By Jordan Mooney.
Photographs by Zhaos Photography.
With thanks to Whitby Kustom, Jo and every single stage hand, security member and pint-puller.
The fourth night! All is due to draw to a close this evening. The final of a glorious four days. But with two of Sunday’s acts still claiming titles as some of the champions of our vast back catalogue of reviews and interviews, we were satisfied that it’d be quite the conclusion.
Expectations were high. Very high. I dare say… unreasonably so. The Damned were getting a particularly strong voice of anticipation, but in a rare revelation, their fans were here from the start, intrigued by the promise of a certain group of medical men and a cat lady. I’ve not seen a headliner’s fans decide to watch the complete evening in such numbers before. Props to them – it was really nice to see!
Soundcheck had been somewhat slow and laborious this afternoon, with The Damned’s stage team taking just over forty five minutes to check over a stage full of their equipment. The other bands had grown somewhat cynical on the matter, and in a particularly bizarre change to the norm, William Control even left the dressing room he so consistently hides in to have a crack at testing the stage, too. Now that is bizarre!
Oh yes, anticipation was high this evening. The question is whether it’s possible for anything to live up to the hype…let’s find out together, little chickens. I’ll show you around the ranch…
PUSSYCAT AND THE DIRTY JOHNSONS
Puss (Vocals, Guitar), Jake (Guitar), Olvis (Interim Drummer), Filfy Antz (Usual Drummer – off sick!)
“Oh bloody hell. These lot again!”
Yes, Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons have appeared constantly on Cat on the Wall and see us at least twice a year. Poor buggers. What can we say? We’re huge fans at Cat on the Wall, and we love to see them on a big, comfortable stage like the Pavilion. Are we the only ones? Well, quite the opposite – it seems we’re not the only ones so heavily impacted by our favourite feline-themed roughs. While walking around Whitby, it was not uncommon to see Johnson badges and Pussycat patches. In fact, we saw more of them than a lot of other groups on the line up.
Coincidence? Perhaps – but it seems to me that this trio of prowlers are more than welcome enough at Whitby Goth. And their massive success with the audience acted as testament – evidently they work quite well for fans of The Damned!
Puss, Jake and Olvis, according to Ross, a member of our party – managed to command an audience larger than any other ‘first group’ of the weekend – even topping the record set by the wholly different Jordan Reyne. I’m not entirely certain if this is true (we were at the front raising hats and kicking our Cubans), but if it is? I’m not largely surprised.
It can be argued that most of these were people just to see The Damned – but typically such people wait in the lobby or smoke outside until ‘their’ group is on – and here, they were all in the room watching with great satisfaction. People looking each other and nodding.
Their numbers are not so important – it is the expressions and reactions that speak volumes. The group has never lost that incendiary flavour, and while we still miss Filfy Antz’ maniacal drumming, Olvis is one of the most technically skilled we’ve personally had the pleasure of witnessing. He must also have maniacal states hidden behind his calm, perpetually smiling exterior, however. He broke the kit and had to do a running repair. While smiling in his usual way, of course. This momentary blip was much to everyone’s amusement and one bloke shouting ‘ROCK AND ROLL’.
Their music never ceases to be wholly entertaining. It’s not entirely light hearted – some of the songs are incredibly dark! But it never gets depressing or overtly angry, either. It’s that wholly satisfying department wherein it never loses its edge, but remains thoroughly entertaining throughout. Their talent as songwriters and performers is the sense of informality and outright fun without breaking their showmanship. They’re continuously entertaining – difficult to dislike and practically impossible to hate.
Their biggest trick is their stage presence. As a trio, nobody is really ‘stuck behind’ on a stage like this, and Puss gets all of the room she needs to exploit. The result is one’s eyes can flick between the group’s equally distinctive members easily – and then jump out of your skin when Puss ends up in the audience right beside you.
