Live Reviews
Whitby Goth Weekend – April 2016, Part One

By Jordan Mooney.
Photographs by Zhaos Photography.

The Cat on the Wall Crew is: Jordan Mooney, Kane Foster, Eddie Eales, Ross Eales, Matthew Sambrook
With thanks to Shelley, Paul, Karla and Brad. Much love!

It’s time once again; we’re rolling at a painfully slow pace through Yorkshire countryside towards Whitby. On a stuffy, crowded, half-deceased and ultimately very fatigued sounding bus, surrounded by gaggles of people in suspicious choices of black dress.

It’s April.

The Weekend is coming. A particularly special weekend. Our favourite weekend; or, at least, one of our two favourite weekends in the year.

Ladies and gentlemen, strap your breasts into your corsets. Tip your toppers to a raunchy angle. Get that jäger stain out of your finest velvet cape, and prepare thy knee-high boots for some musical stomping. It’s time for Whitby Goth Weekend. And lord knows we’re quaking with anticipation.

Either that or the bus is really struggling with this hill.

 

Whitby Goth Weekend is the most important regular event that Cat on the Wall has; and quite frankly we get so agitated in that long, arduous run towards it that we feel like head-butting small, furry animals simply to rid ourselves of aggression.

It’s not so much because we have an official standing with the weekend; it’s out of pure passion for it. We love it, we live and breathe every moment of it, whether it be spent clambering ridiculously steep streets, making friends with people we’ve never met, or listening to some of the alternative’s scenes’ finest.

It’s become an enormously important part of our year and we simply wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It’s almost impossible to define the electricity; but once again, it’s up to us to try.

 

Whitby is an immensely beautiful place, of course – elegantly Victorian, well kept, relatively clean (although we are from Wakefield, so anywhere looks good) and with fantastic places to eat and drink (more on that later) – but when an already wonderful town is filled with utterly beautiful people in all manners of black, brass and leather uniform it takes on an incredible personality that simply can’t be replicated – it becomes an almost dizzying combination of what makes the alternative scene great. The fact that April is usually at least a little quieter is also beneficial; it provides one with walking room. Surprisingly useful when you’re in knee-high riding boots. (Any kicks up the arse from myself are usually unintentional. I promise.)

There’s always conflict, of course. “This is Goth, that isn’t Goth” etc – but in the end the majority will always end up at the same place; the Spa Pavilion.

THE MAIN EVENT

The line up for April 2016 was practically built to upset the ‘Goth’ purists. It not only combined a serious stretch of genres and ideas, but full of themes, ideas and theatrics that were bound to, in one way or another, go down in Whitby Goth History.

And in the end; that’s what we should aim for no matter what. It was a weekend of big ideas; a weekend we can all be proud of for attending in equal capacities to those working and playing upon that wonderful, wonderful stage.

We’re starting off with surely one of the youngest artists to take to the Goth Weekend stage. Take a stiff sip of Jäger (they did, after all), and strap yourselves in. They’ll blow your socks off whether you need your thermals or not.

HANDS OFF GRETEL

Lauren Tate (Vox, Guitar), Sean McAvinue (Guitars), Sam Hobbins (Bass)
South Yorks, UK
www.handsoffgretel.co.uk
Facebook.com/HandsOffGretel

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Hands Off Gretel is the raucous lovechild of Lauren Tate; a seriously talented woman in spearheading the absolute cutting edge in female rebellion with a fantastic attitude, and, perhaps even more strikingly, an utterly likeable demeanour. She’s sheer passion – sheer, unadulterated and unrestricted passion; built up from a very real love of music and a very real love of audience.

To see her red and black dreads fly about so viciously was a pleasure; to feel the excitement, love and bass went far beyond.

The first band on the line up – and especially of the weekend – has the absolute hardest job; they have to fly the flag for the rest of the evening and indeed the next one. It’s a really difficult position and it’s normally one for the younger, more inexperienced talents. In this capacity I find it’s the best way to see which of the independent groups can really cut the mustard. I’m pleased to say Lauren and her cronies could cut any situation into little chunks.

Her voice is stunning; a powerful, rattling presence that not only breaks the tension in front of them; but rattled the foundations of the Spa more than the raging power of the waves beneath them…

The movement that’s present in the band’s stage get up is one of its strongest assets – nobody stays restrictively still – nobody feels like they’re chained down. The beast that is Hands Off Gretel has broken any and all shackles. It’s too powerful to be contained and the result is a band that filled a room with two songs and packed a room with four. I dare say they’re capable of exceeding the Spa’s capacity – not bad for a group that’s been practically built up around a pre-founded teenage powerhouse.

Catchy riffs, thumping, rattling, bassy noise, a huge vocal from a powerful, potential feminist icon. If i was to give one criticism – and to be fair, it is my job – it’s that the sound is muddied somewhat by the extra guitar, which feels a touch redundant. Perhaps most criminally is it drowns out Lauren’s vocal; however, I’m no expert in Riot Grrl style Grunge and I shan’t claim to be. I would have just loved to hear more lyrics and a little less unrequired noise from the star of their show.

 

LENE LOVICH BAND

Lene Lovich (Vox), Jude Rawlins (Guitar), Kirsten Morrison (Keys), Valkyrie (Bass), Morgan King (Drums)
London (possibly on another planet), UK
www.lenelovich.net
Facebook.com/LeneLovichBand

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I have no shame in admitting that I was extremely cynical about Lene Lovich’s spot on the set list. This wasn’t anything personal; just inexperience. I absolutely refused to accept that she’d be able to charm me in the way so many younger groups have. It’s my usual affliction of believing that music ‘as it is’ gets dominated by younger talents that have no need to tread used ground.

