Every Halloween season, concertgoers can take their pick of shows where local musicians perform as far more famous artists—the kind who no longer play in the small clubs that tend to host these shows. Kickstand Talent buyer John Ugolini, for instance, will appear as Lou Bega at Beat Kitchen’s Halloween Extravaganza XIV on Saturday—an especially brave choice, given that Bega has only one song that anybody knows. On Friday at Sleeping Village, Chicago party producers Slo ‘Mo will throw the Coven Classic, which cofounder Kristen Kaza describes on the Sleeping Village website as a covers show of seasonally appropriate songs by “witches & b#$!s from Grace Jones to Nina Simone.”
Kaza enlisted singer, keyboardist, and composer Akenya Seymour to assemble an ensemble for the Coven Classic: drummer Red and vocalist Schenay Mosely, both from soul combo Highness; modern soul singer Rhea the Second; bassist Ayana Woods (Jamila‘s younger sister), who makes experimental pop as Yadda Yadda; and, at Kaza’s suggestion, guitarist Becca Nesbit of punk band Swimsuit Addition. Seymour will play keys and sing, and she’s also got a cast of guest vocalists—though she prefers to keep their identities secret for now.
Under the name Akenya, Seymour records a blend of jazz, soul, R&B, and hip-hop largely on her own, but she also has experience leading a group of musicians: in 2016 she became the musical director for Noname‘s live band. It was in that role that she connected with Kaza in November of that year—Noname performed at the MCA as part of after-hours series Prime Time, and Kaza had helped curate the event. Seymour was happy to come aboard when Kaza contacted her with the idea for the Coven Classic. “It just seemed like a cool idea to have something that was Halloween themed—I never played a Halloween party before,” Seymour says. “She was like, ‘It’d be really great to have a band that’s primarily women or gender minorities,’ and that seemed cool too.”
Kaza and Seymour collaborated on a list of genre-spanning songs to fit the holiday. “It was some thematic things about, like, magic, witchcraft, or creepy-crawly, ghoul-like things,” Seymour says. “Or artists who make you think they’re probably not from earth. I added some Björk to the set ’cause I was like, how can we do anything that’s supposed to evoke magic and not do Björk? She might be a real-life witch.”
Other attractions at the Coven Classic include a magic show by illusionist Jeanette Andrews, sets by Slo ‘Mo DJ Audio Jack, and a costume contest. A portion of the evening’s proceeds will benefit Chicago Volunteer Doulas, which provides childbirth support in vulnerable communities. Tickets are $20, and the party starts at 9 PM.