Night of the living bands: A spooky night to remember


Left to right, guitarist Sam Wong, vocalists Susana Correa Avila Robb, Alexis Ong and Demondra Martin and drummer Reese Villafranca. The three vocalists move around onstage as they perform at KCSC’s Goblin Gala. Taken by Ariana Powell, Oct. 28.

The doors opened at 6:30 p.m., a disco ball twirled above the room, refracting multi-colored lights, adding depth to the music that crept through the slightly offset speakers.

Walking into the room, you could see small clusters of chairs, ones on opposite sides of the room, and two lines of chairs closer to the stage. A station fraught with DJs and AS Audiovisual Technical Staff stood alone toward the middle of the room as small clusters of attendees migrated around.

KCSC’s Goblin Gala: Night of the Living Dead, on Oct. 28 in the BMU Auditorium, featured three musical artists, The Bella Locas, Mark 3 and The Wind-Ups.

Each band had unique styles that added to the spooky atmosphere. An official with KCSC, Chico State’s student radio, established in 1951, said

“We weren’t looking for a specific genre at first. When first brainstorming my general manager asked for artists that would fit the ‘vibe’ of Halloween,” the official said. “I feel like Halloween gives off a rock n’ roll vibe.”

A “vibe” is personal, it’s a feeling that can be assigned to specific things, like Halloween, but is also very much in the eye of the beholder.

As I looked around the room, I saw a variety of different people, some came dressed up, witches could be seen milling about, others were dressed “normally,” others fancy, like someone came dressed in a pink, shiny dress. Some came in large groups, others in small, and some as couples, or all alone. 

Music is most often perceived through loudness, rhythm, timbre and pitch, according to the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Perception. However, we must also analyze music personally, how it impacts our current state of mind and how it stimulates our memories.

Left to right, guitarist Sam Wong, vocalists Susana Correa Avila Robb, Alexis Ong, and Demondra Martin and drummer Reese Villafranca. The Bella Locas on-stage before their clothing reveal. Taken by Ari Powell, Oct. 28.

The Bella Locas, an indie alternative pop band, took the stage by storm as the backdrop became the palette for blue, pink and red lighting. The three vocalists, Susana Correa Avila Robb, Alexis Ong and Demondra Martin, were center stage, and powerhouses through and through. Their stage presence was impeccable, but they seemed to force their other bandmates, guitarist Sam Wong, bass guitarist Noah Wolfe and drummer Reese Villafranca, into the background — even though they were the ones truly powering the show. Afterall, a band isn’t a band without instrumentalists. 

Their set list had a variety of songs, including originals like their song “Carpe Diem,” and covers of artists such as Paramore, who was very clearly an influence. The lyrics spilled through the mics at the perfect level, neither too loud nor too quiet, but perfectly ear-catching. One benefit of having three vocalists was that they were able to, at certain points, achieve a three-part harmony that truly set them apart from the artists that followed them. 

This added to their “vibe,” which I perceived as a sort of bad-ass, witchy, “Imma put a spell on you” feel. It definitely added to the Halloween atmosphere KCSC was looking for.

However, their costumes did not actually appear to be, well, costumes. The three singers came on stage in over coats, and part way through the set, they did a dramatic reveal, showing off their beautiful outfits underneath. Robb was dressed in a floor length, green spaghetti strap dress, Ong in a floor length, velvet red dress and red satin gloves and Martin in a brown vest layered over a black shirt and black leather pants and silver loop belt.

While their outfits did give off a “witchy vibe,” as mentioned earlier, this did not contribute to their perception as a band. Most of the time, when it comes to bands, like AC/DC, Queen and Judas Priest, unless you are a die-hard fan, you are more likely to remember the actual band name, rather than the names of the members. 

However, band members who are up front, like lead singers, are more likely to be remembered, either through name or image, than, let’s say, a bass guitarist. An example could be Ozzy Osbourne, the lead singer of Black Sabbath, his name is widely known, partially because of the stunts he used to do, like biting the head off of a bat. Yet, I would assume a lot of people would not be able to name the bass guitarist for the same band, who by the way, was originally Geezer Butler.

Being able to assign a name, an identity to something is very important. The Bella Locas introduced themselves about halfway through their set, but their band name was most memorable. It actually references a scene from one of the films in the Twilight Saga, which made it easier to connect with the band. Especially considering how popular the scene has become on social media, especially on TikTok

This is why developing a brand is very important. Brand perception is incredibly impactful, it shows how an audience perceives something. An audience could perceive a band through genre or image.

This is why advertising can be very big. The Bella Locas frequently advertised not only the band, but also the singers’ solo careers and side projects. They made sure the audience knew which songs were originals, when they were written, released and who wrote them.

Left to right, guitarist Will Hartman, drummer Garrett Hartman and bass guitarist Reece Thompson. Mark 3 rocking away on the stage while fog swirls around the room. Taken by Ari Powell, Oct. 28.

This was very different from how the second band, Mark 3, carried themselves. They did point out which songs were originals, such as “Last Dance,” and for the most part their covers were pretty obvious, such as their rendition of “Somebody’s Watching Me”  by Rockwell.

While Mark 3 did lack The Bella Locas’ stage presence, they made up for in musicality. Their sound levels were off for their first couple of songs, but their rhythm was on point and their pitch, while more one-note, contributed to the audience’s positive mood. I could feel the beat reverberating through the floor and up my boots, sparking my interest to dance.

