An even more ‘dark and surreal’ night at The Polar Bear, with bands dressed in a crazy range of attire.
Starting the night slightly later, and somewhat more relaxed, I arrived with a friend in tow just after 7pm. Black Kes were playing, dressed as a selection of horror movie themed costumes.
My friend still feeling somewhat dicey from the night before, we listened to the first two acts from the quiet of the Smoke Room, watching lads chuck pool balls around the table. From this location, we were able to spy on Coaves who had chosen the less crowded room to prepare for their set. We chatted as they blew up balloons and stuffed them in black bin liners, discussing the possibilities of their costume choice. We were in for a real surprise.
Felony were the band which drew us into the large room, standing close to the stage (as this time I had my camera ready). I’d spotted Marc Ainley dressed very smart with a long velour cloak, and worried that this second day of Halloween celebrations may feature costumes worn a second time or simply purchased in the sale section. Sam Howell seemed completely without costume, but his outfit was explained as him being “[Marc] from last year” who had not made an effort previously. So Sam had come as Marc, Marc had come as a wizard and Daniel Griffin was a speedy zombie on drums.
The performance was as smooth as Felony always are on stage, with tracks played from their debut album ‘Come Back Home’ and cheery conversation with the crowd. Marc was clearly having issues with his wizard cloak, as I had worried many of the bands may have with their costumes, and tested a range of ways in order to overcome this discomfort, often to the humour of the audience. The best moment was when he tried to deal with the heat on stage by throwing the cloak over his head and singing into the mic with his face veiled by the fabric. It looked brilliant, and sounded okay, but he couldn’t continue for the whole song in that manner. They admitted that not many of their songs are overly spooky, declaring ‘My Bad Dream’ as “probably the scariest song we do’.
Next up were Coaves, who decorated the stage before themselves. Stringing Halloween themed lights over the mic stands, I wondered where the balloons fit in. I was convinced that their costume was a coat of balloons, but knew that this would be impossible for them to play any of the guitars. And when they did come out, it was quite a shock to see their choice was not so much Halloween-themed as Christmas-themed. Four Santa’s throwing sacks of balloons into the audience, we were laughing and cheering before they even set foot back on the stage. The holiday theme range through their banter, as they offered their new song ‘Waves’ as a Christmas gift to us all and asked us to come in closer and look under the gift-wrap. There were still a few issues with the costumes, as Jordan van Beem ended with his red trousers around his ankles and Liam Foster declared himself the “sweatiest Santa”. Their best bit was the finale, when they grabbed cans of silly string and smothered the audience in the colourful decorations.
After their set, my friend and I ended up chatting to the members of Black Kes, who by this point were rather inebriated. Though their wardrobe choices stuck closest to the Halloween theme, they were perhaps not the most thoughtful. Coaves had shocked us and had the audience hooked as they used the theme within their performance. Besides, a sweaty Santa with his trousers down is kind of scary!
So were there to be an award for the best dressed band of the weekend, I would have to give it to Coaves. A wonderful effort which took the costumes that step further as they decorated both the stage and crowd. But for the most excitable band, I would award Black Kes, who were not disheartened when we admitted that we didn’t see their set and directed us to like them on Facebook (a deed I have done).
We stood with Black Kes and then chatted with one of the organisers, Mein Host / Martin Lewsley, as Mono Life took to the stage, getting a taste of what we can expect from next year’s Hulloween. I’m not very good at describing the sound engineered electronic dance music which he performed, but I am always amazed that one man can have so much energy on the stage. With a band you have a family, a comradery, whereby if there is a technical hitch or you miss something there is someone there to either help you out or make a joke of it so that it becomes a part of the performance. Nevertheless, Mono Life performed with a smile on his face, made rather frightening with the darkened eyes and scar drawn on his cheekbone, showing the true professionalism of performing music.
The last band to perform were the mysterious Tobias Reaper & The Graveyard Shift. Otherwise known as Black Delta Movement. The clues had all been there, and I’d told my friend that I expected it to be the neo-psychedelia garage band. It’s only about a month since I last saw them perform, but I found I was excited about seeing them again, having felt like it had been a lot longer. As well as their own tracks, they performed a few covers, with Halloween-themed songs such as ‘Season of the Witch’ and ‘I Put A Spell On You’ which ended their setlist with a loud, energetic instrumental.
That wasn’t enough for the crowd however, and so an encore was called for. And to my joy, they chose to accept with a performance of my favourite BDM song ‘Butterfly’.
During this the laptop, which had played a very bizarre film in the background throughout the night, ran out of juice. Feeling similar myself, and resenting my decision to wear heels, I was glad to call it a night here. We hung around to find that I hadn’t won the framed Hulloween poster in the raffle and headed home.
The weekend of Hulloween has been amazing. Fantastic bands, good artwork, some very weird movies watched as a silent backdrop, and having met and chatted to so many different people. What I enjoy about venues like The Polar Bear is that they are laid out in a manner where groups can join and mingle, but more significantly are the welcoming people involved who willingly chat and discuss the event with you. Ideal for someone reviewing the celebrations, but also something which makes you want to go back.
I’ll not dish out any of the weird thoughts Lewsley shared with me about Hulloween 2015, and simply place my first preview here: make sure you attend at least one aspect of the event, as it will leave you feeling pleasantly creeped out.
Thank you to Martin Lewsley, Anna Bean and Lloyd Dobbs for organising the event and inviting me to discuss any questions I had. Also to the performers who gave some of their time to chat with me as well. And to everyone who attended either at the Union Mash Up or The Polar Bear, as they made the environment even more enjoyable.
It’s been a busy weekend attending both nights and venues, but one which I would happily do again.