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Spiderbait – Photo Credit: Alex NisiriouNisipix

Words by Brett Ensbey {Brett Bites + Freakshow Nightmare}

Photos by Alex Nisiriou {Nisipix} + Aimi Hobson {Darkmoon Studios}

2021 and 2022 have given us many things; Covid, floods, the possibility of World War 3, zombie apocalypse, sky sharks, alien invasions, the rapture. Ok, I may have made a few of those up, but that doesn’t change the fact that the last couple of years have left us all with a lot to deal with and nobody has been immune to it, including the organisers and promoters of Halloween Hysteria who had to move the festival from its original date in 2021 to April 2nd 2022, which I’m sure caused them more than a couple of headaches. The reasons listed above have also resulted in me not going out to many gigs over the last 12 months, I mean, who wants to go out when there are sky sharks flying around? (Ok, I promise, no more talk about sky sharks). So when I was given the opportunity to review Halloween Hysteria at the Mansfield Tavern there was no way I was going to turn it down, not only because the venue is walking distance from my house (I can literally see it from my window as I write this), but because the event boasted an impressive line-up of local and interstate bands that I may have kicked myself for missing. So finally, with just the right mix of excitement about seeing live music again and a slight buzz from the couple of pre drinks at home, it was time to make the 5 minute walk to the venue, feeling like a poor man’s Hunter S Thompson, ready for a night of fear and loathing in Brisvegas.

Once I got to the tavern it was pretty much straight into it with Something Something Explosion kicking off the day on the RebelFM stage with their brand of exciting punk rock. The trio, all sporting Spice Girls shirts, hit the stage and wasted no time jumping into a fun and energetic set. Opening a festival is not always an easy task, but the band, led by singer Grace Drummond, who in my opinion is one of the best singers Australian punk rock has to offer, made it look effortless. Before playing their song Disappointment, Grace told the crowd that it was written because her mother had wanted her to become a music teacher, and it made me think that if I’d had a music teacher as cool as her, I may have become a much better guitarist and been able to play something more than the 3 chord Nirvana rip-offs that I currently play, but back to the gig. If you’ve never seen Something Something Explosion I can’t recommend enough that you change that as soon as you get a chance. You won’t be sorry you did. There is nothing negative I can say about their set, other than I was a little disappointed we didn’t get to see their cover of Slipknot’s Snuff, which you should totally go and check out on YouTube. Before the end of the set Grace delivered the quote of the day, reminding everyone that “It’s not hard to not be a c**t”, words to live by.

Something Something Explosion – Photo Credit: Aimi Hobson – Darkmoon Studios

Next up, still at the RebelFM stage, it was time for Brisbane’s favourite male backed party punks, Flangipanis to do their thing. Opening their set with the always fun High, Drunk, Loose, it was obvious to everyone there that Flange had shown up to deliver everything you expect from one of their gigs; fast paced, high energy, foul-mouthed fun. Unfortunately the band was left drummerless on short notice due to Josh Jansen (Josh #2) having to quarantine, so remaining members Jodie Lawlor, Josh Murphy,  and Pauly D, AKA the biggest wanker in the Brisbane music scene (Ok, Pauly is actually pretty cool but a long time ago I told him that any time he is mentioned in one of my reviews I would call him a wanker, and god dammit, I’m a man of my word), had to find a replacement for the day, so we were introduced to Andre, who they also thanked for “driving their drunk arses to the gig”. Flangipanis ploughed through their set made up of old favourites, and newer soon to be new favourites, as Jodie entertained the crowd with her unique style of banter, talking about everything from QLD police, to sex with Dana Scully from the X Files, to tampons (I’m under strict instructions from Jodie to include how many times she mentioned tampons on stage…..I believe it was 3). The crowd sung along enthusiastically with the always popular I’m Drunk, So What, Fuck You! before the band closed their set with I Won’t Spill My Drink. It’s always a good time watching Flangipanis play, and with so many sing along choruses and catchy hooks, it’s easy for everyone to feel like part of the show, and I felt extra included every time Pauly flipped me off from stage. I told you he was a wanker.

It still wasn’t quite time for me to leave the RebelFM stage with These New South Whales getting ready to kick off their set. I’d never had the chance to see these guys before and I was pleasantly surprised. These New South Whales are no strangers to the stage and they prove it with every song, there’s not a single time through their performance that they don’t have the crowds full attention. Between the talented musicians, a charismatic front man who knows how to work every inch of the stage, and the band’s ability to move effortlessly through different genres and sounds, it’s like watching a local Faith No More.

