You always know when Halloween is just around the corner. The stores start filling their shelves with candy, decorations and costumes. Empty lots become pumpkin patches. Schools and other organizations host haunted houses and harvest festivals on the weekends leading up to the big night. For me though, the sign that Halloween was closing in was hearing the band Oingo Boingo on the radio. A lot of you may know Danny Elfman, the former frontman for the group. He’s done the music scores for lots of movies; just about everything Tim Burton has done, the Army of Darkness, Batman (from 1988 ), and tons other I can’t think of right now. But before that, he was the red-haired, demonic-looking lead singer for Oingo Boing, an alternative band from the 80’s.
Oingo Boingo was a big deal for us growing up in Southern California in the eighties. They were a local band, with a very distinct sound. The thing I loved about them was their use of brass instruments in all their songs. I was in my high school band playing the trombone at the time, so it was really cool to hear a rock band using them as well. And every year, on the weekend before Halloween, they would play at the Irvine Amphitheater (now the Verizon Wireless Pavillion I think. I don’t accept that though). You could tell it was getting closer as a local rock station KROQ would start putting Boingo songs into their playlists, starting at the beginning of October. As the month wore on, more and more Boingo songs could be heard throughout the day and night. And as Halloween closed in, they were run practically every hour!
But the concerts at the amphitheater, they were something to be experienced. Because it was at Halloween, people would come dressed up. The amphitheater was located in the hills of Irvine, near the old animal park and Wild Rivers. You parked in a common parking lot and then walked up hill to the amphitheater. The cheapest seats were in the lawn, which was just that; a large lawn area above the stage. You brought blankets to sit up there, claiming any empty section. And the people up there was all very friendly. There was no claiming of territory. If you overlapped slightly into their area, it was okay. You weren’t there to sit any way. Before the show, people would walk around, check out other people’s costumes and just come to chat or say hi. Boingo fans were really friendly. As soon as the band appeared on stage, you were then up on your feet and dancing! It was the freest feeling, being able to get up and dance as you felt, and even dance with some stranger, just for a song. So, it didn’t matter that you could barely see the stage, even with the screens they had on either side of the stage. A friend of mine remarked once how Danny Elfman looked like a match, with his flaming red hair and black clothes! It was really a lot of fun.
Twenty years later, that all gone now. Oingo Boingo broke up in the mid nineties, so Danny Elfman could continue his career as a movie score writer. KROQ doesn’t play Boingo as much as it used to in October. They’ve all moved on. But, I’ve still got my CDs and my memories. Oingo Boingo will always be the herald of Halloween, and their songs “Dead Man’s Party” , “No One Lives Forever”, “Dead or Alive” and “Goodbye-Goodbye”, their concert closing song, will always be it’s anthems.