There’s no better place, in my mind, to see the group do what they do best than on a big stage like this one in front of hundreds of happy punk-loving Goths. They’re unique – but there’s no style over substance, here. It all fits together like a particularly colourful leopard print jigsaw. It’s like a rockabilly B-movie of Teddy Boys, Greasers and Catwomen.
But then, we already knew that. Didn’t we?
Incidentally…this is the second time over the weekend that the audience demanded an encore from the first group on stage. You can take that to the bank! Get both of ’em a longer set.
Next up comes the majesty of one of the funniest, cheesiest, overblown, overindulgent live shows on the planet. We’ve reviewed them last time they performed, we’ve interviewed the man, we’ve sang along shamelessly to hits from the 70s and 80s…
It’s Clive Jackson. It’s Doctor and the Bloody Medics. The group that continuously strides to prove they’re not just a one-shot wonder – and, instead, the rightful overlords of party rock and roll.
DOCTOR AND THE MEDICS
All over the UK. I think. Maybe there’s one gigantic party house?
The Doctor (vocals), Adrian Hill (drums), Dan Angelow (guitar), Jon Randle (bass), Melissa Weekes (backing vocals) (I hope I get that right!)
It’s difficult to explain just how perfectly enjoyable Doctor and the Medics really are. They’re definitely not your typical rock group and, whenever they’re on the line up, they definitely don’t provide a typical Goth Weekend. They are an absolute delight.
Their definitive collection of songs provide a catalyst of Goths dancing and celebrating several years of pop culture that they pretend to boycott. You Spin Me Right Round being a favourite in the always surprising selection at hand.
It still seems to surprise people that Clive Jackson is such a talented vocalist and frontman. Just because the charts were fickle in 1986 doesn’t mean that the group weren’t deserving, and they spend every moment of their touring career proving it.
Clive himself is gloriously self depreciating and informal – he’s well aware that people label him and his band as being a one-hit wonder and will work with that to the point he pleases. He’s also well aware that people don’t regard him as ‘Goth’ and finds laughing about that perplexing question – ‘What is Goth?’ a constant source of entertainment.
“I remember I once read a tweet that said ‘I’ve never been as ashamed as I was when I saw the Goths dance to Doctor and the Medics’. That’s one of the biggest achievements for me. I want that tweet framed or something. ‘I’ve never been so ashamed’ – Brilliant!”
This is another group where the personality rubs off on everybody in the audience, whether they like it or not. They are a tremendous amount of fun, blatantly enjoying every moment, and he’ll make the audience share those feelings with equal veracity. While it could be fair to say I’m not a man whom appreciates tribute bands, I think it’s equally fair to say that The Medics are not a tribute band.
They’re not really trying to be a tribute to anybody – they’re just performing music that they find the most entertaining to perform and that the audience reacts warmest to. It’s a band that has built their show from practised movements, a band that has learnt through their glimpse of success that there’s a world to be made from it.
With Clive’s vocals being offset perfectly by Melissa Weekes’ far more mellow, light tones, the group provide a very tuneful rendition of favourites. They perform their own material too, of course, but the music itself almost becomes a bit of a backseat to the grand circus they bring to the stage. They know, and are quite accepting, that the audience aren’t really here for that.
And it is a circus – between balloons being thrown up into the air (and knocking out ceiling tiles. I’m not joking. Insert joke about bringing the house down here.), slightly crap cybermen dancing and giant inflatables being brandished, all we’re missing is an elephant. And I’m not sure if even that would be a surprise coming from these people.
They’re simply fantastic. No group has the same ability to make people enjoy themselves. I cannot think of any other group so perfect to celebrate the 21st Birthday of the world’s greatest goth event.
That Ace of Spades cover was masterful, incidentally. Superb!
Utterly flamboyant, sheer skill and a great party number for even the most cynical of Goths, Punks, and leather-clad nasties. You can’t argue with the facts – and the fact is, the audience loved Clive and his cronies.
