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13 Musicians with the Best Stage Costumes

Need some Halloween ideas? Consider this your outlet.

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Dying to win the Halloween costume contest this year? Look no further. We’ve compiled the musicians with the most original, and at times, most grotesque stage costumes that will outshine any of the overdone celebrity costumes we all come across each year. (If I see one more Madonna I swear…) In fact, if you can pull off any of these outrageous costumes – we applaud you. From a samurai-inspired sun god to blood-spewing space monsters, here are our top 13 musicians with the best performance attire.

–Danielle Janota
Staff Writer

13. Erykah Badu

CoS Lolla Sunday - Badu 8

Photo by Heather Kaplan

Erykah Badu burst on the scene in 1997 with a towering head wrap and gold Ankh jewelry presenting herself as the Nubian it-girl. Since her debut, Miss Badu has switched it up with a rainbow array of afros and other wigs. In recent years, she has rocked body paint and funky ten-gallon hats in lieu of her signature head wraps. Erykah has cemented herself through her videos, live shows, and personal appearances as a fashion icon, except when she forgoes all clothing like she did in her 2010 video for “Window Seat”. Check out her performance in a towering blonde mohawk (it’s my favorite). –Claire Sevigny

12. Michael Jackson

mjcostume1000 13 Musicians with the Best Stage Costumes

From his early days in the Jackson 5 to his solo career, the King of Pop always had a flair for the dramatic. Michael Jackson added a cinematic quality to everything he did, from his signature dance moves to his dazzling music videos and live shows. Naturally, this extended to his wardrobe, which is known most famously for the single sparkling glove, the iconic red leather jacket, and flashy military-chic gear. With the release of the “Thriller” video, MJ became the unofficial King of Halloween for many years to come. –Claire Sevigny

11. Kanye West

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Photo by Joshua Mellin

Where does luxury intersect with a god complex? Enter Kanye West’s diamond-encrusted face mask. Throughout the Yeezus tour, West sported several variations of the Margiela-designed masks. It’s only fitting that West would choose such luxurious garb for his tour, given that he spent much of the press circuit talking about his aspirations to infiltrate the high-fashion community. He even identifies his forward-thinking fashion sense on tracks like “I Am a God”, where he talks about wearing a “Pink-ass polo with a fucking backpack.” But he wasn’t the only one sporting a costume; backup dancers in nude morph suits and Jesus himself made appearances under the tour’s towering white mountain. –Dusty Henry

10. Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire // Photo by xf

Photo by xf

Arcade Fire ruffled some feathers when they (politely) requested that audience members dress either formally or in costume for recent shows. For their part, the Montreal rockers pulled out all the stops on the Reflektor tour, which included a person dressed in a suit seemingly made of disco-ball material that literally reflected light through the crowd as (s)he spun around on the b-stage. Giant papier-mâché heads and helmets constructed of TV screens became a standard for the band in an effort to either distract the crowd or make political statements in each city along the way. –Killian Young

9. Destiny’s Child

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Thanks to Destiny’s Child, we can simply Google Image search one band name and instantly view all the worst fashion trends of the ’90s/early ’00s. But the worst trends clearly make for the best costumes. With the help of Tina Knowles’ and her label, House of Deréon, Destiny’s Child has graced us with unforgettable color-coordinated pieces like fringy ponchos, Tommy Hilfiger tube tops, and bacon(?)-inspired dresses. The anticipation of each new video was as much about seeing what gear their rockin’ bods were sporting next as it was about the music. Although most would call their style “fugly” today, my inner tween still wishes her and her friends could wear matching bandana-print crop tops without raising eyebrows. –Danielle Janota

8. Kraftwerk

Photo by Robert Altman

Photo by Robert Altman

Long before Daft Punk put on their shiny helmets, Kraftwerk reigned supreme as the robots in electronic music. The influential German group’s earlier uniforms featured red button-downs, black ties, and black slacks. But on their most recent 3-D tour, Kraftwerk donned matching skin-tight suits more befitting of Tron. The robot identity plays an integral part in Kraftwerk’s performances — stiff movements, minimal small talk, and perfect technical skills are all hallmarks of their shows. Only at the end, when each member performs a brief solo before exiting the stage, do the personalities behind the robots shine through. –Killian Young

7. Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Sun Perform at Gov Ball NYC

