Live Reviews
The Whitby Goth 21st Anniversary Spectacular – NIGHT TWO OF FOUR

By Jordan Mooney.
Photographs by Zhaos Photography.
With special thanks to Louise, Jo and Trash McSweeney.

Friday the 24th of April. 7:00PM. and time for more lovely music. People were excited, people were smiling and a lot of people were hyping bands up like nobody’s business.

After last night, expectations were high. Were we going to get another Red Paintings? Another runaway, unexpected success? Perhaps the first evening was doomed to be the peak of the spectacular.

Come hither, ladies and gents, sit by my fireplace, and I shall tell you the tale…

PLEASE NOTE – Our Photographer, Matthew, while being allowed behind the barrier for photography the previous evening, was not, it turned out, on the list of accredited photographers (despite a special COTW pass) – and thus was unable to do so for the rest of the weekend. The result is that, dependent on where he was standing, some members of groups may not have had a single decent picture taken of them for our reviews. Our sincere apologies to any handsome members whom may feel neglected.

THE LAST DANCE

Fountain Valley, California
Jeff Diehm (Vocals), Rick Joyce (Guitar), Peter J Gorritz (Bass), Tom Coyne (Drums)
http://www.thelastdance.com/

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The Last Dance have performed at Whitby Goth several times in the past, their first appearance on the event’s line up taking place in 1999. They’ve been making a hefty impact on audiences here continuously since, remaining one of the more popular regular returnees. A few audience members I spoke to had actually been to that performance sixteen years ago – and said quite confidently that the band hadn’t lost an ounce of their magic since those heady days.

Needless to say, these conversations are bound to raise expectations, and I awaited with ears open demanding to be impressed by a spiky haired gentleman in a poorly ironed shirt cracking jokes in a pronounced Californian accent.

He did a bloody good job, actually.

The true driving force, I felt, of The Last Dance was very much …well, them. It felt very informal – like they were performing in a pub they regularly attended. This didn’t mean losing a sense of professionalism – it meant getting inordinately excited about a balloon or making jokes about the numerous corsets filling the Pavilion hall. They all struck has very friendly and very passionate people performing music because it’s fun – not because it’s a profession.

As is so often the case, I don’t know anything about this act in advance nor do I try to research beforehand – I’ll always try to go in ‘blind’ to Whitby Goth and without fail I end up with a very pleasant surprise. The Last Dance were yet another one to categorise in this department – a ‘happy discovery’.

Their music, of course, is what we’re all here for – and that had rather a lot of magic to it, too.

The Last Dance are suspiciously difficult to explain. They’ve got a hefty electronic edge to them, hypnotic keys floating through every track and a vocal that, while not perhaps the finest or most powerful, takes the reins on a surprisingly disorientating passage of darkwave.

It was a surprising tonal shift to see the group laughing and joking on stage – and excitedly spotting balloons teetering nearby – then breaking into such an atmospheric, even sombre, sound. In many ways that’s the finest way a band can operate on stage, in my view, without breaking into the full ‘virtual group’ concept with stage personalities et al.

As if to mix up their set even more than their personality already allows, the group also enforce a program of regular guests. Velvet Joyce (of Sapphire Solace) and Ed Tuke (Partly Faithful) both making very personal appearances that contributed to the group’s on-stage dynamic, rather than distracting from it for a second.

This is a group of really lovely people who are ready and waiting to break into another world the moment a keyboard hits a single high pitched note. And constantly do so.

Darkwave is not ‘my’ genre of music (GASP! Blasphemy! This man is no true Goth! Etc…) but if anybody can sell it to me, it’s this group right here.

What a simply superb start to the evening – and a good way to settle my tiny little head into what was to come.

 

SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK ELECTRONIC

God knows, UK & Germany
Martin Degville (Vocals), Mark Standley (Guitar), Lena Wende (Bass), Phil Murphy (Keys)
http://www.sputnik2.com

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Ah, now this…this is where things went right off of the deep end into the waters of flamboyant, mentally unhinged sexual belligerence.

Before the group came on, Eddie Eales, our favourite promoter and member of the Cat on the Wall clique™ leaned over and said “This will either be really good, or really bad.”

Then, a guitarist dressed in a leather uniform, with no arse covering, and a long, shiny black tail hanging from the strap of his thong; strutted on stage – carrying more than a slight likeness to Murdoc Niccals of animated rockers, Gorillaz. This was Mr. Mark Standley.

