Welcome to the darkest day! A worldwide celebration of our surprisingly resilient subculture. You can take a quick look at my (somewhat) tongue-in-cheek definition of What Is Goth over here… otherwise, read on for World Goth Day 2019!
A celebration today, as we mark forty years of milestones. Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, Three Imaginary Boys by The Cure, and Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus were all released in 1979. Siouxsie and the Banshees released their second album, Nick Cave had brought his Birthday Party to London and Andrew Eldritch first thought about picking up the drumsticks (before he decided on a position that required less overall skill).
Four decades on, and we’re blessed with the continuing presence of many of these performers. The Cure bestride the world like a colossus whilst they headline and curate and promise a new album, truly the mightiest goth band there ever was (enhanced as it were by denial of the g-word tag). Nick Cave is touring a unique experience of free-form piano interpretations of his songs, plus an unfiltered Q&A session with the audience. Peter Hook and Peter Murphy both continue to perform their previous band’s songs around the world. Even Eldritch has resurrected himself and The Sisters of Mercy for scattered European dates. The music that formed the goth scene four long decades ago, continues to be performed today, an epic endurance act for all concerned.
Not that we rest on those dusty black laurels of trad goth. At Whitby in April I was delighted by the performances of the opening bands, hungry new international acts taking their first steps into the wider goth community. I’m anticipating seeing Turkish legends She Past Away in November, as well. There were standout performances from brilliant new bands at Infest in September last year, searing innovations in a genre crammed full of creativity. All of this is notwithstanding the regular messages to my inbox about new bands looking for coverage – apologies to you all, but I’ve never felt expert enough or possessed of sufficient time to dedicate the blog to music reviews!
I even spoke with Stylist in France, who wanted to know if Billie Eilish could really get away with the goth tag. The often-parodied pouting pop star certainly flirts with the fringes of what we’d recognise as pastel-goth, but she counts amongst her influences Avril Lavigne, Green Day and Lana del Rey. Fine artists in their own right, but I feel a goth artist must at least trace some lineage back to the recognizable first and second waves of OG post-punk and goth. Plus there’s no way you’d get actual goths to accept her – remember, I’ve always said goth is ‘mob-rule democracy’.
The desire to slap the word goth on anything a little spooky and strange continues to be an easy shortcut for journalists – I’m forever knee-deep in articles about what star is wearing black nail varnish on the red carpet. What used to be the “dark wash cycle” – goth as a fall-winter fashion trend every year – is becoming far more ubiquitous. That said, it exists beyond a a paper-wall in the media from horror stories and scapegoating for the crimes of the mentally harassed. A headline dropped into my inbox four days ago with a chilling echo of 1999’s massacre in Columbine, and the subculture’s first major skirmish with lazy journalism. I’m already planning a separate article addressing that particular tragedy, twenty years ago this year. It’s almost like goth is an easy shorthand for reporters unwilling to engage with the complexities of a situation…
Whilst we’ve got the rose-tinted aviators off, let’s acknowledge some more harsh realities we faced this year. As populist, ignorant rhetoric takes hold in contemporary politics and society, we’re confronted with the fact that right-wing tentacles have snaked into even our easygoing, left(ish) subculture. There were bizarre statements on social media from deluded fools who declared no black person could be goth, leading to categorical denials from leading voices in the subculture like podcasters Cemetery Confessions, Post-Punk.com, and Dining With Dana. Now more than other the goth scene must rally, shout down the hatemongers, and welcome like-minded souls to the dark party.
On the brighter side (ironically!), goth has been an early adopter of technology, and none more vital than the internet. From the earliest days of Netscape and IRC, through message boards to the latest social media platforms, the amorphous subculture has been sustained by the ability of the web to hold together a worldwide community of often isolated individuals. The advent of the YouTube star has given everyone a goth best friend (even better than a goth gf you effin poseurs), and the rise in number and quality of goth meme pages is the latest creativity from a brand new generation. It’s safe to say goth is as undead as ever in 2019.
So how will you be celebrating today? Gig, club, mates down the pub? Let us know in the comments below!