Let's face it: Halloween has been sanitized for the young and innocent. Trick-or-treating starts on Oct. 31 at the not-so-scary hour of 4 p.m. in a number of Madison neighborhoods, and many of the weekend's parties are designed for toddlers, ending well before the average disco napper wakes. What's a thrill-seeker to do?
For starters, remember that darkness is both a time of day and a state of mind. Here are 13 Halloween-themed events that harness nighttime's power to spook and seduce.
Mickey's Great Halloween Swindle
Mickey's Tavern, Friday, Oct. 25, 10 pm, Friday, Oct. 31, 10 pm
This year the Willy Street watering hole corrals creepy cover bands for two bashes that celebrate the city's punk scene. The Oct. 25 bill boasts two tribute acts that include Sons of Atom's Tim Radl: No Future as the Sex Pistols and the Creeps as Social Distortion. DJ Ted Offensive, one of the hosts of WORT's "Friday on My Mind" program, joins Zebras' Lacey Smith, Bugatti Type 35 alum Wendy Schneider and others to form Primitive, a group that perform Killing Joke songs.
On Oct. 31 former Low Czars member Aaron Scholz marches up to the mic with Generals & Majors, a band who specialize in material by new-wave rockers XTC. Tar Babies' Bucky Pope teams up with Jim Merett of the Apologists, Chris Vance of Grotto and Hart Miller of Sardonyx for Big Take Over, a band that cover Bad Brains songs. Merett then joins the rest of the Apologists crew in X-Wives, a tribute to L.A. punk legends X in which three local guys try to match the vocal power of one Exene Cervenka.
Graze Halloween Dance Party
Graze, Thursday, Oct. 30, 10 pm-1:30 am
Start your Halloween celebrations the second the clock strikes midnight -- or even a few hours before -- with a trip to this shindig featuring eerie tunes from DJ Nick Nice. The second Oct. 31 begins, the organizers will hold a costume contest.
Dr. Who-lloween Party
Barnes & Noble-West Towne Mall
Friday, Oct. 31, 7 pm
Whovians, ready your costumes: Barnes & Noble will host a Time Lord tribute featuring trivia from the popular BBC TV show and a costume contest with glorious prizes. Whether you can pass as River Song, construct a TARDIS out of a refrigerator box, or simply look fab in a goofy striped scarf, this event gives you a chance to impress other local geeks with your knowledge of the Doctor and his crew. Just remember the mantra from the weeping angels episode: Don't blink.
A Freakin' Halloweekend
High Noon Saloon, Friday, Oct. 31, 8 pm
Saturday, Nov. 1, 8 pm
Dressing up as your favorite rock star never gets old. (At least one writer of this story has masqueraded as Janis Joplin many times over the last two decades.) But what if you're already in a band? On Halloween weekend, a little while after sundown, musicians from some of Madison's favorite local acts pool their talents and transform into their favorite musicians from a variety of genres and eras. The results promise to be entertaining no matter what style of music you prefer.
The Shirley Manson Family, featuring members of German Art Students, the Sigourney Weavers and BingBong, will perform as Madison history-makers Garbage. Like X-Wives at the High Noon, rock and country act the Have Nots will play tunes by X. Hip-hop classics from the '90s are on tap for electronic dubstep act Red Rose, and the Old Pornographers will perform as -- you guessed it -- indie rock band the New Pornographers. Tributes to ZZ Top, MotÃrhead, Alice in Chains, the Specials and Blink-182 are also on the weekend's docket.
But don't let the musicians have all the fun: A costume contest is open to all guests, with prizes at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Beware, fellow Janis fans: The Bobby McGees, fronted by Meghan Rose of Little Red Wolf, have already called dibs on the role.
Horseshoes Halloween with Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
Majestic Theatre, Friday, Oct. 31, 8:30 pm
With roots in Stevens Point and a strong following in both Madison and Milwaukee, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades are truly a Wisconsin band. They'll honor some of the harvest-season sights and sounds that inspire their old-timey folk tunes -- think haunted hayrides, crunchy leaf piles and the refreshingly chilly water of apple-bobbing buckets -- at a Halloween-night show with Joe Huber & Friends and the Stubby Chubbz Brass Band.
