For the life of me, I cannot remember lyrics to songs, even those I've heard hundreds of times. Ask my high school musical theater teacher, old choir directors or anyone who's been in my car — the words do not come correct. Verses are jumbled and lines take on unintended alternate realities, but mostly I just mumble something made-up. One time the vocalist for a hardcore band shoved a mic in my face and I just screamed nonsense back — it's not my job to know the lyrics to your song!
Except when it is my job: in Halloween cover bands. For almost a decade — broken up by four years to have a kid, then the pandemic — I've gotten together with the same group of folks to learn songs by Jimmy Eat World, the Smashing Pumpkins, Gin Blossoms and Carly Rae Jepsen. Then we play the annual Halloween show organized by the Washington, D.C., indie/punk scene, with proceeds going to charity. Some of the best nights of my life have been at these cover shows, like when Rena from Bacchae essentially fronted Give for the most raucous Rage Against the Machine set I've ever seen.
Anyway… it'd been a while since Daoud Tyler-Ameen (Bad Moves, Art Sorority), Brandon Korch (Pilau, Monument), Matt Cohen (Mount Rainier) and I all got together in a room to dissect and rework familiar faves. I especially like to pick bands with songs that people don't even realize they know; after some debate, we landed on Goo Goo Dolls. "Slide" and "Iris" are the hits, yes, but once you hear "Naked," admittedly a minor radio hit, the Goo Goos suddenly become the glittery '90s emo band you never knew existed. We added our friend Tori on the tambourine at the last minute; it proved crucial to our success.
So as a post-Halloween treat, here's a download of the Ghoul Ghoul Dolls’ set at The Runaway in Washington, D.C. It's a blown-out, lo-fi live bootleg recorded on my wife’s phone, so you'll hear banter with our friends between songs, KT calling me a "hot dad" and generally being a super supportive partner. All of the Halloween punk cover show rules apply: there was no sound check, so we could barely hear each other; guitar solos were flubbed, but only by me; there's copious amounts of feedback, especially as we went acoustic on "Name." But you'll also hear the crowd sing along.
By the way, I cheated and put the lyrics on the floor in front of me — couldn't let that bother me anymore. But I was reminded of just how much I missed playing music with friends. And maybe I shouldn't wait until next Halloween to do so. —Lars Gotrich
P.S.: If y'all didn't know, I host the Best Music of the Month podcast from NPR's All Songs Considered. We just published the October show, featuring Open Mike Eagle, Plains and Maral. Take a listen!
Stream the Viking's Choice playlist via BNDCMPR. Tracklist below:
The HIRS Collective (feat. Shirley Manson), "We're Still Here"
Meg Baird, "Will You Follow Me Home?"
Steel Tipped Dove (feat. Jordidge), "Wunderbaum Blues"
The Leaf Library, "Goodbye Four Walls"
Darkthrone, "The Sea Beneath the Seas of the Sea"
Alan Licht, "Jump"
Merinda Dias-Jayasinha, "How We See"
Srirajah Rockers, "YHON"
Empanadas Ilegales, "Luna Modular"
Oozing Wound, "The Good Times (I Don't Miss 'Em)"
James Brandon Lewis, "Someday We'll All Be Free"
Backxwash (feat. Pupil Slicer), "Nyama"
recovery girl (feat. diana starshine), "bodiezbodiezbodiez"
Danny Paul Grody, "Other States"
Sugar Vendil, "May We Know Our Own Strength"
Moin, "Hung Up"
The Otolith, "Sing No Coda"
F***wolf, "Flamin' Hot Cheetos"
Julianna Riolino, "Isn't It A Pity"
R.A.P. Ferreira, "ours"
Maral, "A Walk And A Talk"
Chrome Ghost, "Where Black Dogs Dream"
Blacklisters, "Leisure Center"
Houle, "Le Continent"
Coma Regalia, "E. Texas Ave."
The Rave Tapes, "Sucker Punch"
KMRU, "in pieces"
Kristina Jung, "A Wolf in Every Womb"
Elder, "Endless Return"