Despite the fact that the nearly mainstream zombie subculture revolves around hideous imagery and concepts (i.e. re-animated corpses, cannibalism, and an apocalyptic paradigm), zombie walks have become increasingly family-friendly. Now in its seventh year, the Long Beach Zombie Walk expanded the typically one-day event to three days and moved it from the city blocks of Downtown Long Beach (where it was last year) back down to Rainbow Lagoon Park (across the street from where it was in 2012). While this shift did accommodate more entertainment programming and increase the convenience for guests to schedule their attendance, it also, likely, caused the overall decreased headcount per day.
On day one (Friday, Oct. 4), Dr. Demento played host, there was a zombie prom, and the classic Edgar Wright / Simon Pegg horror spoof Shaun of the Dead was screened. On the following day, the official zombie walk occurred, and George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, the quintessential zombie film, was screened. On the third day, there were a series of themed wrestling matches by Vendetta Pro Wrestling, a children's costume contest, and, in keeping with the children's theme, a screening of the film ParaNorman.
In addition to these particulars, throughout the weekend there were various other entertaining perks and colorful vendors and attractions, featuring: professional make-up applications, a haunted maze (via the impressive Terror Trucks), a live sports tent (for those whose ultimate allegiance is not horror entertainment), a freak show, various carnival games, bounce houses, food vendors, and, of course, music.
There was no shortage of appropriately themed and in-costume musical acts throughout the weekend. The acts ranged from the humorous accordion-playing, elderly vampire Count Smokula to the supremest of SoCal costume bands, Radioactive Chicken Heads. Of course, not all of the bands wore costumes or scored off the charts on the kitsch meter. On Sunday, when we caught up with the zombie crowd of Long Beach, the stage was principally occupied by stalwart Orange County punk and alt-rock acts such as The Grinning Ghosts, ¡Aparato!, Bellhaunts, and The Potential Lunatics.
While all of the bands played charming sets, and we've seen a couple of them performing together before (specifically The Grinning Ghosts and Bellhaunts at a great punk show at Comic Book Hideout, in Fullerton), The Potential Lunatics, stood out as an amazing two-piece punk band. The young sibling team of Emma and Isaac Simons-Araya (on vocals/guitar and drums, respectively) demonstrated that passion can be conveyed with the most stripped-down of arrangements. There were no keys, no bass, no second guitarist, and nothing seemed to be missing while they tore through their set.
The more straight-forward acts were, of course, complemented by some extremely colorful bands. Starting the day off was Fungus Finkelstein -- who returned to the dance floor later in the day with percussionist Alen Morales Santillano Hansen to kill a few rock 'n roll and punk numbers with his accordion while the stage was being prepped for the next band. The duo of Roosterhead also added color -- both with their look as well as with their campy covers of various horror-themed songs. The members of Popsical donned a very eclectic mish mosh of costumes to personify their "Gutter Glam" style.
Finally, there was Mac Sabbath. Though Mac Sabbath is a one-line joke (they dress like an evil version of the McDonald's playland characters and sing McDonald's-themed parodies of Black Sabbath tunes), they are great performers. Both musically and comedically, Ronald Osbourne and his band of characters keep the energy high and the smiles wide with jokes ranging from fast food puns on other band names to semi-obscure references like, "Don't eat the brown hamburgers" [fans of the original Woodstock music festival will get this].
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It was interesting to witness the attempted growth of the Long Beach tradition. Given the scattered turnout, it is not likely that the promoters will attempt another three-day weekend; however, Rainbow Lagoon Park was a much cozier setting for the event than the pavement of several parking lots in Downtown. That being said, the core audience will continue to turn up and relish this environment wherever -- or for however long -- it continues to exist.