I got the feeling that people really, really wanted more of The Medics. There was a very genuine sense of a slight disappointment when they left the stage. In the time that followed, there was only pale stories of what was, and what might have been, if…
However, the whippersnappers were thrilled! It was time for William Control…!
Will Francis (Vocals), Kenneth Fletcher (Guitar), Ian MacWilliams (Keys), Ben Tourkantonis (Drums)
William Control is an interesting beast. It’s an electronic project founded from Aiden, and I have to say I’m one of those finicky bastards whom sits in the ‘should have stayed in Aiden’ camp. I just don’t see much creativity in William Control, and it has to be said that in comparison to the other groups on the roster this flatlined for me.
The biggest issue is he’s really quite a talented bloke. The music does manage to stir up as time goes on, and he’s more than just ‘capable’ as a vocalist. The speakers were jumping, as were a lot of people in the audience. I cannot for a second pretend my thoughts were a majority.
The problem is that a lot of his style obscures any substance to his act. His rock and roll persona feels like old news before it leaves the starting gates, and his track record for basically making life difficult for venues can’t help but release a certain sneer from a few members of the COTW party as he compares himself to Jesus of Nazareth. He sometimes veers on the misogynistic, and I get the impression that if some groups tried the same shtick they’d be booed off of the stage.
It’s a shame, for me, that this shtick that does get people’s backs up seems at utter contention for a man whom is capable of producing very well mastered and emotional content that has helped a lot of people out of dark times in their lives. He’s not a one-trick pony and it’s a shame that for so many members of the audience that’s exactly what forms. But this is the impression he builds – and unfortunately it’s what he sticks to! I’m sure he’s a nice bloke really. But he sure as hell doesn’t come off as a man I’d have a pint with.
It is perhaps fair to say that I’m out of the threshold of the market that William Control has managed to master, and I was left feeling somewhat perturbed rather than excited.
His music’s electronic flavour was a nice little addition to the evening, admittedly, a contrast to the firmer punk and rock roots that had crawled throughout the venue’s clientele. The man himself struts about the stage with ease, his egoistic stage act getting the females a tad more excited than the males whom were opting for the bar. The security waiting to see if he was going to light up a cigarette again so they’d have to take him off. Ultimately, it was a great atmosphere, even if I wasn’t particularly interested in being part of it. I was getting a little irritated by hearing those same two drum beats.
The front row was screaming and cheering, and I found myself struck by the obvious revelation that this act is arguably the one that has introduced a lot of younger fans to Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons and Doctor and the Medics, tonight. It’s testament to some fine planning to get a diverse range of people – but, alas, I still felt the tone was jarred a touch.
Is it worth disrupting a tone to get more of an artist’s specific market in? Difficult to say. I can’t help but feel there must have been someone who could perform for the demographic without sticking out so much, but I couldn’t name anybody myself. Perhaps I’m just being a cynical old man.
In fact no, no, wait…I know I am.
Dave Vanian (Vocals), Captain Sensible (Guitar), Monty Oxymoron (Keys), Pinch (Drums), Stu West (Bass)
Silence, once again, as a range of equipment for The Damned arrived on stage. The audience bristled with excitement – rather infectious it was, too! Everybody was awaiting Captain Sensible and scurvy crew. I’ve not quite felt a buzz like this before. I’ve certainly never seen so many people in the Pavilion before. The place was rammed, right out of the door – people were here for them and they were the big hurrah for possibly the greatest Goth Weekend in history. Fancy that!
The Damned are…well, The Damned. They’re legendary, and there’s really not much I can say that hasn’t been said in decades of history and legacy. They’re one of the most important Goth bands to ever take the centre stage of the music industry and continue to provide a cornerstone to horror & gothic themed, psychedelic rock and roll.
I heard a couple of complaints of a slightly subdued performance, but I have to say I personally couldn’t zero in on them and enjoyed it immensely – but not without my usual reservations.
