“I LOVE the walking dead,” crowed famously obstinate Big Star front-man Alex Chilton on a desultory tune of the same name cut during a scattershot ‘75 Memphis recording session. While his infamous pharmacological intake (and rough associates) from that time period may have inspired such an outburst, there are millions of other folks the world over who just can’t get enough of lumbering, grey-skinned, non-verbal, flesh-eating cadavers.
Ever since 1968, when filmmakers George A. Romero and John Russo unleashed the cult classic Night of The Living Dead (which single-handedly sparked the modern-day zombie plague mythos) walking corpses have become so ubiquitous in popular culture they earned their own full-scale, respectful parody: 2004’s British spoof flick Shaun of The Dead.
Local Goth and industrial promoter Black Oaks Savannah is looking to this celebrated sci-fi and horror genre as the inspiration for what may be the group’s most high-profile social event to date.
Patterned after similar events which have sprung up for the past few years across this and other countries, Zombie Apocalypse is a lighthearted mini-convention of horror film geeks, monster fans, ghoulish exhibitionists and folks who just plain like to get dressed up in strange costumes and freak out the more staid members of society.
The three-day event is expected to draw scores of participants of all ages from throughout the Southeast, and includes such activities as a Sunday morning champagne brunch at City Market eatery Belford’s (in full zombie attire, of course) and a Saturday evening concert at downtown’s B & B Ale House (featuring local DJ Shrapnel and regional techno and industrial bands Synchro Nine Factor, Earth Empire and Nightmare Sonata opening for famed NYC Goth singer/songwriter Voltaire).
However, the centerpiece of the gathering will surely be the Zombie Walk down River St., in which over a hundred folks dressed in full “living dead” regalia are expected to make a shambolic, half-hour march down the historic cobblestones, drooling and snarling all the way.
Participants will be given free professional ghoul make-overs (courtesy of sponsor Bloody Mary Special Effects Makeup Co.) with the donation of any canned food item — to be donated to local homeless shelters. Who says zombies are all bad?
Event organizer Libitina (one name only, please), who’s been with Black Oaks Savannah since its inception five years ago, explained the “meat of the matter” to me.
Libitina: Basically, it started off as just a Zombie Walk. I’d seen where folks were holding those all over the country, and especially in Florida for some reason. They’ll have them take place a couple of times a year. We thought it would be great fun to do that on River St. with all the tourists! Then we found out that Will Sanders, who handles promotions for SCARS Magazine and runs zombiefriends.com had moved to Savannah a little while ago. He is actually the person that travels all around and oversees these Zombie Walks, and he wound up donating his services to us for this event. He’s really gun ho and excited to be doing the first thing of its kind in Savannah. There’s a professional makeup company called Bloody Mary Makeup, and they’ll be applying the “zombie look” to everyone at the walk for free. All we ask of participants is that they bring a can of food that will be donated to local charities. In exchange for that, they’ll get free face makeup and stage blood. The makeup application starts at 7:30 pm, and the walk begins at 8:30 pm.
Does the Waterfront Association know you’re coming?
Libitina: No. I guess they do now! (laughs) Will says that in general, when they do something like this in other towns, they just show up and go for it. It may seem a little strange to the rest of the people on the street, but as long as our zombies aren’t attacking tourists or anything, I don’t see how there could be a problem.
So, as long as they keep their hands to themselves and just growl and grunt, everything’s cool.
Libitina: Exactly! (laughs) It’s more like a weird parade. It’s kind of a guerilla marketing tactic.
Just like a parade — except one featuring nothing but rotting, flesh-eating, re-animated corpses.
Libitina: You got it. After we walk down River St., anyone who’s 21+ can march up to B & B Billiards near City Market and attend the live concert event.
I take it that B & B is happy to host these zombies?
Libitina: Yes. (laughs)
Whose idea was this?
Libitina: All of Black Oaks’ events are built around a different theme which is developed through brainstorming sessions with our members.
How long has this been in the works?
Libitina: For about eight months.
Is there anything a bout Savannah in particular that lends itself to zombie culture?
Libitina: The fact that we’re such a haunted city.
How many zombies do you expect to attend - and how many do you think will be travelling in from out of town?
