Petaluma’s historic Phoenix Theater looks stunning right now, thanks to a new paint job. The roof is also in fine form after being replaced earlier this year, and the sprinkler system is almost installed and up to the city’s codes.
Unfortunately, the inside of the Phoenix Theater is effectively closed to the public due to Covid, and the popular concert venue and teenage hangout has been unable to host events since March.
Nonetheless, in keeping with tradition, the venue will present its annual Halloween Covers Show this Saturday, Oct. 31. The only difference is that this year’s concert will be virtual, with several local bands and artists dressing up as classic rock groups and performing their songs for the camera instead of a live audience. The concert will be available to view on YouTube at 8pm on Oct. 31.
“The show is very cool, and it existed long before we hosted it,” says Jim Agius, talent buyer for the Phoenix Theater and co-host of the venue-based podcast Onstage with Jim & Tom. “It was a fixture at one of the punk houses in Santa Rosa. In 2016, we offered to take it and we hosted it, and from there we put our own spin on it.”
The annual Halloween Covers Show is one of the North Bay’s biggest yearly parties, and the participating bands and artists go above and beyond to embody the classic bands they are covering; perfecting the clothes, the between-song banter and more.
“All of the things I love about Halloween are represented in this show,” Agius says. “It gets a great variety of people from all sorts of different musical corners.”
In past years, local bands have performed as everything from AC/DC to the Spice Girls, and this year’s virtual lineup is another varied assembly of musical genres and artists.
Seven bands appear at this year’s online concert. Marin County’s young rock star Matt Jaffe—with bleached blonde hair—embodies Lou Reed and leads a Velvet Underground set. Marin natives The Happys don socks (and nothing else) to perform as the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Young Sonoma County punks Kurupi take on Rage Against the Machine, and local performer Kara Ferro sings as Loretta Lynn with a full backing country band. Other sets include Moon Sick performing as Toadies, Dry Ice Queen performing as No Doubt and several young rockers from various local bands performing as The Strokes.
Also in keeping with tradition, this year’s Halloween Covers Show ends with a massive balloon drop.
“It’s a wonderful dot on the exclamation point to end the show,” Agius says. “This year, of course, there’s no audience. It’s very surreal actually to see 800 balloons sitting where the audience would have been.”
Despite its current inability to host live shows, the Phoenix Theater’s nonprofit foundation is staying afloat through the pandemic thanks to private donors and the Paycheck Protection Program.
“It looks like the Phoenix is going to be OK,” Agius says. “Obviously, things can change and who knows how long this is going to go on for, but we’re feeling positive about coming out the other end of it.”