On Halloween night, you can roam the streets of East Austin with a friendly cadre of musical cadavers as the Dead Music Capital marching band hits the streets of East Austin for the annual Krewe DCM Halloween parade. Musicians will gather at Pan Am Park at 7 p.m. and the parade rolls out at 8. (Musicians who would like to join the Dead Music Capital Megaband for the occasion can attend a rehearsal on Sunday.) Neighborhood ghouls and goblins large and small are invited to join in the procession as it winds along the city sidewalks spreading mysterious merriment with dark carnival tunes written to suit the season.
It’s the 13th year for the parade helmed by Austin artist Chris McMillan. McMillan developed a love of ceremonial street processions in New Orleans, where his brother spent several years as a lieutenant in charge of one of the floats for the Krewe of Morpheus, one of the big super crews that parades during Mardi Gras. When his brother left the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he felt like he’d lost a creative outlet.
"I’ve lived in Austin for over two decades and had always wanted to kind of bring some NOLA style parading culture to Austin," he said in late October. "You can’t really do Mardi Gras here, but Halloween is huge and I’ve always loved Halloween. Everybody loves Halloween."
The theme for the first year’s event was a monster invasion.
"We had the four different divisions of the monster armed forces and paraded around sidewalks through downtown and up through Sixth Street," he said.
Over the years the event has evolved, moving from Downtown to the Eastside, which McMillan says is a better fit for the small neighborhood parade. It’s also become more musically robust.
Originally, the spooky crew marched to beats from a skeleton drumline, but for the fifth year he wanted to expand the musical element so he began recruiting horn players and writing music — haunted circus tunes infused with NOLA brass fanfare. The Dead Music Capital Band, now Austin’s premiere crew of marching zombies, lumbered forth from the mayhem.
The theme for this year’s event is Dimension 13 Into the Void. According to Krewe DCM mythology, the Dead Music Capital Band was originally the brass orchestra for the Circus of the Seven Dawns, an intergalactic carnival that travels between dimensions.
The circus returns to Austin for a two-night stand at the Highball on Oct. 24-25. The spectacle will include sideshow acts, burlesque, aerialists and "the Dead Music Capital band reunited with their former troupe," McMillan said.
On Halloween night, McMillan says the crew is using a piece of circus technology he calls, the trans dimensional portal projector "to send the parade out beyond the stars into the unknown."
With the spacey motif and the unlucky anniversary, McMillan says his crew always planned to work up some songs in tribute to Austin’s great psych rock pioneer, Roky Erickson, as part of the celebration. When the local icon died in May, he said, it felt "especially appropriate" to honor his legacy.
"13th Floor Elevator costumes and references are absolutely recommended," he said. "The all seeing eyes should be out there on the route as far as the all seeing eyes can see."
The parade ends at Stay Gold, where the Dead Music Capital Band will perform alongside the Yes Ma’am Brass Band and cat-centric crew Catastica. There is no cover for the parade after party.