YOUNGSTOWN -- The Zou's Annual Rocky Horror Halloween Party has gained popularity since it began in 2001, and now the local band is taking the event beyond the Valley.
They will perform three Rocky-themed shows around Halloween. In addition to a night at Cedar's Lounge Oct. 28, Rocky Horror Halloween parties are scheduled Oct. 27 at Barcode in Kent and Oct. 30 at Garfield Art Works in Pittsburgh.
"This is the first year we've kinda taken it out on the road," Khaled Tabbara said.
The Zou's Annual Rocky Horror Halloween Party began in 2001. At the time, the band was much different. Former members Nic Chiarella, Nick Cordova and Jason Clark have since left the group. In fact, only three things remain unchanged for the Zou. One is lead singer Tabbara, the second is the name The Zou and the third is the Rocky Horror show. Other members of the band now are Rob Thorndike on guitar, Chris Splain on bass and Adam Mamula as the drummer, with substitute drummer Dean Amschutz when Mamula is unavailable.
The first Rocky Horror event originated mostly out of desperation for The Zou to get a show, Tabbara said. It took place at the Oakland Center for the Arts here, before a small crowd.
"You have to remember the climate at the time. The Zou couldn't get a gig to save our lives. We were a bunch of nerdy theater guys," Tabbara said. "We couldn't get a gig at any real place. We had to rent the Oakland to get it."
Tabbara said the idea for the Rocky Horror-themed show came after the members realized they all knew how to play the music, having learned it in their own separate pasts.
"We grew up doing theater, and me and lots of my theater friends would play 'Rocky Horror' and sing around a piano," Tabbara said. "It turned out everyone in the band knew it."
How the Rocky Horror nights have been formatted hasn't changed, and Tabbara said this year will be no different. The first part of the evening features The Zou playing original songs, just as a band would play a set at any other gig. Then there's a 15-minute intermission, with a costume contest for the most creative, the creepiest and the sexiest costumes. After that, The Zou plays through a set list of Rocky Horror Show songs, which Tabbara said will include at least 10 songs this year.
The Zou said the evening of Zou originals and Rocky Horror Show covers attracts a crowd of Zou fans and Rocky Horror fans every year.
"Rocky Horror introduces us to new fans. It's really this cult phenomena," Tabbara said, saying some people have come from as far as Philadelphia to participate in a Rocky Horror event, not specifically to see the band. "We'd say, 'Oh, who do you know here? What brought you to town?' And they'd be like, 'We heard about it on a Web site and came to check it out.' "
After the first year at the Oakland, the band considered the show a success and wanted to do it a second time, but felt they needed a change of venue.
"We had a lot of people complain 'cause there wasn't beer, and you know, people like beer," Tabbara said, laughing. "So we decided the next year we had to have it in a bar and went to Cedar's."
This year, for the first time, they were invited by the out-of-town locations specifically for The Zou's Rocky Horror Halloween Party. And they're excited because those show enable them to play the songs they learned -- but could only play once a year -- more often, Tabbara said.
So fans not only could hear The Zou perform Rocky Horror songs three times this year if they want, they'll be able to take it home with them too.
The Zou will release a five-song album of the band doing covers of Rocky Horror songs. And yes, they've paid the royalty for them. Tabbara said The Zou has actually recorded seven songs in the studio, but have only been able to finance the rights for five so far.
Those songs were recorded in "three full studio days," Tabbara said. The short recording session is a stark contrast to the past year The Zou has spent in local recording studio Amperon, working on their next album, due for release in January.
Tabbara said he's "always been a really huge fan of The Rocky Horror Show."
"It's genuinely solid rock 'n' roll. That's why I think the movie is good -- it's because of the music," Tabbara said.
The Zou's Oct. 28 show at Cedar's, 23 N. Hazel St., downtown, will feature local band Posture Coach opening at 10 p.m., followed by Cleveland's Boatzz.
"It's the craziest night of my year. I can say that with all honesty," Tabbara said. "I think it has a lot to do with Rocky Horror being a celebration of decadence," "There's crazy costumes, crazy people. As far as Zou-things go, it's definitely the craziest."
You can listen to The Zou perform "I'm Going Home" from The Rocky Horror Show by clicking here.