Then a tall, slim, blonde bassist – whom I’m ever so slightly in love with – carrying a very long-necked Paul McCartney instrument, in a very similar outfit, strutted on to the opposing side. Once could practically hear her heels clacking across the stage over the incidental music. Say hello to Lena Wende.

Then came a keyboardist in a relatively civilised leather waistcoat and skirt, complete with shades. A huge grin on his face, like he was about to unleash some sort of flamboyant, vicious musical beast. With teeth. Phil Murphy had arrived.

And then a vocalist. Whom I believe was 99% composed of sequins and a feathery mohawk. With some cracking white cowboy boots and some eyeliner that would have made even the most skilled artists in the audience cry into their New Rocks. This was the legendary Martin Degville.

And he and his scurvy crew represent the latest incarnation of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, which has veered into a more…well, electronic flavour than the new wave group of years passed. And I must say…thematically, it all melds beautifully.

It seems that no matter how you look at it…Sputnik’s sense of visuals are going to bring about some sense of domination. And fascination, and there’s a certain, bizarre futuristic feel to the entire thing – as if we’re watching a musical version of a really, really camp B-movie. A sort of electronic tribute to the Transylvanian Transsexual stylings of Rocky Horror.

Sigue Sigue Sputnik Electronic may not be the infamous incarnation of Tony James and friends, but, if anything, they’ve progressed the aesthetic and ideas considerably. Sputnik Electronic are an impressive incarnation that thematically – and musically – works on every length. The beauty of it is that while Sputnik’s visuals are – by their own admission – a bit of a ‘gimmick’, they have more than sufficient musical talent to back it up. I could rave endlessly about the tight performances from every member, but of all the members, Mark the guitarist really took our attention. And not just due to having his arse out.

His playing is simply some of the finest I’ve seen – traditional rock fare, traditional rock showmanship, but with all of the experience and finesse of a man who mastered the instrument many moons ago.

Combined with Lena’s rocking and swaggering on the other side of the stage, the two ensure they’re not eclipsed by the two founding fathers of Sputnik Electronic. They could bat with the best of them – without a doubt.

Mr. Degville is a natural frontman, and is evidently in his born surroundings at Whitby Goth. The charisma he exhibits is beyond spectacular, his vocals style tight and his sequins simply fabulous.

It had happened again – a fucking fantastic second act that would make any band that follows at least a little bit nervous. Thankfully, the rest of the night was populated by Whitby Goth legends. So they didn’t really have much to worry about…other than how many sequins they were wearing.

 

BELLA MORTE

Charlottesville, VA
Andy Deane (Vocals, sarcastic Facebook comments), Tony Lechmanski (Guitar), Marshall Camden (Bass)
http://bellamorte.com/

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Bella Morte had arrived far later than originally scheduled, thanks to 14 hours in a customs detention unit. They finally rolled in, bruised, battered (and probably aroused. The perverts.) …but triumphant. And remained very upbeat despite their…ahem, ‘experiences’ of British border control!

Bella Morte are an interesting beast. Despite being chock full of informality and humour, their sound on stage is a strong reflection of that 90’s ‘Goth sound’. If the group were any more ‘Goth’, they’d be veering on parody – over-dramatic, bordering on complete over-indulgence, a bit like the stereotypical goth music you might here in the odd satire. Is this against them? Are they taking the mickey? No, not in the slightest.

The beauty of it is that Bella Morte, in all of this overblown capturing of ‘Goth’, end up being an ‘essential’ group – one that’s easily recognised, carries a real punch in the industry; almost an ambassador for the scene. Assisted by a very personable press and street team operation, they’ve become very much home-grown champions of ‘Goth’. They are one of the few the world can label as ‘definitive.’

This is really where the true enduring quality of Bella Morte remains – they’re nostalgia for the older bods of the scene, and a time capsule for those of us who simply weren’t there. And a hell of a lot of fun for all involved.

I get the impression when watching their shows that they really are big kids at heart who have dreamt of this all of their lives -and now they’ve made it, are making every effort to give people exactly what they would want as music fans. Their personalities, humour and laughter are all as infectious as their music – and with Bella Morte, that’s pretty damn impressive.

