November 8, 2021
(DENVER) — It was 8 pm on a Sunday, and Blake Street in Denver was nearly deserted — except for the line of goths, punks, and Halloween goers braving the early autumn cold for the third show of local band Itchy-O’s Hallowmas 2021.
The band, described by publicist Cory Phare, who sat down with The Click at the Summit before showtime, as a “57-member electro percussive dance party,” is an eclectic mix of cultural influences. Itchy-O has a solid following in Denver, a city with a vibrant Goth and Industrial scene, and the band has a reputation for putting on one of the best holiday performances. This year’s celebration coincided with the release of the band’s fourth album, “SYPHERLOT/HALLOWMASS; DOUBLE LIVE 2020,” available from Alternative Tentacles Records.
While Hallowmass is not a new production, Itchy-O put extra emphasis this year on addressing the traumatic events of the 2020 pandemic, calling on fans in their social media announcement to enjoy the concert and associated ceremony for the “cauterization of a shared wound.”
Sol Tribe Tattoo, which has partnered with Itchy-O for Hallowmass for the past seven years, erected a two-tiered interactive shrine for concertgoers to pour their grievances onto before the band took the stage. “Itchy-O and the community around them wanted to make this a safe, sacred place to honor loved ones,” Alicia Cardena, owner of Sol Tribe Tattoo, told The Click. The altar featured white carnations with name cards to address lost loved ones, along with bare strips of paper for those needing to write more than a name to summarize whatever pain they needed to address. “Attendees can bring items or artifacts or sentiments or write them down on a piece of paper to place things and ideas that they are looking to let go of,” Phare explained while sitting stage-side at the band’s merchandise booth.
The altar’s design is intentionally cross-cultural, pulling elements from Judeo-Christian designs, Aztec patterns, and natural elements, to name a few. “We grieve cross-culturally,” Cardenas added. “Spiritual alliance does not matter; we’ve all lost someone.”Denver artist Sarah Harling created the centerpieces for the altar in the form of two anatomically accurate hearts: one of paraffin wax, one of spun sugar. Both will be burned along with the rest of the content of the altar to send away unwanted pain and memories and usher in a happier Winter and New Year. “It was a little violating the first night when people started coming in and hanging their flowers on it [the altar] because grieving is so personal,” Harling said. She added that she made the hearts while grieving the loss of her boyfriend earlier this year. “As I saw all these people just coming up and just sharing their loss and their experiences, I realized that this is really a communal grief, that we all need to heal,” she said. Like the altar erected for their concert, Itchy-O’s music doesn’t obey any genre or particular sound. Instead, the band blends Japanese taiko drums, choral vocals, electronic music, bagpipes, and marching band drums, along with stellar stage lighting and smoke effects. Phare said that while Itchy-O has an established reputation and performance style, the spiritual elements and altar were something different that many attendees connected with.
“This is our seventh year doing Hallowmass, and every year there is an altar,” he said. “It’s really just offering closure and a turning of the page for so many people here. I get to hear their stories of moving on, and it’s just great.”