17, rebranded as the Halloween Meltdown. This year, Mosswood Park was decorated with flyers with messages such as “Go haunt somewhere else,” condemning the harassment of any kind, along with a photo number for victims to call for assistance.
The organizers required the attendees to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result to enter the festival.
Cory Sklar, popularly known as Chaki the Funk Wizard, did several Zoom performances during the pandemic and was happy to be able to perform on the stage in front of a live audience.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know people would come, how to act at a festival after being locked in for so long,” Chaki said. “So I’m really impressed with everyone; everyone is being so nice and friendly.”
On the other side of the park were various merchandise and food stores, including the popular Aburaya’s Japanese fried chicken stand. “We always get Aburaya, for sure,” said Brooke Cartolano, a UC Berkeley student, who has been attending the festival for seven years now. “That’s probably one of the big highlights, actually; I just really need to stress Aburaya fried chicken.”
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Artists such as Chaki the Funk Wizard and the Drug Apts, who debuted at the Meltdown on Saturday, said that they hope to return for next year’s Meltdown.
Michael Thiemann, the drummer in Drug Apts, a Sacramento band, said, “It was a lot of fun today. I like playing music, and I like playing with those guys.” Thiemann shared that they were a group of old friends who started the punk rock band about five years ago. “I had a great time. We would definitely come back if they ask us.”
The festival will return next summer as the Mosswood Meltdown on July 2-3, 2022, with performances from Bikini Kill, Plastic Bertrand, Bleached, Pansy Division, Shannon Shaw and others.