Photo by Robert Altman

Empire of the Sun looks like something you’d find on the cover of a science fiction novel in the bargain bin. Just look at the cover of their sophomore album, Ice on the Dune. The Australian synthpop outfit has the soul of an art-rock group with a penchant for spandex. Their colorful wardrobes with metal accessories were supposedly inspired by studying samurais in art school, according to co-founder Luke Steele. It turns out that pairing a metal headdress with eye makeup reminiscent of Michael Stipe looks a lot more intimidating than it sounds. Almost every part of the band’s music shimmers and glows, so why wouldn’t their outfits do the same? –Dusty Henry

6. Ghost B.C.

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Photo by Heather Kaplan

Shrouded in mystery, Ghost B.C. have used their costumes and makeup to maintain their anonymity. (When signing autographs, lead singer Papa Emeritus II uses his stage name, while the other band members stamp the elemental sign they represent.) The Swedish rockers match their explicitly satanic lyrics to their appearance: a twisted take on traditional Catholic imagery. Papa Emeritus II dons the most elaborate costume, which features skull face paint, black robes, and a mitre that resembles the Pope’s — except this one bears the band’s signature inverted cross logo. –Killian Young

5. of Montreal

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Never one to shy away from the flamboyant, of Montreal lead singer Kevin Barnes has a reputation for reinventing the band’s live show for each new album and tour. (He’s also known for embodying the stage presence of his alter ego, “Georgie Fruit“, a cross-dressing African-American who’s undergone multiple sex change operations. Fruit has a penchant for a falsetto, hip gyrations, and flirtatious grin.) The most recent incarnation of his theatrical production supported the band’s 2013 LP Lousy with Sylvianbriar and featured stagehands with Day of the Dead masks, a human butterfly emerging from its cocoon, and Barnes tearing off his patterned orange suit (printed with green tigers hiding in the brush) to sing the encore shirtless. –Killian Young

4. GWAR

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Photo by Debi Del Grande

This year, GWAR welcomed their newest member, Vulvatron, after the untimely demise of their fearless leader, Oderus Urungus. Vulvatron (whose prosthetic breasts spew blood) and her cohorts make every day Halloween with elaborate personas and stage costumes consisting of spikes, fur pelts, and monster masks. The shock rockers make each of their custom costumes from a variety of materials including latex, rubber, the very scary Styrofoam, and lots and lots of fake blood. These oddities from outer space turn every concert into a freak show with their onstage antics. –Claire Sevigny

3. Daft Punk

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It might be offensive to put Daft Punk on this list since their “costumes” are most likely what all the civilians wear on their home planet … That being said, Daft Punk’s futuristic gear has been manufactured so meticulously that they’ve managed to (almost) convince people that they fell from outer space. The robots get an upgrade with each new era of music, thus acquiring four major remodels to date. Since the time they were initially crafted by an LA-based special effects studio in 1999, the helmets have gained air conditioning and communications systems, lost LEDs and wires, and most recently, have changed from dark metallic to matte white. –Danielle Janota

2. David Bowie

bowie1000 13 Musicians with the Best Stage Costumes

Glam rockers are heavily indebted to David Bowie. Not just because of his epic compositions, but also his sense of theatrics. Throughout his massive career, Bowie created countless iconic characters who showed up both in his songs and live performances. There’s the seminal Ziggy Stardust, an androgynous space rock star with crimson hair. Then there’s the slicked-back, vest-clad Thin White Duke. And who could forget the lightning bolt makeup from the cover of Aladdin Sane? Each character was fleshed out with his own mannerisms and wardrobe, but each was distinctly Bowie. – Dusty Henry

1. Björk

bjork1000 13 Musicians with the Best Stage Costumes

Photo by Kris Lenz

Puzzling the public with her avant-garde costumes for over two decades, Björk is the perfect musician to top our list. Equipped with a fashion sense as odd as her voice, she turns each stage performance into a living, breathing art installation. From her 2001 Academy Awards swan dress, to her massive wigs and urchin-like headgear on the Biophilia Tour, Björk’s attire captures her identity and music in a way that no other artist can. Her innovative style and sound have made her the muse of hard-to-please artists like Thom Yorke, Wayne Coyne, and Justin Vernon, to name a few. – Danielle Janota

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