I feel it must be said that when one is faced with such a huge variation of young and eclectic talent at Whitby Goth Weekend, the bigger, older groups are often there either for older audiences, or, in some cases, the sheer legacy that they chalk up – and as a result I simply don’t try to chalk up my expectations too highly. In many cases this can mean a pleasant surprise – look at Heaven 17 last year! But here, my expectations were simply met. Not exceeded, but met quite ably by a very talented group of people. Whether The Damned performed up to scratch for everybody is ultimately undamaging to them – they’ll still be The Damned, they’ll still be pretty damn fantastic and I feel they chalked that up quite successfully!
The group definitely provided some of the finest guitar usage of the weekend (I could kiss Captain Sensible for some of those glorious riffs, let me tell you.) And, throughout, replicated what you’ll find pressed into plastic with enviable authenticity. It was really rather sublime.
It can’t say they were my favourite show of the weekend, but I didn’t really expect them to be.
The Damned were so placed for more than just this simple reason of performance. They performed as a throwback, in my eyes – a performance to show Goth in one of its earliest – and arguably strongest – stages of existence. To present one of the groups so responsible for leading punks out on a leash into a land of horror and darkness. To show kids like us exactly what we’ve missed.
It’s true that The Damned are not the band they once were. Things have changed. People have left. Voices have worn with the effects of decades of use and many, many potent drinks. Does this reduce our respect of them? Does this make the show worse? I don’t think so. It may disappoint some who believe the group sold their souls to the devil and are exempt from aging – but you can’t avoid the natural progression of time, and every crack of tone or loss of breath is from 39 years of success and glory – that I bet a few members of the audience have seen firsthand!
They looked the part, they played the part, they sounded the part…and people were absolutely thrilled, awed, amazed and overjoyed to see them hammering away on the Pavilion Stage.
Best performance of the weekend? No. Maybe not.
Best part of the weekend? I think so, in a way. As it was triumphant. It was a showing of great strength and solidarity among people populating many, many different aspects of the subcultures Whitby Goth opens its arms to. It was showing the success of twenty one years of Goth Weekends. Looking around the audience, I saw people with arms around each other screaming lyrics at the group. I saw one man having a personal mosh. I saw couples locked in each other’s arms. And lips. (I see you there, Louise…)
A bit rough around the edges? A bit long in the tooth? So are many members of the audience. Would I want to change that? Not a chance.
The Damned completed their set, and the world in front of them erupted. I think I saw a few top hats get tossed into the air, too. A fitting, explosive end to the best night yet of the best music event I have ever attended. All inclusive. People walked (or stumbled. Or fell asleep at a table in the lobby) away from the venue with huge smiles on their faces, clutching CDs or T-shirts. Or both.
The night was over.
This was pretty fucking amazing. I feel like that’s all that needs to be said. However, if we only wrote what ‘needed’ to be said, these articles would be ridiculously short. So…
Whitby Goth Weekend’s Four-Day Spectacular is easily one of the greatest moments for live, alternative music in the UK yet. It truly was a spectacular – an intimate celebration of all that has made Britain’s best ‘Goth’ event so legendary in the past, present and what will keep it so legendary in the future.
Every era, every idea, every theme has been played this April – every respect to the movement and its clientele. A huge, big, black hug for all and sundry – immensely entertaining, inimitably varied, and, I expect, an introduction to a lot of new bands and people for many in the audience. I know I’ve walked away with new friends, new music and that ever-growing sense of belonging.
By next year I might just buy a house nearby the Pavilion.
Thank you to everybody who made for such a fantastic weekend; Performers, Staff, Traders, Technicians, organisers et al, and thank you to all whom supported it, bought tickets, applauded and cheered for those that stepped onto that stage.
It was an amazing experience and I eagerly await Hallowe’en. Whitby Goth seems to only go from strength to strength, and we continue to grow more and more excited by its prospects.