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Night of the Living Tribute Bands rocks the cosplay

“The Bangles” kept the flame eternal by rocking the Capitol Theater in 2015. Photo courtesy of Olympia Film Society

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Even grown-ups love wearing costumes for Halloween -- the more provocative the better. At Olympia Film Society's (OFS) Capitol Theater, that cosplay rocks. Each year since 2003, OFS has presented a parade of musicians who dress and perform as idols of the past. Last year's mistress of ceremonies, "Vanessa the Witch" of Rock Candy Burlesque, returns to host this Halloween weekend. She knows the venue well; it's where she led "the Bangles" in 2015.

This year's pop-rock pentad is as familiar to 21st-century audience members as their iPod playlists. Blondie, fronted by new-wave icon Debbie Harry, summited the Billboard charts four times, from the straight-ahead rocker "Call Me" to a reggae-lite cover of John Holt's "The Tide Is High." Canada's Neko Case enjoyed success as a solo artist and fronting The New Pornographers ("Letter From an Occupant"). In just three years from 1965 to 1968, The Mamas & the Papas earned legendary status as countercultural folkies and hit number one with "Monday, Monday." Cat Stevens wrote and performed such enduring singles as "Oh Very Young" and "Wild World." System of a Down is the Armenian-American quartet from Los Angeles who topped the charts with "Toxicity" in 2005. Given these artists' larger-than-life personalities, Night of the Living Tribute Band's copycat bands need to show as much stage pizzazz as musical prowess.

In recent years, explains OFS Executive Director Audrey Henley, event organizers have had the luxury of getting finicky about musicality and stagecraft. The result: tighter acts playing longer sets. This year, each band gets 30 minutes.

"It is hard to say no to bands," Henley acknowledged, "but we want bands to take it seriously." Attendees have high expectations. "All the bands play to donate to OFS," she added. "They put in this serious effort (on) costumes and makeups and wigs and dance moves and antics and all those things all wrapped together, and 15, 20 minutes just didn't seem like enough for all that work. But the dedication that the musicians and the folks who are playing have towards the Film Society and what we're doing at Capitol Theater, that love of donating their time and effort and the revenue generated from it, that's so invaluable. That's something we don't recognize enough with what the bands do in our community."

NIGHT OF THE LIVING TRIBUTE BANDS 2018, 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 27, Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia, $10-$15, 360.754.6670

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