Whitby Goth Weekend Spring 2017: A Choice Selection…

Just a couple of days until we drive over to Whitby, North Yorkshire, for the Spring 2017 Whitby Goth Weekend! Now in its 23rd year this world-renowned festival continues to draw in crowds for music, dancing, drinking and people-watching. As always, I’ll be running social media during the event – both for myself and for my generous patrons within WGW itself.

A review of all the bands performing on Friday and Saturday night has been a staple of The Blogging Goth, but there are always so many fringe events – both official and unsanctioned! – that a quick summary of the events on offer seems wise.

Firstly, of course, is the Spa, the beating (black) heart of WGW. Two nights, back to back, with a swathe of bands – four apiece –  from hungry young breaking talent, to titanic veteran performers, representing the entire breath of the alternative music scene. DJs close the night off with dancing until the wee hours!

During the day, stock up on fashion, foods, and fancies from the famous Bizarre Bazaar. So big, it has spread across three separate venues, each one packed with stalls doing a roaring trade in the weird and wonderful!

There is no entrance fee to the bazaar – tickets only affect the band performances at the Spa Pavilion on the evening, so shop until you drop, then after a snooze (or booze!), trot back down for the evening’s entertainment!

 

 

Rising from the grave of good music comes the official WGW Eighties Night, to be held in the Theatre of the Spa! A classic tradition is to round the weekend off with the greatest cheese the decade can deliver, and you will not be disappointed with super-special guest DJ, the fabulous Martin Degville of Sigue Sigue Sputnik! Expect him to serve up a choice selection of Eighties gold into the small hours.


Spreading our net further, you can indulge in the official ‘Fringe’ events of Whitby Goth Weekend. Centered on the Abbey Wharfe pub in old Whitby town, there’s entertainment each night. Inaugurating events is the jam-packed Thursday night featuring members of WGW veteran band ‘Hands Off Gretel’ performing live, followed by guest DJs.

Throughout Whitby Goth Weekend there are dedicated nights with DJs, covering the Eighties, Goth, alternative, industrial, metal, glam, rock, punk, new wave… and each and every night is free entry, so if those Spa tickets were just too far out of reach, consider the economic entertainment on offer!

For discerning Goths looking to utterly stuff their calendars over the weekend, consider some of these independent events available as well. Dance to industrial down town with Bunker 13, enjoy a presentation on Bram Stoker from his great grandnephew, marvel at the custom hot rods and cheer on (or commiserate with, more likely) the UK’s only goth football team! Click their flyers to visit their social media and sign up today!

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The Wendyhouse, Leeds, 2012

One of my favourite YouTube videos is the one taken at the Xclusiv Club in Batley, 1984. The (Black) Gold Age of Goth, it shows perfect hairdos and artless makeup in the incongruous surroundings of a sleepy, little West Yorkshire town – if you watch from 07:00 in.
But West Yorkshire has also been known as the People’s Republic of West Yorkshire, the revolutionary title awarded by Leeds drum-machine pioneers and arch-deniers The Sisters of Mercy.

Like a lot of UK Goths I moved to Leeds chasing that legacy of the scene, and found a somewhat tipsy and cheesy welcome at the University, in the unsteady arms of the Wendyhouse nightclub (now sadly Resting In Peace).

Billed as Alternative, Eighties and Goth it was essentially a student night with a playlist that started out dark, and then got steadily cheesy as the night progressed, based on the established fact that as Goths get drunk, they will dance to anything. It was also dauntingly huge, the entire Union building with a capacity of many hundreds, and a destination for Goths from all across the UK.

It also had a very popular industrial night running in an adjoining room called Mutate, which had dedicated and knowledgeable DJs spinning industrial, EBM and electronica to glowstick-waving hardcore motherfuckers.

But don’t just take my word for it – thank instead Guy Berresford, who did a Spider Jerusalem on us and took some video-glasses to the club on 20th October 2012. For me, it’s a veritable who’s-who of the Leeds scene at the time – although I’m probably lurking in a corner perfecting my pout, so I cannot be seen! Be warned, there are strobes and flashing images throughout, as well as the vaguely disquieting sensation of motion in general.

Enjoy this unique perspective on the Goth scene in the early 2010s, and compare and contrast with the footage from 1984, just up the road. Goth isn’t dead, it’s just weirdly mutated and lost all sense of shame!

I would like to thank Glenn and Nik from Wendyhouse who DJ’d it selflessly for many years, as well as Gilly and Geof from Mutate, all their guests, bar-staff, and patient bouncers.
Like a lot of Leeds punters, we keenly felt the loss of the Wendyhouse and it’s nice to be reminded of it from such a familiar viewpoint!

Did you ever go? Leave your memories in the comments below!