Joking all the way about their ‘fun’ in the world of border control, they ended up drawing a fantastic audience that was evidently enamoured with what the group stood for. When they weren’t performing, they were in the audience – seemingly enjoying every moment.

The beauty of Bella Morte is not just fantastic, ambassadorial music – it is that they are one of us. One of the audience. One of the visitors.

One of us…

One of us…

One…of…us…..

 

THE CRÜXSHADOWS

Jacksonville, Florida
Rogue (Vocals), Jessica Lackey (Percussion), Jen Jawidzik (Keyboards), David Wood (Violins), JoHanna Moresco (Violins), Mike Perez (Guitar)
http://www.cruxshadows.com/

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Another legend on stage. We’re doing well for Darkwave tonight, aren’t we?!

The Cruxshadows (I will start forgetting the ü.) are another fine example of Goth representatives to the larger music world, and made that perfectly clear with a suspiciously flash looking tour bus somehow successfully manoeuvring the serpentine road down to the Pavilion’s entrance.

That remains the largest mystery of the weekend. How the toss did that bloody great thing get down that bloody road?!

Ahem. Anyway.

The Cruxshadows (see, I warned you!) are a group renowned for many things – one of the biggest goth standings in the world and a dark, complex series of records that look towards ancient mythology and legend – referencing, in great measure, the ideas of a greater being, a complex power, and our own standing in direct competition with them.

What’s perhaps even greater than this very complex series of ideas is that they are expressed so fluidly that they are simultaneously very easy to find if you look for them, but shan’t slap you in the face if you’re uninterested and just wanted to hear the music.

The treatment of their ideas and aesthetics are wholly sensitive, and seem to mean different things to quite literally thousands of different people.

Lead mastermind, vocalist, songwriter and purveyor of outlandish hair, Rogue, was also on stage touting two LED lights on his palms and would later ascend to the top of the speakers, in what is apparently a habit of one of Goth’s favourite scurrying spearheaders. The result was a very bizarre, almost club atmosphere… with the addition of electric violin.

There sound was incredibly tight, as ever – heavy electronics, pulsing beats and, effectively, a sound that more than reflects capably on their recorded material. This is a trend I note in all of the groups tonight and it does not make my reviewing any easier!

The energy of the group’s performance is what truly drove this as a conclusion to the show. It was quite a manner to close on – more than capable of both settling certain members of the audience down and exciting those whom may have been waiting for them all night!

This is perhaps why the Cruxshadows are one of those perfect headliners. Their music means something different for so many people. Some will have been listening thoughtfully. Some will have been going mental. Some will have just been glad to tick them off of their list. Some will have been glad to tick the 100th time they’ve seen them from the list…

Either way, I have no doubt that everybody left satisfied. The Cruxshadows were perfect to seal another fantastic night for all involved.

The rest is a blur. I enjoyed the Whitby Goth Ale they had at the Pavilion bar. It was quite delightful.

CONCLUSIONS

It’s clear that tonight followed a firm theme of Darkwave; every group veritably feeding that genre in some capacity – whether it be Sputnik in their years gone by or the Cruxshadows spearheading arguably the most iconic.

But I think there was something a little more than that this evening – personality. Each group this evening seemed to have mastered the ideas of stage communication, and, perhaps most importantly, baring their all. Whether it be Jeff Heim of the last dance veering from his stage talk to pick up a balloon, Martin Degville marching about in his fancy boots, Bella Morte forgetting when a song is meant to end or Rogue seemingly taking roost atop the amplifiers.

All of the groups were an eclectic, electric mix of people – people whom in some way or another have changed the lives of hundreds of people, influenced a genre, influenced a subculture – and all of them have in some way or another experienced a great degree of very well deserved success.

This was really a night of headliners. It’s impossible to find low points, impossible to pick up a failing – the evening was a resounding look at a specific chunk of Goth and catered to even those unsure about one of the biggest stakes in the scene.

I’d have picked up tons of merchandise from Sputnik if their table hadn’t been cleared within 0.5 nanoseconds of their final chord.

Bring on Night Three. We’re ready for anything, now…!

 

About the author

Compulsive hat wearer, eccentric, fan of all things audio-visual, part time Goth, historian, and railway enthusiast, Jordan is the closest you can get to everybody's weird uncle. Except he's less than 60 years old.

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