You’d think being forced to stay indoors, hiding from the sun and shunning close contact with other humans would be pretty easy work for goths. In reality of course, we’re just as hungry for interaction as everyone else – so it’s a joy to concentrate on celebrating World Goth Day 2020 even if we’re restricted to only what we can experience through our screens.
It’s important to note the butcher’s bill of festivals cut down by the global pandemic. The venerable Whitby Goth Weekend and vibrant newcomers Tomorrow’s Ghosts both had to cancel their Spring events with an eye to bouncing back in Winter. EBM/Industrial/Cyber mainstay Infest Festival is holding out until 2021. On the continent, German megafest Wave Gotik Treffen is trying to navigate the byzantine government restrictions but it seems likely the entire event could be delayed a year, whilst M’era Luna conceded early on to cancel their 2020 plan. The leading American festival Convergence is in a holding pattern, and the long-lived Goth Cruise are pushing back plans until 2021.
Grim reading indeed, but it’s important for punters to be safe, events to be run carefully, and for us to rush out and support them as soon as we’re able, to help the live music scene in goth come back to life, rising from the casket of isolation…
If you’re hungry for music, you could do much worse than popping the debut Joy Division album on, and tuning in to follow bassist Peter Hook and long-time photographer of the band Kevin Cummins discuss the iconic recording with Tim Burgess, lead singer of The Charlatans, on Twitter.
Hooky is fresh from commenting as footage is streamed of his 2015 gig with The Light, celebrating the anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death. I was lucky enough to be in Macclesfield to watch it live back then, and I’d strongly recommend you save up to get the DVD of the entire Joy Division back catalogue performed in a breathtaking event.
Live streams are increasingly prevalent, an opportunity to engage with fellow goths and DJs around the world through the ‘net and exist at every scale – from the official stream of World Goth Day for their tenth anniversary, through the release of Tobi Okandi’s (ex-O Children) latest EP “Devil I Know”, to the launch party for the latest album from Leeds goth paragons Byronic Sex and Exile. A multitude of opportunities exist for you to simulate the social aspect of goth clubbing, discover new music, and support the creators in a very challenging time.
I’ve never been an expert in music however, and am keenly aware of how much searing talent – or pale imitation – might be just passing me by. So I reached out to someone with a damn good eye for the next wave of goth innovation, Andi Harriman – DJ, writer and respected speaker on all things dark.
The Blogging Goth: You’re vocal on Twitter about the need for fresh thinking and new music in the goth scene – which is surprisingly traditionalist and resistant to change for a supposedly ‘rebellious’ culture. Care to expand on that?
Andi Harriman: I think the fact people are still trying to make music is something that I can’t bemoan too much. If I’m honest, a lot of the new music I listen to comes from the PR emails I get in my inbox so I am hopeful that there’s new music that’s quite smart and innovative that hasn’t entered my radar yet.
However, I’m not sure I can hear another lyric about Halloween ever again! Something about it feels contrived and just too easy. Since last year I’ve remarked that there’s several copycats that sound like a duplication of other bands. I figured the bubble would have burst by now. But instead it seems that the volume of copycat bands has only grown and they’re stuffed so closely together that it’s hard to differentiate between them at all.
Like I said, this is just my opinion, but I think a lot of creativity with the early bands came from books and art. I’m not saying bands today aren’t influenced by these sources, but I think there could be an additional layer of cleverness within the music.
Also I enjoy the idea of incorporating different instruments besides a synth and drum machine. I love that Selofan uses a sax, but that’s just personal preference. I also love that they focus on visuals and incorporate other art forms into their videos (dance, photography, fashion) — it seems they are always thinking beyond their music. A focus on collaboration might be the next step to make a change in the scene.
TBG: Another key issue in Goth 2020 is the argument around gatekeeping and legitimacy. I’m curious to hear what you make of this ceaseless debate, and if it’s more pointless squabbling or an important discussion about how we recognise goth in 2020.
AH: It is frustrating to see people take goth aesthetics and call themselves goth when they aren’t. And I wholeheartedly agree that you cannot be a goth if you don’t like the music… but I believe that it’s fair to allow people to try out the goth scene if they have any interest. Maybe the music will rub off on them.
I also think that if they’re not serious then it’s just a phase and they’ll eventually take themselves out of the picture. Five years ago, I would have had more to say about it but you can’t really police people —they’re gonna do what they want to do. And right now goth is cool, maybe in a few years it’ll die down and we can have our territory back for a while.
I was gatekeeped at the very first goth party I went to, so I know how upsetting it feels if you’re just trying to find a place where you belong. That’s why I like to focus on inclusivity with my parties.
But yeah, if someone is going to bring harm to the subculture (racists, misogynists, etc), gatekeep the hell outta them, and publicly call them out if you feel comfortable doing so! None of that should be tolerated. Also, turn to venues and promoters and tell them about problematic people. If they are truly about safe spaces then they will do their best to help you out.
TBG: Is there anything more you’d like to say about the scene in general, or anything I haven’t covered?
AH: I’d love for parties and clubs to focus on the safety of attendees more once we’re out of quarantine. It seems a lot of promoters accept not-so-great people into their parties because of politics, numbers, money, or other factors. I’d like to see more people take a stand against abusers and the like.
Accepting this behavior doesn’t help our community – it harms and divides it.
You could take advantage of your down-time, cooped up at home with all your old photos and think about how you can contribute to the Museum of Youth Culture archives!
This ambitious project is looking to record and share our collected memories of some of the most vibrant youth subcultures in the country, and a quick trip to their archives reveals a treasure trove of goth memories from the 80s up until now!
Curator Lisa der Weduwe got in touch after our last article to ask if we’d be willing to share their appeal for even more content – something we’re happy to do!
We’re doing an online appeal at the moment, as we think lockdown is the perfect time to get out family albums and old photographs, and share memories of growing up. Both something to keep busy and connect with people. We’ve done an at-home activities pack to help people get started, with tips on digitisation and recording oral histories
So dredge up those old glossy pictures and dusty films, and consider contributing to this awesome archive of all things darkly alternative. Forty years on from the origins of post-punk, the goth scene – for all its squabbling, its hidebound traditions and vulnerability at a time of global lockdown – remains a vibrant and significant cultural force. Let’s recognise this, especially today!