Cardinal Bar Halloween Party
Cardinal Bar, Friday, Oct. 31, 9 pm
When the sun vanishes, slink into the shadows for a dance party with DJs Wyatt Agard, Mike Carlson and Emily Mills. Costumed attendees receive $5 off the entrance fee and get to compete in a costume contest with a $300 grand prize.
Halloween Spooktacular with White Empress
Frequency, Friday, Oct. 31, 9 pm
Saturday, Nov. 1, 9 pm
White Empress, a metal band from Minneapolis whose Facebook page spins a yarn about "dried clots of blood," "monstrous flesh" and "steam rising from the still-wet wounds of the fallen," headlines both evenings of this spine-tingling bash. Made of Blocks, From Light Rose the Angels and Skizzwhores will warm up the stage on Friday night, while the Faith Hills Have Eyes, Government Zero and Not Dead Yet will kick off the frightful fun on Saturday.
Crystal Corner Halloween Bash
Crystal Corner Bar, Friday, Oct. 31, 9:30 pm
The spirits of several popular rock bands will haunt the Crystal Corner on Halloween eve. Nellie Wilson plans to morph into Segan & Tara, a Tegan & Sara cover act. She'll be joined by tributes to several memorable acts from the '80s and '90s: Social Distortion, Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Madison Circus Space, Saturday, Nov. 1, 6 & 9 pm
This practice and performance space for circus artists and hobbyists will light up the night when its members show off their talents. Demonstrations of stilt walking, juggling, acrobatic yoga, hoop dancing and more should lend an otherworldly flavor to Halloween weekend.
Boo-Grass for Books
High Noon Saloon, Saturday, Nov. 1, 3:30 pm
Though this hootenanny starts in the afternoon and will likely attract families with kids, it should get spookier and spookier as nightfall nears and the booze starts flowing. Oak Street Ramblers, Brother Rye, Jeff Burkhart and Jeff Burkel will lead live bluegrass music and other entertainment, which ranges from a costume parade for the youngsters to a reading of Halloween-themed books. Expect all hell to break loose if someone presents stories from the Brothers Grimm's fairy-tale collection, which is definitely not for kids -- or the faint of heart. No matter what transpires, the event's proceeds benefit the Literacy Network and Lowell Elementary School.
State Street, Saturday, Nov. 1, 7 pm
Join about 30,000 of your closest friends on State Street for this epic bash featuring three stages of live music and some of the wildest costumes east of the Mississippi. The lineup of bands has changed a bit in recent weeks. As of press time, hip-hop act Atmosphere will lead the festivities on the Capitol Stage, with support from Prof, deM atlaS, WebsterX, Charles Grant and Coby Ashpis. The Mowgli's, Generationals, Springtime Carnivore and Step Rockets will open for American Authors on the Gilman Stage. The WSUM Stage will feature several Wisconsin-based acts: future-beats duo Dense City, electronic pop artist Midas Bison, and rock bands Sky Urchin, Catch Kid and Eagle Trace.
A Halloween Evening with Gov't Mule
Orpheum Theater, Saturday, Nov. 1, 8 pm
Even if you consider jam bands more of a trick than a treat, this Allman Brothers side project is reason for a hearty Halloween party. With album titles like Holy Haunted House and Déjà Voodoo, the band shouldn't have any trouble building a goose bump-inducing set of Southern rock for a big crowd of revelers. They'll perform one round of tunes as themselves and a second as Young Mule, their Neil Young-obsessed alter ego, along with Black Crowes member Jackie Greene.
'80s vs. '90s: Halloween Edition
Majestic Theatre, Saturday, Nov. 1, 9 pm
Thrust yourself back in time with DJs Nick Nice and Vilas Park Sniper at this dance party honoring the artists, fashions and moves of the '80s and '90s. With costume options like Zombie Cyndi Lauper and Antichrist Superstar-era Marilyn Manson, the event should offer a pleasing combination of hilarity and terror. The drink of the night will be Ghoul-Aid with vodka, and prizes will be awarded to the attendees who best portray a music icon of yore and a TV or movie character from one of the featured decades.