At Concord’s annual Halloween Howl, costumed kids trick or treat as horse-drawn wagons move down Main Street, reveling in a family-friendly outdoor celebration. Judging by the name of the band, the music this year in Bicentennial Square is perfectly suited to the event. But Ghost Dinner Band didn’t choose its moniker as a holiday hole card — not at all.
“It comes from nowhere,” front man Kyle Webber said.
“We have to make up a good story for that,” echoed bass player Josh Blair.
Sans mythology, the music is still spooky. There’s a horror movie at the heart of “She’s Gone” and “Video Store Cowboy,” two songs from their most recent album, Fourteen Shades of Three. “Scary Mother Mary,” from 2008’s Your Nightmares, certainly lives up to the title.
Anchored by Webber’s gravelly voice and psychedelicized guitar work, GDB unleashes a mélange of roiling blues and simmering swamp rock, the grimy love child of Exene Cervenka and Elmore James. Yet, they began as a jam band.
Webber, Blair and rhythm guitarist Nate Bosworth met in high school. During an interview outside of True Brew Barista, it became comically difficult getting them to identify their roots beyond that. Bosworth repeatedly picked up and dropped a metal barricade, not saying much of anything.
Webber was slightly more forthcoming.
“Everywhere I’ve ever heard music, I get influences,” he said, explaining that Simon & Garfunkel first inspired him. “When I was 6, I sounded just like them.”
Blair favored Misfits and GG Allin, which made for an odd pairing with Webber, whose shaggy locks usually cover his face when he sings.
“I was a punk rocker, and Kyle was a longhaired hippie and somehow we ended up in a band,” Blair said.
“We met in the middle somewhere,” Webber said.
At Webber’s urging, Blair switched from drums to bass and with Bosworth became The Tripsmiths, channeling Phish and the Dead. Ghost Dinner Band began — and its sound shifted — when original drummer Eric Boulter joined in 2007.
After Boulter departed late last year, they looked up Mark Trottier. Both a musician and promoter — his Go-Local Music organizes the summer Camp-N-Jam Festival — Trottier is a key player in the Concord music scene.
“It’s always been hit or miss; it never really had any guidance, someone pushing people,” said Blair. “Mark is that guy.”
Connections helped with the Halloween Howl gig. When organizers sought out Trottier for a good up and coming band, he had an easy answer. GDB had already cemented its reputation in Concord playing events like Market Days and gigging regularly at Penuche’s.
After the interview, they would play the final set there for a benefit honoring Mike Vyce, a local musician who died in a car crash in 2010. The three original GDB members hadn’t known Vyce, but he was a close friend of their new drummer.
“Mike’s the reason I got back into music,” said Trottier later as he fine-tuned the soundboard.
Over the past few years, Penuche’s has become a second home for the band. Initially, though, they weren’t so sure about the basement bar.
“We went down there and thought, oh no, we’re playing one of these places,” said Blair. “We didn’t have high hopes, but at the end of the night we were completely turned around. They know how to party and they like music.”
Before they head back in to tune up, there’s one more attempt to glean something deeper from the mysteriously named band. “There really isn’t anything that interesting about it,” said Webber. “Except the music.”