Libitina: I’m expecting at least 150 to be at the club event. As for the walk, there may be people downtown who see what we’re doing and get excited and want to join in. We hope they do. Everyone is welcome, as long as they are considerate of others. We’ve been promoting the whole event for the past few weekends by having one of our members walk around at night dressed as a zombie and handing out flyers. We’ll be handing out more flyers in the next few days as well.
What’s the furthest away anyone is coming in from so far?
Libitina: Other than our headlining musical act —who’s coming in from NYC— I’d say Charlotte, N.C.
At some zombie conventions, whole families show up. Do you know if there are many senior citizens or young children who’ll be there in zombie attire?
Libitina: I’m not sure. But they are welcome — as long as those under 18 are accompanied by an adult.
If this is a success, do you hope it will become an annual event?
Libitina: Yes, there’s actually an International Annual Zombie Day which is Oct. 26. People all over the world dress up like zombies. We’d like to possibly bring this back every year on that date.
Has it been difficult to find businesses that wanted to deal with hordes of the living dead invading their premises?
Libitina: Yes and no.
Have you yourself ever attended an event like this before?
Libitina: I have not. I’ve just been aware of them. This will be the first time for everybody in Black Oaks, and we’re very excited.
How would you best sum up what Black Oaks is to folks who may be completely unfamiliar with goth or horror culture?
Libitina: Basically, Black Oaks Savannah is geared more toward a goth or industrial alternative subculture crowd. I’m trying to think of the best description for that, and I’m at a bit of a loss. People familiar with the Goth or industrial scenes will understand, though. A lot of it focuses on music and fashion, and there are many different aspects of both. We try to choose musical guests that appeal to the various sub genres of the Gothic culture. Those lean more toward a techno or industrial dance style. Sometimes we’re even able to book a nationally-known Gothic band. This world is more about the fashion and the music than anything.
Tell me a bit about the live music component of this event.
Libitina: We have four bands coming in for Saturday evening’s show: Earth Empire from Jacksonville, Fl. , where there’s a pretty big goth scene; Nightmare Sonata from Greensboro, N.C.; and then we have Synchro Nine Factor from Atlanta. All these groups have played here before at one point or another.
Your headliner Voltaire has played here before, correct?
Libitina: Yes. This is his third time in Savannah. We’ve brought him in before, and he was a delight to deal with, and said he had a fabulous time here. He’s looking very forward to coming here again. He’s one of the more famous people in his genre. Rather than using a lot of electronics, he’s best described as more folksy. He plays a more acoustic, gypsy style of Gothic music. He’s performing a solo set at this event that will last about 45 minutes.
I take it the sight-seeing after Sunday brunch is one of the key focal points of the event. Will this be done en masse, or is everyone on their own?
Libitina: Everyone will be on their own and free to wander around town in their makeup.
Will Belford’s be closed to the public for that brunch, or will the undead be seated alongside actual living humans?
Libitina: We have a reservation, but I’m not sure where they’re gonna stick us! (laughs)
Is there any concern that some of the more devoted zombies will actually forsake the restaurant’s standard fare to simply kill and eat the servers or hosts?
Libitina: (Laughs) We hope there won’t be any brain eating that morning, but you never know! (laughs)
Has Belford’s been briefed on this remote possibility?
Libitina: No they have not. (laughs) I probably should forewarn them.
I’m just thinking that in light of that aspect of the reservation, they might want to go ahead and add a sizable gratuity.
Saturday night’s 21+ concert will be held at a bar. Besides blood, what do zombies drink?
Libitina: That’s a good question. I would hope they’ll actually order Zombies.
Are you at all concerned that tourists or locals who are unaware of the growing zombie fan culture may become frightened at the sight of dozens of seemingly undead corpses wandering around downtown, and —as they’ve been trained by decades of George A. Romero films— may attempt to decapitate, burn or shoot some of your conventioneers in the head?
Libitina: I sure hope not, because we need as many as possible to show up to the club event afterward!
Are you telling me that rather than be worried for the safety of your guests, you’re primarily concerned with whether or not you’ll get a good crowd for the concert that night?
Libitina: Exactly! (laughs) Isn’t that awful?
When: Fri. - Sun. (full schedule online)
Cost & Info : blackoakssavannah.com