OKAY, SO DOCTOR Nightlife has a thing about Halloween. So sue her. Those of you with the right stuff, bogy on:
MONSTER MASH: Get down, get low, get buried at d.c. space Saturday with Washington's ultimate rock 'n' roll deadheads -- the irresistible Date Bait, the band that answers the question, What would Sweeney Todd be doing if he were alive today? (running a fast-food franchise and moonlighting as a singer), thrashing out two shows and in between presiding over a strobe-surround of old horror movies and special F/X.
Don't know Dait Bait? The band with impeccable bloodlines, and draining every one? They're definitely camp run amok. (And why not? If there's a rock 'n' roll heaven, all the real fun will be down the street.) Dait Bait specializes in music to watch B movies by: slavering, lascivious, punky, melodramatic . . . and occasionally just rude. They take on (by taking up) every sort of monster from swamp things to skinheads to college students. And with a possessed beat. Their album, "I Split on Your Grave," has a cover of Gary Glitter's "I Didn't Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock 'n' Roll)" that would do House of Freaks proud. These boys are bent, buddy. We're in love. And then there are the Nude-niks, the band's own go-go ghouls . . . "Wear a costume . . . or else," warns the sybil. Or else miss the prizes, anyway. The stomping starts at 11 ($5; 202/347-1445).
GRAVEYARD SHIFT: Keep it going at the first anniversary celebration of the Night Shift after-hours performance-art series, midnight till dawn Saturday at the D.C. Arts Center. The first act includes poetry from Reuben Jackson, Sharon Morganthaler, Richard Peabody and Silvanna Straw; at 1:30 Salt Diamond Mine, led by Night Shift cofounder Brian Tate, kicks off an hour's concert, followed by a all-night dance with local fave DJ Tommy B ($5; 202/462-7833).
Although Salt Diamond Mine isn't deliberately weirded out, as Dait Bait is, its almost equally lurid outlook and frenetic caul of sound are almost as well suited to the occasion. The lyrics themselves (mostly Tate's) are gothadelic -- "Blindman's Whorehouse" treads the same psycho streets musically as "Crimes of Passion" did cinematically -- but they're generally obscured anyway, not only by Scott Wingo's guitar (and Malik Tate's notable percussion) but by Tate's own singing. By turn elastic, grating, pushy, insinuating and (rarely) sensuous, Tate's vocals are both affected and arresting. This will be only the second public appearance by SDM, and unfortunately, such ambitious alternative art-rock tends to have a short half-life. Check it out.
DO DO THAT VOODOO: Well, they don't, really; but they do get the spirit, and Caribbean spirits are very strong. The Afro-Cuban traditionalist troupe Otonowa sings, drums and rattles your dancing bones Wednesday at Synergy in Tenleytown ($10; 202/363-4664).
Besides the ritual music, they'll also perform some of the original numbers by leader Hector Octavio (known familiarly as "el Negro" in Cuba) that they tried out last month when they headlined the International Folklife Festival in Johnstown, Pa. This is the sort of percussive fusion that the Neville Brothers used to dabble in and that runs through Paul Simon's new "Rhythm of the Saints" album, if that intrigues you. And if it doesn't, you need more than spiritual resuscitation -- you need a transfusion.
Synergy, incidentally, is less a dance/exercise studio than a mindset: part New Age, part Zen, part tension therapy, part dance improv, part floor exercise, all designed to help hapless victims of modern life get refocused, back in shape and back in control all at once. The studio leans heavily on world music for its classes, and consequently it's become an occasional showcase for such groups. Pick up a flyer while you're there. The studio is above the McDonald's at 4321 Wisconsin Ave. NW; enter on the Windom Place side.
DRESS FOR EXCESS: The costume party to end all costume parties (except the Beaux Arts blowout in Paris, of course) is the Corcoran Gallery's Halloween masquerade, 9 to 1 Wednesday. The price is bit stiffer, $60 per person or $100 per couple; but it includes refreshments (Gentleman Jack is on the list) and dancing to the Bopcats. If you're feeling insufficiently creative, you can wear "creative formal attire." If you're feeling insufficiently rich, you ought to at least camp out on 17th Street NW and watch the costumes sweep by. Call 202/638-3211, ext. 507, to charge your tickets, or buy them at the door.
BUT SERIOUSLY: The day of the great pan-Georgetown Halloween party is passed. It's over. No more dancing at Wisconsin and M, no more police keeping cars away for the convenience of party hearties, no more pouring out onto the sidewalks, either people or potables. This is the official word, incidentally; police will be taking a dim view of any hanky-panky this time around.
And frankly, it's a good thing. It used to be fun, but it turned big, ugly and dangerous a long time ago. So hey -- let's take Halloween back from the streets. Pick a single club, or host your own, or volunteer to escort the neighborhood kids around the block. And clean up your act: Brush your nails, file your teeth and don't drive with your mask on. Doctor Nightlife prefers you in one piece.