Live Review

Collective Conspiracy at Wreckers Artspace 09/03/24

The truth is out there… and on a Saturday night a hundred or so Brisbanites gathered in the driveway of a former motorcycle wreckers in search of it.


To borrow a term from subcultures half a century ago, Collective Conspiracy is less a traditional concert than an artistic happening. Food and hot drinks are given away for free. The boundaries of performance are thrown wide open – artists of varying experience and genre share the stage with political activists. Lamisse Hamouda’s set consists entirely of her reading a poem written by an imprisoned Egyptian poet who once shared a cellroom with her father.


The Conspiracy events have been taking place in various forms for over a decade in the inner south of Brisbane. They began as a weekly gathering in a West End courtyard – there are a handful of familiar faces from those days present tonight. After an eviction put an end to that venue, it became a roving event appearing mostly in various backyards – staying out of commercial venues was part of the philosophy. In recent years it has become a much more sporadic affair, but has re-emerged tonight to coincide with a couple of other campaigns by some of the organisers – the Brisbane mayoral election and the launch of the Justice For Palestine Magandjin’s podcast by 4ZZZ’s own Radio Reversal.


The event begins with an open mic which I unfortunately missed. After arriving and grabbing a lemon myrtle tea in a fine china cup from Ollie’s iconic tea stall, I made my way in to see Sophie Nishizawa playing a set of sparse indie-folk. Over a plucked electric guitar, Sophie mixes songs about having your sharehouse raided by riot police with lyrics of finding inner healing walking along the banks of the Brisbane River. Despite the very social crowd and the early timeslot, the audience is hushed and hanging on Sophie’s every word.


A change of pace comes with the Bring A Plate dance crew. They put some banging dancehall tunes on the PA, then proceed to lead the entire crowd through a simple choreographed dance routine - very effectively getting the blood and endorphins flowing.


With only the most minimal break to allow for setting up, it’s on to the next act. Orlando Furious is playing dirty electro beats and laying down some rhymes. The songs are odd and humourous, bound together by Orlando’s obvious love of making music.


After this, the music is paused for the community announcements section. The prominent placing of this shows the intention of the event – it is to build not just a community, but a community that can try to shape the city we live in. The final announcement is the launch of the Justice For Palestine Magandjin podcast – a document of the rallies that have happened in this city in response to the slaughter of Gaza over the last few months. Something about this localised response to a global problem seems very fitting.


Another change of tack – time for some poetry. I already described Lamisse Hamouda’s set, and she is followed by certainly Brisbane’s most famous political performance poet Jonathan Sriranganathan. As always the poetry is technically impressive and politically inspiring. The weekend after the show, Jono will make his tilt at the Lord Mayor of Brisbane position. Someone could write an interesting study on how Jono’s political journey has used cultural events like this one to build his profile and a support movement – the Conspiracy events which began in his courtyard a decade ago have been a big part of that story and the timing of this one shows they still are. Given the number of other Greens electoral successes that have happened in Brisbane in his wake, it may be that these little relaxed events have far more impact than they seem.


The final act of the night is local band Stjep. Suitably eclectic, they have saxophone and keyboard to accompany the guitars and drums, and their set ranges from spacey psych-rock to rockabilly punk. They play until the rain stars falling and there is a scramble to pack everything up and protect it from the elements – here the roles of roadie and stagehand are indistinguishable from audience member, and even the PA system and seating are collectively owned by the local council ward. It will be a wet journey home, but it’s all smiles as people head off – certain that the conspiracy is real.

- Andy Paine

- Photo taken by Marek Rygielski



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