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The Chameleons Are Not What They Seem

I believe that other blogs, dedicated to the topic, cover music better than The Blogging Goth could. However, as a long-time fan of gorgeous and under-appreciated post-punks The Chameleons, and currently on a binge-watch of David Lynch’s small-screen opus Twin Peaks, this tantalizing news cannot go unreported.

Chameleons Vox, the outfit in which original singer Mark Burgess performs, is about to tour Europe through the spring, and then North America in September. Excitingly enough, you’ll be able to buy a brand new EP from at the same time – Where in the World, an exciting collection of demos, unreleased tracks and similar new-ish material.

At the same time, Mark Burgess has shared via Facebook (the band’s official website being down) an article by Brooklyn Vegan that mentions, in passing, a collaboration between the Chameleons Vox singer and another musician who produced one of the most evocative pieces of music ever attached to a cult creation.

Mark is also working on an album with Julee Cruise (who is best known for singing the Twin Peaks theme, “Falling”).

Mark has clarified on Facebook that it isn’t actually an album, but that the two artists are indeed working together. With the return of the definitive eerie Nineties television show, could we be hearing the contributions of the criminally overlooked Chameleons on the soundtrack to the third series?

We can certainly hope so. Remember readers, where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song… and there’s always music in the air.

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Andrew Eldritch moves in with Mountain Goats

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Of all the strangest headlines for my blog, that is currently in the lead. This is the story that an American indie-folk band, the aforementioned ‘Mountain Goats‘, have recorded a new album entitled Goths. The launch was promoted with the release of the track ‘Andrew Eldritch is moving back to Leeds’.

Frontman John Darnielle explained the bizarre title, telling Stereogum:

This song began its life on a 1973 Guild while I was at the beach a couple of summers back; I wrote the first verse and the chorus and then I put it away. In the darkness of my desk-drawer it gathered strength and plotted its return to the surface …

In the lyric, I imagine one of my teenage heroes, Andrew Eldritch, returning to the town where the band worked and played when they were young. His friends give him a hard time about ending up back where he started, but not because they’re mad: it’s good to see an old friend wearing the marks of time on his hands and face like well-loved tattoos.

So shall it be in these times: your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions, and Andrew Eldritch, whose music has reached spirits in every corner of the globe, will move back to Leeds.

As any dedicated Sisters fan/stalker will tell you, Eldritch never truly left Leeds – at the last General Election, the sporadically updated website of the legendary Goth-apologists had a message urging those in Leeds to vote Labour, as the band would be doing so.
The green-biro brigade swear blind he still keeps a base of some description in the People’s Republic despite his long-held affection for The Mainland – no doubt only enhanced in these post-Brexit times.
Still, I liked the reference to ‘old friends in Motorhead jackets’, I’m sure even the Paramount Leader would approve of such awareness.

fronthighdiscAny factual inaccuracies aside, the song – and the album – seems to refer to what bassist Peter Hughes calls those “whose gothic paths were overtaken by the realities of life”. As I’m still merrily two-stepping down my own dark path, I’ll consider this a bizarre artefact that shows just how widespread the influence of bands like The Sisters of Mercy is – and what unusual results can emerge!

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Illamasqua Antifa

julian1Rather suddenly, everyone has woken up to the fact that politics affect us all, especially with the bizarre emanations from the White House. And when Teen Vogue starts putting out some cutting political analysis, it should come as no surprise that make-up companies with a strong ethical agenda should start nailing their gorgeous colours to the mast as well.

Illamasqua is a long-time ally of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, and its range of cosmetics has high popularity with the alternative crowd. I met Julian, the company founder, at Whitby Goth Weekend a few years ago and found him a warm, friendly, entertaining and engaging man who cared very deeply and strove to put his moral code into his business operations.

So it is no surprise that the company has adopted a bold pledge:

As such, we will never knowingly sell our products to people who support President Trump’s values. To be part of our community, and to buy our products, you must first pledge to Human Fundamentalism values:

  • Never discriminate against race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion

  • Accept responsibility on challenging social and climate issues

  • Speak for those who cannot speak up for themselves

  • Uphold the principles of the S.O.P.H.I.E. charity to stamp out prejudice, intolerance and hatred.

ila1So far, it’s been interpreted as a ‘ban’ or some kind of strange ‘reverse-discrimination’, that Trump supporters feel they are being singled out and treated differently because of how they voted.
Aside from the irony of this outrage emanating from people who have enabled and endorsed the greatest discriminatory force to occupy the most powerful political position in the world, Illamasqua’s statement is simply not that combative!

It’s the final request that means so much to me:

So please, if you don’t agree with the above DON’T BUY US

A simple request, a heartfelt plea. Just don’t buy the products if you don’t agree. 

Ilamasqua describes how they feel, how they align, and simply asked people not to take part if they don’t feel and align themselves the same way. 

Judging by the outpouring of bile, abuse and scorn on social media – which the implacable Julian is fielding with unaffected glee – it’s been a completely successful operation in smoking out the kind of discriminatory hatred no company would ever want to associate with in the first place.