Finally, I decide it’s time to leave my RebelFM perch and head over to the Sounds of the Underground stage, where a crowd has already started to gather to check out Melbourne’s dark rockers The Last Martyr. From the moment singer Monica Strut greeted the eager audience members it was obvious that most of the people standing in front of the stage knew exactly what they were in for, and they were no longer willing to wait for it. Luckily, they didn’t have to. The band ripped straight into their set of dark, yet fun bangers. It took me a little while to figure out how to put The Last Martyr’s sound into words, and the best way I could describe it is, think of 90’s industrial music, lifted straight off the soundtrack of my favourite movie of all time, ‘The Crow’, add in some almost hip hop-esque breakbeats and you have the kind of hard, fast, melodic music that The Last Matyr brings to the stage, keeping the crowd happy from the very first greeting to the moment they closed their set with their single Hindsight.

The Last Matyr – Photo Credit: Aimi Hobson – Darkmoon Studios

If you’re anything like me, and are prone to occasional bouts of immaturity, and you see that there’s a band called Arse playing at a festival, there’s a chance you’re going to watch them solely based on the fact that they’re called Arse. And that’s exactly why I decided to hang around the Sounds of the Underground stage and wait for the next band to start. Hailing from Sydney, Arse are….well, they’re everything from an experimental noise band, to a punk band, to a heavy alternative band. It’s hard to describe but easy to listen to. Daniel Cunningham, Johnathan Boulet and Tim Watkins make up the band, and honestly they have a sound that is tighter and better than a three piece band has any right to be. From song to song Arse incorporates so many different styles that it’s hard to keep up with. At times the heaviness of their set is broken up with elements of surf rock, and after that they bring something as fun and energetic as 90’s skate punk driven by music that is as heavy and raw as any metal band. It was impossible to not have a good time watching the trio, and their song Shit Future had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. Hopefully this isn’t the last chance we get to see these guys in Brisbane.

By now, the day was in full swing, everyone seemed to be having a great time, and it was time for me to head on over to The Faction stage and check out Melbourne’s LOSER, and man am I glad I did. In my opinion LOSER was one of the standout acts of the whole day. Featuring Craig Selak, formerly of The Bennies, on bass, these guys know exactly how to work a crowd. Not many people can get away with wearing their own merch on stage, but singer/guitarist Tim Maxwell manages to pull it off with a type of Layne Staley coolness. Although their sound is definitely heavily influenced by grunge, LOSER puts their own spin on the style. A broken guitar string brings the show to halt for a moment, but Grace from Something Something Explosion rushed to the rescue. Seriously, not only does she open the day, she manages to save it as well. Before long the band are at it again and the crowd is eating up every part of it. People are crowd surfing, the audience are feeding off the live energy on stage, and in turn are giving it straight back. By the time LOSER played their last song, the place looked more like a party than a gig and the crowd let out a collective disappointed sigh when they realised the show was over.

Next up, still at The Faction stage, was Fangz. Now I have to be honest here, I didn’t catch their whole set, and it was kind of a happy accident that I saw them at all. I had decided to give myself a bit of a break from watching bands and taking notes, and before long I found myself searching for a working toilet without too long of a line. Somewhere along the journey I walked through the bar and heard a sound that I could only describe as White Zombie meets The Bennies, and I knew that once I finally found the bathroom I was looking for, I had to come back and watch the remainder of the set. Even though I didn’t get to witness the whole thing, what I did see of Fangz was enough to let me know that this is a band that I now must see more of. What I did manage to catch was so fun that I found myself cursing my own bladder for not sending me off in search of the mythical bathroom earlier.

FANGZ – Photo Credit: Aimi Hobson – Darkmoon Studios

As soon as Fangz finished their set it was time for me to race back to the Sounds of the Underground stage to catch JJ Speedball. Do you remember when rock n roll was fun and made everybody in the crowd dance? JJ Speedball does. Capturing the three-chord brand of rock music made popular by The Ramones, the band brings non-stop energy and excitement as they deliver a set full of songs inspired by suburbs of Brisbane’s southside. Sunnybank, Runcorn, and Sunnybank Hills all get a mention, it’s as of the set was specifically written to be played at the Mansfield Tavern. The eager crowd goes back and forth with the band, and all too soon they announce it’s time for the final song of the set, which seems to whip the crowd into even more of a frenzy, like they have to get out every last bit of energy they have before the last song ends and they’re all sent back outside, a sweaty, drunken mess of smiles and high fives, all looking for something to keep the energy going.

