Halloween: Uncool, Unruly, Unhindered

Photo: Leah Whang

Photo: Leah Whang

Halloween, the celebration that entails obtaining sweets in guise, partaking in haunting attractions, and generally making stupid decisions with friends. And don’t get me wrong, I love a good costume party. But the holiday has always seemed a bit disjointed. Truthfully, Halloween is an outlandish marriage of family and horror. One can choose between visiting a pumpkin patch with family or covering themselves in fake blood during the witching hour. Because Halloween finds its home in North American culture, this juxtaposition is only familiar to this particular subset of the world—and what a strange subset it is.  

Since I was a kid, I’ve always looked forward to Halloween. However, my reasons have evolved over the years. When I was younger, I was elated to dress up as Mulan and indulge in the various sweets. As I grew older, I experienced similar anticipation for the end of October but for completely different reasons. I simply wanted to run around dimly lit, Los Angeles cul-de-sacs in some outfit from an eighties teen movie, drive up to Universal Studios to walk through horror-movie themed mazes, grabbing the arm of my crush, with the artificial excuse of fear.

Photo: Leah Wang

Photo: Leah Wang

And now that I’m in college, Halloween has once again developed into another leisure for me. “Uncool Halloween,” a spooky lineup of six different West Coast bands, was hosted by the UC Theater. Seeing that the event was so local, I decided to buy tickets on the whim with my friend, a dedicated fan of the main attraction--SWMRS. Though the first five bands performed exceptional live shows, it was SWMRS’s closing act that truly enhanced the live music experience. Formed in Oakland in 2004, SWMRS is a punk rock band that draws inspiration from a eclectic group of artists, ranging from the Beach Boys to the Ramones. One can even discover traces of Frank Ocean and A Tribe Called Quest within their lyrics. A relatively new fan to punk rock, Uncool Halloween represented a niche of concerts that I had never traversed before. Opening with “Palm Trees,” a critique of Los Angeles pop culture, I was dragged into a turbulent mosh of angst-ridden teens. Though already familiar with Cole Becker’s violent commentary through Spotify, I was taken aback by his live vocals--he has a visceral quality to his voice, compelling myself and the people around me to not only aggressively dance but also really take in the meaning behind his lyrics. Expecting this intense environment to persist until the end of the night, I was pleasantly surprised by Max and Cole Becker’s sentimental renditions of “Lose It” and “Hannah,” both songs about girls that had captured the siblings’ respective attentions. This, along with Cole’s declarations for unity and social equality, lulled the once-wild crowd into a content, untroubled group of individuals SWMRS created a flawless shift in mood, making my Halloweekend an even more bizarre union of contrasting ideals.

Later that night, I sauntered down Telegraph Avenue with a couple of friends to attend a Halloween party. It was a surreal image to take in: crowds of scantily-clad young adults, paramedics scattered across Southside, cloaked figures screaming in drunken stupor. And at this vivid representation of college Halloween, my sleep-deprived mind made quite the realization at 3 in the morning. Halloween in itself is a contradiction; it promotes suburbia, the images of family gatherings, kid-friendly activities. It celebrates the color and spirit of the seasons, a precursor to Thanksgiving and Christmas. But on the other hand, it is a mock reclamation of satanic rituals and black magic. These two concepts are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, which allows for Halloween celebration to be up to one’s own interpretation. It is an excuse to do essentially anything of your choosing. You may carve pumpkins, you may get stupidly drunk. You may partake in the summoning of spirits, you may attend a punk rock concert. Uncool Halloween’s celebration of both extreme and nostalgic music conveys this very characteristic of the October holiday. There is no right way to celebrate. This is the appeal of Halloween--there are no restrictions, just the intent to have a good time.

OpinionLeah Whang