I wonder how many people frothing and raging on Twitter actually publicly state they do discriminate, or that they do deny climate change is a human artefact. Because criticising Julian’s pledge indicates you’re very much against what it says.

What do you think? Do you admire and applaud a company that adopts such a brave pledge?

Or are Illamasqua guilty of the same discrimination they are protesting, and risk alternating customers not interested in politics, just makeup? Let us know in the comments below! 

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The Death of Discworld

Over the weekend I settled down to watch Back in Black, the docu-drama about Sir Terry Pratchett on the BBC. Curiously containing a strange amalgamation of actor Paul Kaye with the appearance and sound of Britain’s finest fantasy writer (YMMV), it was a touching, gentle history of the Discworld’s ultimate Creator.

It was also saddening, of course, as grief always is. The reactions of Rhiannon, Sir Terry’s daughter, and many of his fans, were honest and human and generated immediate empathy, that shared experience of loss and absence.

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For me, the most painful moment was the interview with equally renowned author Neil Gaiman. Terry’s collaborative partner on the darkly witty Good Omens – soon to receive a TV adaption – Neil has been closely involved with much of the remembrance and memorialisation. I had to leave the London Memorial early sadly, so I particularly appreciated seeing some of Neil’s recitation to the audience.

In a quiet little restaurant, Neil spoke personally about his grief surrounding the very early passing of his friend. It was very difficult for Neil. He cradled his face in his hands and mourned. He said very honestly, “I miss him so much.”  It was like a punch in the chest and a knife to the brain for me.

Image grab courtesy of BBC

Image courtesy of BBC

I’m an Englishman, repressed emotionally, possessed of a stiff upper lip, and uncomfortable around death. To see another, even more archetypal Englishman, publically display his grief was… liberating, as well as being deeply upsetting.
With all the skill every writer longs to muster, Neil connected me to my own grief, helped me experience and evaluate my own sense of loss around a childhood hero, a venerated figure, an idol and example I’ve tried to follow.

Everyone has strange catalysts for strong emotion, experiences and tools that help us to manifest and ultimately, hopefully, deal with significant feelings like grief. For me, it was seeing a distant and public figure suddenly act very like myself, in a very personal way.
I’d had a hint of it when Terry first passed, back in 2015, and Neil’s wife Amanda Palmer tweeted a very brief but personal message, which I wrote about at the time. Seeing it in almost real-time, there on the screen, magnified the experience a hundredfold.

It is still very upsetting. Grief always is. Grief shared is, however, a little easier to deal with.

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No Shoes, No Shirt, No Soul – No Service!

g-mnkiby

Click through to Black Friday on Facebook!

It is disappointing to read, so soon after positive action against discrimination in the UK, of the uncomfortable experiences of a Goth abroad.

YouTube sensation Black Friday was visiting Paris, but was asked to leave the world-famous Musée du Louvre by security before even getting in, according to media in Black Friday’s home of New Zealand.

The Louvre’s security reportedly told the couple their clothes and hair would cause too much attention to be drawn to them, and people would want to cluster around and take photographs with them.

I am sure it’s very flattering to be perceived as more attractive than the legendary artwork and artifacts held in the Louvre, but this seems a spectacularly bizarre issue for museum staff to have.

bf1The issues did not stop there. When attempting to visit the famous Père-Lachaise cemetery, Black Friday and her partner were confronted with even more hostility.

This chimed with me very much, as I visited Paris for the first time a couple of years ago, and like many, made a pilgrimage to Père-Lachaise and the final resting place of icons like Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. Here I am by the grave of the original gothic-rock singer.

tim-jim

Tim, and Jim.

Did I encounter any hostility in the cemetery? Anywhere in Paris? No.
Perhaps this is because I’m not half as elaborate as the beautiful Black Friday – but the ugly suspicion there is that we must modestly comport ourselves to avoid upsetting conventional, mainstream people.

My personal attitude has always been to reserve my gaudiest finery for clubs, environments guaranteed to be ‘safe spaces’ – just call me the blackest snowflake! Obviously my opinions are just that, opinions, and certainly not binding on others. Black Friday deserved in no circumstances to be made to feel unwelcome or even afraid, and should be allowed to attire herself however she feels, insofar as she at least complies with the law!

Everyone should. As a Goth, I’ve always resigned myself to some unusual public reaction – across Western Europe, this has differed from place to place. The Italians regard me with askance query, the Germans with friendly fascination, the French and Spanish barely registered me. The rest of the world, I have yet to visit.  England, however, has always felt like the most hostile, ironically enough.

I’d be fascinated to hear from any foreign Goths who’ve traveled to the UK, and their experiences in public as a result.  Because so far, the safest I’ve felt as a Goth, has been abroad.

UPDATE: Whilst browsing the /goth subreddit, I noticed an interesting comment from a French citizen that I think provides some balance to this story.

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