An Evening with John Carpenter (10/31)

The past few years we have seen many of our iconic heroes of film, music, and television unfortunately pass away; and this year we were hit with two major blows to the horror genre when directors George Romero and Tobe Hooper left us behind for the greater beyond. With each passing we’re left with speculating the “what-ifs” and “what could have been” in their wake, the unfinished projects and ambitions that are never going to be realized like we wanted. It’s hard to come to the acceptance that a certain era of talent is going to end over the course of the next decade or so, and what that means for those who not only grew up with these influences and how that’s going to effect media going forward. It’s a bit clear that nostalgia for late 70s and early to mid 80s has been ripe with our culture for a while now, no exmaple more prevelant than the Stranger Things series, which is an homage to the iconography of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, John Hughes, and among others, John Carpenter.

Thank the loving Christ that we still have John Carpenter around. While the director hasn’t made a movie since 2010’s The Ward, he has persevered in the musical department by releasing a series of albums that are the prime accumulation of his greatest works. Anyone familiar with the director can recognize his synth-style scores that he created for the majority of his pictures, the likes of which he indulged in two years ago when he released his first album, “Lost Themes”. Each year since he has graced us with a second “Lost Themes” album and “Anthology” a collection of his movie scores that he worked on with his son Cody Carpenter. The “Anthology” tour kicked off earlier this week in Las Vegas, followed by last night’s Halloween concert at The Pallidium in Los Angeles.

In a crowd filled with Snake Plisskins,¬†They Live humanoids and a few Freddy Kruegers (but not Michael Myers, yeah weird), Carpenter stood front in center on the foggy stage with his keyboard at his fingers while images of his feature films were blown up on a screen behind him, like he was rocking out to his own greatest hits. The mood was electric, with movie fans alike swarmed to the front, hands shooting up the horns at the funky guitar riffs and screaming in delight as iconic actors such as Roddy Piper, Donald Pleasance, Adrienne Barbeau, Keith David, Mark Hamil, Kurt Russell, Jamie Lee Curits, and the recently passed Harry Dean Stanton popped up. For a painfully brief 75 minutes (8:30-9:45), Carpenter and his band rocked out to the entirety of the “Anthology” album, saving a few moments for some notable hits from the “Lost Themes” albums such as “Vortex”. While he mostly jammed, Carpenter introduced a few of the songs such as the theme from The Thing, which was famously composed by the fantastic Ennio Morricone and the theme from Starman, of which he noted it being his only “love story”. None of this was new information for the fans, but any bit of commentary he offered was worthwhile because his joyfulness in his music was so goddamn infectious that it made rewatching the clips from his movies immersive and rewarding.

For this writer (who was dressed up as Evil Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks, cause we all know I freaking dig that show, tell me what you were in the comments below), this was hands down one of the coolest experiences. When Wes Craven sadly passed away a few years back, I had to go back and revisit some of his work because it had meant so much to me as a teenager when I was coming into my own as a movie fan and a fan of the horror genre. To say the least, getting to be in the presence of John Carpenter, (again actually*), meant the world to me because his influence has gradually become more dominant and important to me as a creative writer with every passing year. The variety of stories he has crafted on screen, matched with his cinematography and wonderful music, invoke a sense of inspiration that not many other directors have done. There are so few movies that I look to as textbook examples of how to set a scene, write dialogue, generate atmosphere and mood, then Carpenter’s Halloween. If I ever get to have some of my work put out there it’ll be the least I can do to thank John Carpenter for the kind of influence he has had on me. This concert is an absolute treat, and it was just a great night to be surrounded by fellow fans who were dressed to the nine in costumes and memorabilia.

If you’re a fan of Carpenter’s work at all, I highly implore you to seek out tickets and go see the show. It’s short but hell of a lot of fun. Also they got some cool merchandise: t-shirts (got a Christine one), signed posters and albums, and hats too.

The “Anthology” Track List:

  1. “In The Mouth of Madness”
  2. “Assault on Precinct¬†13”
  3. “The Fog”
  4. “Prince of Darkness”
  5. “Santiago (Vampires)”
  6. “Escape from New York”
  7. “Halloween”
  8. “Porkchop Express (Big Trouble in Little China)”
  9. “They Live”
  10. “The Thing”
  11. “Starman”
  12. “Dark Star”
  13. “Christine”
  14. “March of the Children (Village of the Damned)” – Vinyl exclusive
  15. “Body Bag” – Vinyl Exclusive

*John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis did a Q&A at Beyond Fest for their screening of Halloween in 2015(?), it was awesome and I want Jamie to be my mom. When they played the Halloween theme last night, I was coming back from the bathroom and running and screaming to get back to my spot.