Monday 20 May 2013

Live: Whitby Goth Weekend Spring 2013, The Spa Pavilion 26th - 27th April

Whitby Goth Weekend Spring 2013
Whitby Spa Pavilion 

Day 1: Friday 26th April 2013

Whitby Goth Weekend has been going for nineteen years now, that's quite some time... well it's still one of the only things goth younger than me. Having started as a meetup between pen-pals, it has since expanded into one of the most iconic gothic events in the world, hosting some of the biggest names in goth and alternative music. Thousands of people are drawn to the town each year not only by the music, but also to dress up, partake in some casual goth-spotting or just to experience the general atmosphere.

Puss Johnson - she's actually a cat
The weekend at Whitby was kicked off by Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons, a self described "dirty rock n' roll" band. Though Puss Johnson - the lead vocalist had a great costume the other members of the group didn't seem to have made much of an effort in comparison. Their incoherent stage image made them look amateurish giving mixed first impressions.

Musically, they delivered with force. Their dirty punk rock sound got an energetic response from the audience, especially considering that they're relatively unknown. The most memorable songs were 'Lipstick and Testosterone' and 'Trouble with the Devil'.

Puss is undoubtedly the band's greatest asset. Her genuine enthusiasm really shone through giving her a greater, more engaging stage presence than most performers out there.

Zombina and the Skeletones were up next. They presented themselves with a lineup of guitar, vocals, drums, bass and more interestingly a saxophone. Unlike zombies, they were extremely energetic and knew how to entertain the crowd.

Infectious organ-coated horror punk numbers like 'Nobody Likes You When You're Dead' swept through the audience, penetrating their brains faster than any zombies ever could. Almost everybody was singing along.

Doctor and the Medics' wedding ceremony - not very white
This was followed by Doctor and the Medics, a band that was quite successful back in the day, achieving a number one hit with a cover of 'Spirit in the Sky' which they of course played on the night.

When somebody opens with daleks and a cyberman dancing with a mop, you know you're in for one hell of a show, and that it was. Put a bunch of lunatics on stage who know how to play good music and you get Doctor and the Medics.

Their set consisted of an array of well known covers including 'Rain' by The Cult and the highlight of the night 'White Wedding' by Billy Idol. In addition to this they played a few of their own songs which according to them nobody knows. As far as I know they're right, as I didn't know them either.

At one point a giant balloon was launched, reverting the crowd into a bunch of children clambering to get it. As the band resumed playing the balloon kept making it's way back to the stage - accidentally on purpose. Fortunately Doctor and the Medics can multitask, managing to dodge the balloon and play without interruption.

So, following three highly energetic bands, how would just one man and his acoustic guitar go down as the headliner? Surprisingly well, especially with the ladies, unsurprisingly. The key to Voltaire's success was humour. His performance was more like a musical stand up comedy at times. Judging by how much more crowded the venue became, and how fluently the audience sang along to every song, I'd say that most people had come just to see him.

Returning to the Doctor Who theme from earlier in the night,  Voltaire presented 'It's Bigger on the Inside'. If you know Voltaire you can probably guess it's full of innuendo. Yes, he likes his innuendo and also daleks. Judging by what happened next, probably more than he should... He had a sexual encounter with a dalek, do I need to say anymore?

Towards the end of the night he invited any volunteers up on stage to be his backing choir, on a whoever gets there first basis. Most of the front few rows made it. I too decided to go on stage and make a fool of myself. As we sang one if his best known songs 'When You're Evil' things got a bit out of hand. First his hat was stolen and then even more shockingly a dalek flew right into the audience.

Day 2: Saturday 27th April 2013

Jay Smith - psycho mode
Saturday was a much more mellow affair, that's of course with the exception of the opening act, Deviant UK. Jay Smith is the man behind the name, and the only man behind it - except on stage where he is joined by several other musicians.

His music is hard, infectious and anthemic. Jay was on top form, delivering an energetic and captivating performance. Despite it being so early, with light still streaming through the large pavilion windows, Jay didn't fail in creating the dark atmosphere he intended.

The Danse Society first formed in 1980, and after achieving moderate success in the UK they broke up in 1987. They reformed in 2011, having released two albums since.

Their latest album 'Scary Tales' received mixed reception from fans, but all songs went down well on the night. They played excellently with prominent basslines, typical goth rock guitar tones, rich keyboards and powerful vocals. The main downside was an absence of older material, and some of their best known songs like 'Heaven is Waiting'.

Skeletal Family were originally active from 1982-86. After reforming in 2002 and breaking up again in 2009, they were started up again last year by the original vocalist Anne-Marie Hurst.

Live, they didn't sound quite like anything I had listened to from their discography, probably due to the numerous lineup changes. They did however, still sound excellent. Anne-Marie is a great performer and I'm sure people are pleased to see her back in the band.

Headliners Clan of Xymox have developed a reputation for the consistency and quality of their releases over the years, making them legends of gothic/darkwave music, and deservedly so.

Musically they were on top form, equalling if not surpassing the quality of their studio recordings. Their mix of moody basslines, jangly guitars and soaring synths were all in place creating the typical Clan of Xymox sound.

Their set consisted of many of their well known classics including 'Emily' and 'Jasmine and Rose'. The song that resonated most deeply with the audience was 'A Day.. It created an incredible atmosphere, making it clear that Clan of Xymox holds a place close to the hearts of many people. That is what is so great about them. They can evoke a deep sense of despair and make you want to dance at the same time.

What a weekend that was. Now we just have to wait for November, though with the controversial Friday lineup being announced not everybody will be looking forward to it.

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