Review: The Big Spook 2 at Cavern
Ryan Gerrett reviews Poppyshow’s Halloween weekend gig at Exeter Cavern.
With the success of the first Big Spook last year, Poppyshow came back to Cavern on the 30 October for The Big Spook 2 with a host of horrifying Halloween-flavoured acts for a night to raise the dead… Naturally, Ryan Gerrett was dying to attend…
Decked out with pumpkins, cobwebs, skeletons and spiders, Cavern’s Halloween makeover gave a taste of the night to come. With on-the-door tickets seeming more valuable than gold dust, and later selling out Cavern, it seemed clear there was some considerable excitement. Plus, without advertising around the university, BS2 had the backing of all of Exeter.
Concocted in the mind of Jacob Horton, lead singer of Poppyshow, and greenlighted by Cavern’s owner, Dave Goodchild, the ‘quieter’ affair of last year has transformed into an incredible experience on and off the stage, made all the more captivating by the costumes of performers and audience members. Speaking to Poppyshow in the past, they’ve told me how important “making moments” was to them. This speaks volumes at an event where, after stumbling down Cavern’s steps, you’re in a world of cat-women, zombies, superheroes, red-faced demons and what must’ve been at least four Heisenburgs…
Not just a memorable performance, the biggest spook displayed an array of incredible local talent as well as showing months of steady commitment and no doubt many sleepless nights.
First to grace the stage was The Post, a self-described melodic indie rock band formed in late 2021. Despite being little over a year old, they’re certainly beyond just walking now. Their original tunes -like ‘Aesthetic Addict’ or ‘Fly Away’- could have had even the most uptight Cavern-goers tapping their feet and banging their heads. While covers like ‘Mr Crowley’ could display the full extent of the band’s talent. Oscar Wooding and Aidey Watts take care of vocals as well as lead and rhythm guitars, respectively, while Ned Page serves on bass guitar. Big Spook 2 also served as the debut of their new drummer, Brian Byrne. You might have seen them before due to their TikTok hit after their performance of a certain Horrible Histories song… The Post’s rendition of ‘The Dick Turpin Song’ garnered a staggering 240,000 views and has propelled people across the UK towards this up-and-coming band of Exeter students. You’ll have to keep an eye on them as they’re set to be releasing a brand-new single on the 25th of November.
Next to hit the Spooky stage was Fluff, the solo punk artist who began amongst the audience. Offering a different way to start a show, Fluff -whose real name is Ollie Andrews- was brought into the centre of the audience wearing a boiler suit labelled “PSYCH WARD 00099” and a balaclava. This start breached the audience’s space and immediately set the tone of the act as something to aggressively break boundaries. With a set list of new songs -‘Jaguar’ and ‘Cistern snax’- and established songs -‘Tea & Toast’ and ‘21 Thunder’- Fluff continued the stream of audience participation he set at the start. Fluff’s minimalist stage included little more than a boom box and guitar but this went a long way and offered a striking performance that resonated massively with an audience he fully understood how to control.
Despite hailing from a bit further afield than here in Exeter, The Likelihood were still quite at home at Cavern. Their costumes – three monkeys and a banana – might have provided a link to their first song, ‘Jungle’. Formed what might seem like a lifetime ago in 2018, The Likelihood features Callum on drums, Ben on bass guitar, Dan on lead guitar and Tom on lead vocals and a bit of guitar. 2022 also seems to have been a pretty productive year for The Likelihood, having produced singles like ‘Trouble Of The Rubble’ and ‘No Time for Money’, both high-energy hits were performed to great reception. Their chosen covers also maintained this high-energy streak with tributes to the 1970s and 2000s in the form of ‘Psycho Killer’ by Talking Heads and ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears. Beyond what they’ve already produced, be aware of more music from The Likelihood, set to come out in December. This whole new album, called “Swipe Right Generation” features a total of 13 original smashers.
A penultimate performance was then offered up by The Issues. This now-established Exeter band helps to sure up the strong punk scene in this quiet corner of Devon and is given form by seasoned frontman, Joe Jenkins, Tom Ryan-McGrath taking up lead guitar, Ethan Pearce on bass and Mike Slack on drums at the back. If mental images are important for bands, The Issues really have it nailed down. I’d imagine most people in the crowd would remember their group costume of the Addams Family with Wednesday Addams, expertly toying with the audience, fronting Pugsley, Morticia and Uncle Fester… The Issues’ set included covers of both Radiohead and The Zombies, as well as a particular stand-out piece, the unrecorded ‘Trust In Me’. With songs that directly address society, personal conflict and politics, like ‘My Sister Was A Punk’ and ‘Charlie’s a D**khead’, both of which were performed, their brand-new single ‘Arancini’ is no different. This new single follows a similar fast-paced and political trend, it’s available on Spotify now.
Finally, for a much-anticipated performance, the organisers, Poppyshow, sought to end the night with a bang! This gang of Exeter Academy of Music graduates is a close-knit trash rock band with “all the energy you’d expect main stage at Reading Festival”. With lead vocals supplied by Jacob Horton, bass by Greg Kerti, drums by James Fielden and lead guitar by Will Squier, this audience at Cavern were about to have their night topped off. Irrespective of whether they were performing their most recent songs –in this case, ‘Unscrewed’ and ‘Alive and Well’- or established hits -like ‘Sick and Tired’-, the Cavern crowd gleefully consumed whatever Poppyshow was serving. On top of that, Poppyshow were joined by special guest Estee from Piston Dreams for a nostalgic but bombshell performance of ‘Hex Girl’. With extra time, in the end, Poppyshow were also able to squeeze in their hit ‘Skin’ and ‘I Don’t Mind’. By no means limited to Exeter, Poppyshow will be headlining a free performance at Plymouth’s Leadworks on Friday 18th of November, alongside The Issues!
The biggest independent show at Cavern made up of local bands, and perhaps the biggest show of the year, The Big Spook 2 promised to be a night to remember and it fulfilled this prophecy with frightening accuracy… This naturally begs the question: With this sequel’s smashing success at the box office, can we hope for a third instalment of this Halloween franchise? Only time will tell… Nevertheless, I can firmly say that the second was most definitely a classic!
**All bands are available on Spotify and Instagram and I’d urge you to support our local musicians**
The Post: @thepost_officialband
The Likelihood: @the_likelihoodband
The Issues: @wowitstheissues
Piston Dreams: @pistondreams