After putting on hundreds of gigs, Whammy Bar, Wine Cellar and Backroom celebrated another year in spooky fashion. With stages dripping in blood red neon lights and backdrops painted over in spiders and snakes, Whammyfest attracted all manner of goblin, vampire, witch and, even, banana. In its 11th year, the mini festival saw over 30 acts perform across two nights leading up to Halloween.
After passing a Batman’s Joker and kind of zombie/clown, a blue person with a sailor’s hat stamped a pirate ship on my wrist before I was granted entry ($20 per night or $35 for both).
HIM was up first in Whammy Bar at 9pm. Their hazy, distorted wash of guitar, sax, and vocals, soaked the roughly half-full floor in a welcoming fashion; smiles were on the blood dripping mouths of staff as I was handed my Whammyfest edition beer, the crowd swayed and gravitated towards HIM’s rich, shoe gazey harmonies – the vibe was real nice. Go see these guys, sounded very tight on the back of recording an album.
After taking a moment to enjoy the bloody banana costumes of Long Distance Runner, back at Whammy Bar Rope took stage. This Auckland 3-piece post-rock/metal band was quiet online, but ear destroying live. Equipment with an effects pedalboard nearly the same size as himself, the guitarist flailed along to intense feedback jerks and screams. The bassist’s eyes pierced a hole into the drummer’s kick drum as the driving melodic rhythms emphasised every hit. Talking to the band after, they cite Jakob and My Bloody Valentine as inspiration.
After briefly seeing the majesty of psychedelic group Magic Factory, I headed over to check out Tooms. This two piece of bass and drums are a matched made in hell. With the volume of 2 or 3 bass guitars, Nich’s punky playing punches you in the face, while his voice curses you in squeals, shouts and low screams. Draped in a chains and a blood stained kimono, Dorian smashed the drums with intent to kill, every hit with a rushed fury that crashed along to her accompanying "mouth noises."
Skilaa started up the Backroom close to 11. This 4 piece offered funky Tele riffs, bouncy bass lines, precise grooving drums along with an African/Balkan spice of vocal harmonies – it sounded fresh. Chirps, tweets, oos, ahs, and rap from front women Chelsea Prastiti hopped around the instrumentation as each musician had a just to show their colours. Looking forward to their upcoming EP.
Bozo were on next. With ample amounts of leather, hair and boots, the 5 piece looked and sounded like they had just escaped from L.A. Slow punky rhythms were executed with haunting vocal lines, energetic slap back guitar, rolling bass and drum rhythms, and the quirky addition of a sampler producing the occasional yelp, scream or wail.
After almost drowning in heavy rain on the way to St. Kevins Arcade, I dried off to Ave Teth. These guys sounded like a heavy, distorted mess of pure evil. With vocals sounding closer to a dying scream, guitar and bass more like a hypnotic war chant, and a backing track of harshly wrought industrial drums, these guys would scar a child for life.
By the time Eyes & No Eyes came on next, Whammy Bar was full and I was dry from the growing heat. Self-proclaimed pop shoegaze four piece, these guys combined a lost highway of phasey guitar licks, dreamy vocal lines and splashy bass-driven beats. New album MONO NO AWARE is planned to be realised in late November.
Heading over to Wine Cellar, Wellingtonian hardcore punk band Rogernomix was belting away at a mosh ready crowd. With EPs labelled Punch a Nazi in the Face, Bonecrusher and Big Stinking Pile, these guys played with so much pace and energy that the room felt ready to burst into flames.
Vincent H.L’s psych, country soundtrack added a healthy contrast to the previous bands of the night. Alluding to the likes of Neil Young or more grungey Dax Riggs, they played a set that was more about foot stomping than moshing. Awesome vocal harmonies between bassist and front man wrapped around a well refined mix of wobbly guitars and swinging drums – check out their new album Weird Days.
In the Backroom, rappers Church & AP were warming up with some heavy trap beats. The two teenagers from Tāmaki Makaurau had a great dynamic, working each others lines into the DJ’s bassey backing track with impeccable timing and flow. Collaborating with Auckland hip hop groups SWIDT and Melowdownz, the group attracted a cooler than cool “ice cold crowd.”
With more 19th century costumes on the Saturday night - top hats, frills and all - Whammyfest put on another hair raising weekend that was delightfully frightening. Shout out to the diverse groups of bands, and a crowd to match, for a truly spooky experience.