Festival of The Dead @ o2 Academy Birmingham, 1 November 2019

Fortunately for many it is much warmer tonight that on previous nights this week. Which is good thing given it is costume time for Festival of The Dead. It initially appears that I am one of the few that is out of place and not dressed for the occasion. Surrounding me there is an array of costumes being showcased tonight which include heroes, villains, freaks and weirdos alike. The makeup from many of the attendees is extremely well applied and there appears to be no expense spared.
So what is Festival of The Dead? Typically, Festival of The Dead is celebrated around the world by many cultures in recognition and celebration of the lives of those who have passed away. This is not to be confused with celebrating death. However, this event is not to be confused with the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, Mexican holiday). This event does not have any significant religious meaning although it does share the celebration element and brings people together.


On entering the o2 Academy the first thing of note is the amount of work that has gone into transforming this venue into a colour crypt with drapes, butterflies and skulls. To start off there is a procession of all the cast around the room as everyone is allowed to get up close and personal with their horrors and demons before taking to the several hours-long spectacle all with live DJ.

The outfits and makeup look amazing. They consist of giant skulls, a mime on power wheels and juggling and gigantic multi legged creature as well as many other surprises. Combined with some live music and performers dancing around with lights. Add aerial acrobatics, confetti and Co2 cannons blowing over the crowds and you have a unique event.
Just when you think you have seen it all, you get what must be the most flexible man in the world, (the mind boggles) who contorts to an incredible level and is able to sword swallow too. Not content with these individual skills, he mixes them both together. I’ve watched sword swallowing before this event and this was far more intense and shocking.


There are many smaller acts that make up the main show and each of these totally different. Some are characterised as sexual, twisted, comedy, horror and some with a very dark theme but given this is Festival of The Dead should be expected, it’s all this that adds for an exciting show.

To select one part of this spectacle as being my favourite is impossible. One stand out moment, which had me in stitches was a man being paraded around as a dog on a leash. Most apt as Freak on a Leash was being played by Korn. He proceeded to eat from a dog bowl, then fetch the bones which were being thrown around stage for him to collect. The theme and enactment was really clever and put together well.

On the music front, throughout the whole night the Live DJ set was a mix of drum and bass with heavy metal. Occasionally with some odd things thrown in, which everyone loves even though they won’t admit it, “We like to party” from the Venga Boys.
The aerial acrobatics were cleverly delivered, with extreme lighting to highlight the performance. This was followed by a further procession around the crowd complete with confetti, pinata and some further mesmerising aerial acrobatics.

The conclusion was a fight scene with huge sticks which was realistic. The evil demon/devil was released back to wreck the day before the ultimate finale, which included female cast members on either end of the stage with angle grinders making sparks before most of the cast poured into the crowd and all down the barrier.

This truly was festival like no other. A unique and highly enjoyable experience.
Beforehand I had little idea of what to expect from the evening. While I did think it would be good, it far exceeded my expectation and this includes the whole event even down to the crowd members with the costumes.

Lastly, for those that are not into the club scene, or think they are too old, there was a mixed age present tonight and it is well worth attending this event. You are certain to have a good time and the best way of describing it…….. Think of Cirque du Soliel but in a club setting, think of loud music more rock/metal/party style complete with a crowd ready to party in full costume with a large display of acts to watch, This makes its totally interesting unique and completely interactive
I can’t wait until it comes around again

Review and Photos: Chris Bowley

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