I also felt a very personal connection with the band, partially because of their costumes. The guitarist, Will Hartman, dressed as Eddie Munson from Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” It reminded me of how much I abhor the show due to its insane popularity. Bass guitarist, Reece Thompson, dressed as Dio Brando from “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure,” and reminded me that I need to finish watching the latest episodes of JoJo. Drummer, Garrett Hartman, the guitarist’s older brother, was dressed as Dante from the video game series “Devil May Cry,”  which reminded me that I need to finish playing Devil May Cry 3.

The band name, Mark 3, is also a reference to a piece of media. It references Iron Man’s Mk3 suit from the original Iron Man film. Thompson said that before their first performance, which was a talent show in Oroville back in 2016, that the two Hartmans were looking at an Iron Man poster when deciding on what their band would be called.

“…one of the two, Will says it was himself, Garrett also said it was himself, turned to the other and suggested ‘What about Mark 3?’ And the rest is history,” Thompson said.

Their costumes also helped me feel more connected to the band, even though the only band member who introduced himself was the elder Hartman. He only did so because KCSC asked him to remind everyone that smoking was not permitted in the bathrooms. After this, Hartman elder started playing as the other two slowly made their way on stage from the wings and donned their instruments, forming a trio.

The alternative pop punk rock band’s performance did not seem to garner too much interest from the sparse audience. This was interesting because KCSC said that Mark 3 “is a crowd favorite.” Though, I would assume this wasn’t because of the artists themselves, but simply because the dry event, designed to be a “safe alternative to other ‘Chicoween’ parties,” was set in the thick of said parties. Most college students were likely more interested in a party with substances.

KCSC had to postpone the start time of the event presumably due to a lack of attendees, which in turn, meant that the bands had to make some cuts to their setlists. However, this was mostly behind the scenes and the audience seemed oblivious to these changes.

Despite backstage problems, a delayed start time and a small audience, this did not discourage KCSC members, who held a positive attitude throughout, or the bands, who performed as though they were playing a sold-out show. 

Mark 3, clearly comfortable on-stage, very much wanted to connect with their audience, which is obvious through the covers they played such as John Carpenter’s “Halloween Theme,” and the younger Hartman’s transition to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,”  where he said “Chrissy, this is for you.” The “Stranger Things” reference was a little corny from my stance, but understandable.

Left to right, guitarist Seth Prinz, drummer Nick Justice and lead singer, guitarist Jake Sprecher and bass guitarist Jason Wuestefeld. The Wind-Ups begin playing as a crowd begins to form at the base of the stage. Taken by Ari Powell, Oct. 28.

Corniness was consistent with the next band as well, The Wind-Ups. The lead singer and guitarist, Jake Sprecher, was dressed as an In-N-Out employee, an apron, paper hat and everything. The other members, Jason Wuestefeld on bass guitar, Seth Prinz on guitar and Nick Justice on drums, did not appear to be dressed in costume, but definitely looked spiffy in their almost 80s-looking jackets.

As inconclusive as some of their costumes were, apparently the meaning behind their band name is just as much so. The punk power pop band, which started as Sprecher’s bedroom project during the COVID-19 lockdown, was originally going to go by The Jitneys, but an old bandmate, Phil, suggested “The Wind-Ups.”

“The phrase ‘wind-up’ has plenty of different meanings, but I like to think of the British slang for somebody that’s a bit of a pest, nuisance or jackass,” Specher said. “I think Phil had wind-up toys in mind, though.”

The meaning behind the name is just as interesting as the beginning of their performance. Their loud, powerful presence and the skillful, colorful lighting work, courtesy of KCSC and AS staff, as well as the clear chemistry between the band members created an incredibly sensory experience. 

Guitar riffs pulsed through the speakers as fog swirled around the room, aided by the movements of those dancing. The lights reflected off of the disco ball and mixed on the backdrop, creating the perfect photo-op. You could see flashes popping off through the crowd as audience members commemorated the night.

The first few minutes of The Wind-Ups set was very intriguing and drew the audience in, which was evident by the crowd that formed at the base of the stage. However, after that the songs began to meld together it almost felt like they were using the same chord progressions over and over again. 

Due to their lack of transitions, the set seemed to drag on, as though time was being distorted. It wasn’t until their set was drawing closer to the end, that they said they only had a few more songs left. At this point I was relieved that there was a transition so that maybe I could hear the beginning and ends of the last few songs, but to no avail, the last “few songs” sounded just like the rest.

From the Bella Locas’ stage presence to Mark 3’s musicality to The Wind-Ups’ sensory experience, each band had their specific style, genre and left a unique impact on audience members.

Said audience members all interpret these experiences differently, based on individual biases and past events, including myself. I know the band members in Mark 3, I went to highschool with two of them, and the third is my significant other. 

I also won “Best Overall Costume,” chosen by KCSC members, dressed as a dragon demon, complete with horns, scale makeup and extendable wings. The other categories included, “Best Couples Costume,” “Sexiest Costume” and “Funniest Costume.”

Ultimately, everyone is going to interpret the Night of the Living Bands differently, which shows how important perception is. In the end, KCSC and all of the bands are at the mercy of how the audience interprets them, especially in our modern technological era. 

Despite its rocky start, I hope KCSC decides to host Halloween concerts in the future. Though I would suggest that they be more conscientious about when the event is, so that bands aren’t playing to a small or non-existent crowd. I would also suggest students and others to be aware of what it means to attend an event like this, you’re not only likely to have a good time, but you’ll also be supporting the event coordinators.

Ariana Powell can be found at [email protected].