One of the many reasons that I decided to review Halloween Hysteria was because if my teenage self found out that I’d passed up on the opportunity to see Spiderbait play at a venue walking distance from my house he would have been pretty pissed, and I didn’t feel like dealing with that angsty little bastard. So there I was, making my way back to the RebelFM stage to get myself a prime spot upfront to see the Aussie rock legends. When Janet English, Kram and Damian Whitty take the stage, the whole crowd erupts, this is the moment many of them have been waiting for all day, and they weren’t disappointed. Sure, the times have changed and we no longer have things like Big Day Out, or Livid, but when Kram starts the unmistakable intro of Ol’ Man Sam, it’s almost like nothing has changed at all, but it’s more than just nostalgia that has the crowd amped. With decades of experience under their belt, Spiderbait know how to put on a good show. As if the people in attendance weren’t already pumped enough and having a great time, when the band started to play their 2004 hit Fuckin Awesome, the whole place instantly became a mosh pit, and stayed that way for the remainder of the set. The crowd was full of people from different age brackets with different tastes in music, but everyone there showed the same level of excitement when the band began to play Buy Me a Pony from their double platinum album ‘Ivy and the Big Apples’. Again, showing their years of experience, Spiderbait didn’t let the energy levels of the crowd drop even for a second. When it became almost time for the band to wrap up, it was hard to believe that an hour had passed. It felt like the show had only been going for a few minutes when guitarist Whitty started playing the opening notes of Calypso. When the nice, quiet, pretty first verse ended, the smile on Janet English’s face said it all. She knew what was coming as the band roared into the loud, fast chorus and the crowd followed suit. Even though that would have made a good enough ending to their set, nobody was unhappy to hear that the band had one more left to give us, and to nobody’s surprise we were left with their cover of Black Betty. Both teenage and adult me were happy that we saw the show. 31 years on from their inception, the trio have still got it.

Spiderbait – Photo Credit: Alex Nisiriou – Nisipix

Once the almighty Spiderbait have finished, I take a quick moment to catch my breath before making my way over to catch Brisbane’s own Smoking Martha tear it up on The Faction stage. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Smoking Martha perform and it definitely won’t be the last, but to pretend you know what to expect from this band would be enough to imply that you’ve never seen them before. An eclectic mix of blues, soul, and rock music all bought together by singer Natasha Doherty’s unique voice, there is something for everyone at every Smoking Martha show. Nobody in the band is left behind, every member gets the chance to showcase exactly what they bring to the table, while still managing to play as a tight cohesive unit.

Smoking Martha – Photo Credit: Alex NisiriouNisipix

Last, but certainly not least, it’s time for Clowns to take the stage as only they can do. It’s the end of a long day, but nobody in the crowd is going to let that stop them from enjoying this set with the type of energy it deserved. It’s no surprise that Clowns have taken their brand of Australian punk rock all over the world, this is by no means a band that was built for a small stage. From the first chord to the last thunderous note, Clowns bring a show that is as relentless and brutal as it is technical. If you haven’t checked them out there is no one that I can compare them to to give you an accurate description of what you’re in for, you’re just gonna have to go see for yourself, and you can thank me later for recommending that you do. When the set draws to a close, signalling the end of Halloween Hysteria 2022, there was no better choice than Clowns to finish off the day with a bang.

Clowns – Photo Credit: Alex NisiriouNisipix

With so many awesome and talented bands to see, by the end of the day it’s hard to believe we’d been at it for almost 12 hours, but as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. So thank you to Hysteria Mag’s Joey and Brooke and everyone else who worked their arses off behind the scenes for bringing this all together. For a moment in time, we all got to forget that some days it feels like the world is heading towards a biblical style end. We got to enjoy live music, catch up with old friends, make a few new ones and nobody was attacked by sky sharks (yeah, I broke my promise, sue me). But seriously, what a day, so again, thanks to everyone who was involved, from organisers, to bands, to bartenders. It was a great way to celebrate Halloween in April.

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