Winter is here! Well, not Ned Stark beheading winter, but instead the bracing forty-mile-an-hour winds of winter in Whitby, that ruin perfectly crimped and backcombed hair.
Shelter instead in the light and noise of the Spa. The real beating heart of Whitby Goth Weekend is the live music. And we are moving supersonic from the get-go, with the very lively Kitty In A Casket!
Their lead singer – Kitty – is constantly mobile, a supercharged kick-ass vocalist with an amazingly impressive range. The whole band are truly excited to be here, and that really communicates well to a sizable and attentive crowd at the opening of WGW Winter 2016. Even Marc on upright bass is magnetic, which can be difficult with an instrument larger than you!
The festival often kicks off with an alternative band of broad appeal, and it’s paying off – a big crowd are really getting into the energy that these German rockers are pouring into the dangerously big Spa.
At one point, singer Kitty excitedly describes one energetic song as a great one “to run to”. Bloody Health Goths, they get everywhere! But seriously, it’s a superb start to WGW from this band of infinite capacity.
A firm favourite next, the original Black Sheep of a whole dark flock! Manuskript remain one of the most amusing, active and entertaining Goth bands, with a very respectable history of performances behind them. They have a crowd of dedicated fans before them, and set out to convert the entire Spa to their madcap cult! Mike, the vocalist, is his usual charismatic self, all giggles and banter with the audience. Other times, he’s mercilessly pranking his comrades on stage, draping banners over the supremely talented Tim Chandler as he punishes his synth in style.
A high point is their anthem PROTECT AND SURVIVE, machine-gun drums backing a thumping good slice of heavy goth style. The crowd naturally bellows its approval for this cherished favourite.
Visually, the band are backed by slick, funny and engaging projections. It all adds up to Manuskript’s brilliant stage presence, and their infectious, engaging music. Considering they’d played a sneaky secret gig the night before, the band were possibly even more honed and polished, all warmed up… or possibly pissed up?
An instantly recognizable silhouette cuts through the smoke and light. Nobody could fail to recognize the Feathery Crown Prince of psychedelic goth nonsense, especially not with his gleaming codpiece and heaving (fake) bosom! The original Twenty-First Century Boy (Toy), Martin Degville commits assault on our ears with Sigue Sigue Sputnik (Electronic) and we end up having a riotous time enjoying it.
He’s respectful too, amidst the madness, and rocks out an energetic take on Gene Genie, “for David, a dear friend no longer with us”. I adore a good tribute, and Degville has delivered a fitting and frenetic interpretation.
Otherwise, the order of the day is chaos! He’s a strutting, posturing leopard-skin predator, a career of rock’n’roll excess that’s just polished his performance to a high shine. SSS-Electric is comprised of a band of beautiful and barmy performers who drive that classic sound forward into the future, a future that Degville drunkenly tried to design all that time ago. The result is an absolute tsunami of sound, sending thudding ripples through the hungry maw of the Pavilion… and above it all, supple and powerful even today, the voice of the man himself, either howling hits or flirting furiously!
Anticipation, by now, is at fever pitch, and our headliners are maestros of manipulation. They arrive fashionably late, escorted by an honour guard of beautiful women, to the unmistakable anthem of Title Music to A Clockwork Orange, the violent genesis of so much electronic music – including that of the legendary Heaven 17. Any illusions of this being a pop band are soundly dispelled by Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory, outfitted in black, masked and swathed in dry ice. Even as the eerie electronic dystopia dies away, the band immediately unleash a more sombre number, truly in keeping with our po-faced audience.
Of course it can’t last, and soon the masks drop, and the two men are consummate showmen. They banter outrageously with one another, visible evidence of a long and fulfilling partnership – and that mutual appreciation spills over to the heaving crowd, who are quickly bewitched by these synth-wielding wizards. Ware states, quite matter-of-fact, “We love playing here”, and the audience roars in appreciation. It’s incredible how they weave a small intimate performance despite playing to the utterly packed out Spa.
That never feels more true than when the boys duet on “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” – aided only by a muted and ominous soundtrack from their female synth player. Their voices are incredible, absolute powerhouses, and without the usual cacophony of other sounds, they entrance you with a spellbinding, simple yet utterly effective performance.
Yet it’s only one side of the coin, and the band effortlessly flip it to deliver a roof-raising version of their number one hit, “Temptation”. Their backing singers especially deliver with gusto, even drowning out the raw enthusiasm of an ecstatic crowd and even us cynical old hands stage-side, who are all hollering along! This is absolutely the pinnacle of a first class live experience and it’s a rare pleasure to be right in the thick of it.
Ware and Gregory pay homage to Bowie as well, with a cover of “Boys Keep Swinging” that’s upbeat and exciting and truly fitting, delivered by artists who truly recognize and can deliver Bowie’s legacy. Their own murky history gets a look in as well, as the boys’ banter seems to overspill and Ware quips “I’m going back to Phil – he’d never treat me this way!”
To widespread laughter, the band them segue perfectly into “Being Boiled”, the first Human League single written by Ware with Phil Oakey in ’78.
David Bowie reportedly described this song as “the future of pop music”, and on such high praise, we draw a curtain over the first night of Whitby Goth Weekend, November 2016. Tune in soon for our review of Saturday 5th November 2016, leading up to the mighty Mission!
My deepest thanks as always to the daring ‘togs of WGW, always risking life, limb and sobriety at the very front of the crowd – Mel Butler Photography and Bob Slassor Photography. Their images are used with pride here and on the official WGW sites.