One of the main reasons to go to State Street last night was to see others' costumes and who -- or what -- you might bump into. During Freakfest, Madison's annual Halloween blowout, there's a sense that anything could happen, even the though festivities are much tamer than they were before 2006.
Concerts were the focus of this year's event, and the organizers filled three themed stages with performers from near and far. But given that people came for the party, did they even hear the music? I'm still trying to find the answer to this question.
Electronic music poured from the Gilman Stage. Here, headliner Big Gigantic, a duo from Boulder, Colorado, combined electronic music with live drumming and saxophone. It was strange to see them turn on a song from a laptop and then pick up their instruments. The saxophone could be seen and heard at all times, while the drums often faded into the background. At times, their sax and synthesized melodies drew comparisons to Muzak and Kenny G.-style jazz. Luckily, the "live electronica" format helped the two musicians create a wide range of other sounds, from hip-hop to reggae to club-style dance music. Though they looked more nerdy than clubby, Dutch trio Nobody Beats the Drum got a good portion of the crowd to dance -- and kept them moving throughout the set.
Extracting yourself from the crowd and navigating to another stage was not an easy task. After spending most of my time at the electronic stage, I caught a little of the Mac Miller set at the hip-hop stage. Though the crowd seemed larger at this stage, they seemed even less concerned with the music. Nevertheless, Miller seemed energized onstage, rapping and gesturing as he ran around in a red number-39 jersey. He looked like he could have gained at least as many yards as Montee Ball at Camp Randall earlier in the day.
Though many people weren't inspired to pay attention to the music, they were certainly inspired to create some memorable costumes. A nearly full moon produced a few gorillas and werewolves, while the frigid temperature kept a few people from showing as much skin as they wanted. (One costume was simply a sign around a guy's neck that read "Streaker on Strike.") My personal favorite was a headless bride with puppet-operated arms who looked a bit like a Tim Burton creation. The most common costumes? Nintendo's Mario and Luigi, and Waldo of Where's Waldo? fame.
Beneath all the revelry, there were some interesting subtexts about election season. The stage that presented electronic performers stood near symbols of the church (the Lutheran chapel on Gilman Street, whose stained-glass windows were the same colors as the stage's lights), and the hip-hop stage placed performers against symbols of the state (the Capitol, whose white lights were dim compared to those of the stage). Perhaps the true Freakfest is what's going on around us, at protests, debates and voting booths.