Looking for European Christmas furry Devil mayhem? The Krampus Ball (Saturday, December 7th) kicks off Krampusfest 2013, a multi-venue celebration of the Krampus tradition December 5 – 21. We caught up with Al Ridenour, former LA Cacophony Society leader and one of the members of the LA Krampus Troupe, to get some insight on Krampusfest.
Back Row: Mike Odd (black) Jeryd Pojawa (red), Middle Row: Al Ridenour (orange), Jason Hadley (greenish-white), Al Ridenour (brown). Front Row: Sharon McGunigle (sitting), Al Ridenour (far right). Photo: Phil Glau.( Photo courtesy of KrampusFest)
What exactly is Krampus?
He is the folkloric sidekick to St. Nicholas who appears to children (in bishop’s robes, not a Santa suit) on his traditional feast day December 6 or its eve. It’s basically a good cop/bad cop scene, with St. Nicholas playing the good cop, and you-know-who as the bad. Children who have misbehaved are menaced by Krampus, the shaggy devil-like beast at his side. The Krampus creature brandishes switches and rattles chains. There are lots of regional variations, but the name is Austrian, and the figure is found in Southern Germany, Alpine Italy, and to a lesser extent in Slovenia, the Slovak & Czech Republic, and Hungary. Not to mention all the seedling American groups like ours here in LA, and our senior group in Philadelphia. There’s more than a half dozen of these American groups just getting their footing.
So what’s planned for Krampus Fest here in LA?
All of the events feature appearances by our costumed troupe of about 15 performers. The festivities kick off with the Krampus Ball, (12/7) where we’ll have some authentic Bavarian folk dancers and alpenhorn along with acts like Timur and the Dime Museum (performing as Santa Klaus Nomi), Ego Plug as Krampwerk, the Kramps, Lux & Ivy’s horned and hairy alpine cousins (featuring Radioactive Chicken Heads, Haunted Garage, 45 Grave, Rosemary’s Billygoat).
We’re also doing a public Krampus Walk (12/12) in conjunction with the December Art Walk in Downtown, LA, and we have a big show at Copro Gallery (12/14), which includes some art by some well-known artists like Sandow Birk, Chet Zar, Luke Chueh, Travis Louie, and even Tim Burton. Outside we’ll be setting up an infernal “Krampus Habitat” with bones, cages, screaming children and hellish photo-ops a-plenty. And wrapping up the season, we have The Krampus Rumpus (12/21), headlined by Krammpstein, an epic collision of the German Industrial band Rammstein with our horned friend. There’s also traditional Austrian music from Free Range Orkestar (yes, that’s the spelling) and a “She-Krampus Spanking Salon” for those so inclined.
As one of the founding members of the Los Angeles Cacophony Society, what compelled you create KrampusFest?
I didn’t actually create it. What happened was I had my opportunity to finally go see several actual Krampus events in Europe last winter after dreaming of this for about 20 years. The first night I came back all breathless from excitement and wet with snow, I open my email, and my friend and fellow Cacophony organizer Al Guerrero is announcing the creation of a Krampus group for LA. I spent the rest of my visit studying Krampus suits and dreaming about making my own.
And to some extent, I think the group we gathered, which is largely composed of people who had been involved with the Cacophony Society’s pranks and guerilla theater stunts, missed being out in public pushing buttons and expanding the cultural envelope. Our Society also started Santacon, the annual mob of drunken Santas, which now happens in 300+ cities. As that event expanded, it also degenerated in some ways, losing the thrills and challenges it originally posed, so I think we were in some ways looking to re-create that, but with the added challenge (and fun) of getting creative with the suits, which take weeks to make.