Lene Lovich, I soon learned, doesn’t retread anything – as she’s still at the absolute forefront of what she does. That’s not only a great show; it’s extraordinary talent that can’t be imitated.

My god; I mean, genuinely – my god. I have no idea why; but I adored every facet of Lene Lovich while being incredibly confused throughout. The fact a woman can turn herself into a Theremin is amazing enough; the fact that my lack of understanding becomes an asset to her performance exceeds my preconceived notions about music.

Bedecked in a collection of headdresses, a series of seriously bizarre – and mesmerising – movements that are less akin to dancing and more towards ritualistic chants, Lene is an enormous presence that welcomes you to a seriously bizarre soundscape of cosmic proportions. She’s a tough cookie to crack – perhaps difficult to love, but impossible not to like.

I have, without doubt, never been so lost or dazed in an artist’s show – in my life, let alone at Whitby Goth Weekend. It was a thoroughly confusing sequence of events for me; and it takes a lot of skill to confuse a know-it-all 22 year old music journalist in a green tailcoat and brown topper. I’m seriously impressed.

I can’t say I know a word about what she sang; a word about any ‘hits’ or ‘classics’, but she goes right up there with the likes of Sigue Sigue Sputnik Electronic for utterly bizarre performances from which I expected nothing, but got my entire ticket price in one fell swoop.

 

THE RED PAINTINGS

Trash McSweeney (Vox, Guitar), Alix Kol (Violin), Ginny ‘Dangerzone’ Eck (Bass), Violet Cannibal  (Drums) – Under restriction and monitoring with TIME
Planet Earth/RESTRICTED FACILITY, TIME CORP
www.theredpaintings.com
Facebook.com/TheRedPaintings

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Before we begin; yes, I went on stage with The Red Paintings. I am the chap in the top hat and green that flubbed his lines (but saved it towards the end, honest guv’) You can do the same by contributing to their official Pledge Music Campaign with TIME, in effort to save them from their ransom and help produce a new record.

It’s a seriously good cause, it’s very exciting and it’s providing some really, really badass stuff that you can’t get elsewhere. It’s also one of the greatest marketing strategies I’ve ever seen – and believe me when I say my email inbox gets filled with them every sodding day.

In all seriousness; in many ways, this is the strongest show I’ve ever seen with the group, and much of that is the extra tension and nerve-inducing status provided by TIME’s introduction video and their constant presence on stage. It’s a masterful edge to an already world class, creative and intensely passionate show – an inimitable testament to the utter brilliance of Trash, Alix, Ginny et all. They are easily one of the strongest bands I’ve ever known to perform at Whitby Goth Weekend and perhaps one of the most essential I’ve seen play in the United Kingdom.

They may be under harsh pressures; TIME really are thrashing them to get this album out – but in a bizarre view it’s rather necessary. Trash, Alix, Ginny and Violet are all too fucking good for the record industry. Their unusual and eccentric ideas scare and perturb the fat cats in their Italian suits and are too inspiring to simply sell records.

It brings me to one of my favourite age-old adages – if David Bowie happened now; he would never get signed. And this applies to TRP perfectly.

Much like our review of Jordan Reyne, I find The Red Paintings to call back to an older age of musical performance. Instead of the Celtic bards and tale-weavers of old, I’m irrevocably reminded of the golden age of Italian Opera for the sheer sense of scale, power, and unadulterated volume that the group are capable of pumping out with breathless and impeccably deft emotional involvement.

Wow. Simply put; wow. I love this group more each time I witness them – and I dare say that makes it my duty to tell you to pledge. Whether it’s £20 or £2,000 – your money will go to an ever-increasing amount to talent writing in wait; all to be captured on another beautiful piece of plastic.

You’ve no reason not to.

http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/theredpaintings

Incidentally, thank you to all for your words of support while I was on stage, the hecklers for amusing me greatly and to the audience for losing their shit at my completely improvisational shouting during the closing riff. I shall never do it again. I promise.

 

THERAPY?

Andy Cairns (Vox, Guitar), Michael McKeegan (Bass), Neil Cooper (Drums)
Northern Ireland
www.therapyquestionmark.co.uk
Facebook.com/TherapyOfficial

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Therapy? Were the standout on this particular set; a touch difficult to envision ‘fitting in’ – there’s no doubt they’ve multiplied the other performers sales, perhaps by the hundred-worth; but how would they hold up to the crowds of black ahead of them?

The answer is largely ‘really, really, really well’. Musically it’s a stunning performance that caught my eyes and ears, did so with vigour and replicated my relatively scant experience with their recorded material very nicely too. If a band is only as good as they are live, Therapy prove their worth with ease.

I can’t say I know any Therapy tracks off by heart; but their set was perfectly placed for everybody to at least try imitating a lyric or two, and the tunes more than catchy enough to maintain anybody’s attention throughout.

However, they suffered a tad – temporarily, I’m pleased to say – from this new chunk of audience. I got the impression that the group expected more of the Spa’s clientèle to know exactly who Therapy were, know all of their music and be incredibly excited for them – this is rarely the case by default at the Pavilion, and for as while the result was a slightly awkward, stumbling beginning to Therapy’s Set as they explored the audience and began to ‘settle in’. This they proved to be very good at; they remedied the problem quickly and soon settled in beautifully to what the audience expected and how Goth Weekend works – by the end of it, they felt like old friends whom I’d welcome back to the spa with open arms. If the entire show had taken shape the way it had begun, doubtless this review would have been very different.

The group perform with a boundless passion and pride in their work; the idea that Therapy have been operating for so long is rather difficult to comprehend; their enthusiasm is infectious and could have probably gone on for hours longer than their already lengthy performance.

Regardless, by the time it was over, they had proven one of the finest endings to an absolutely fantastic party one could ever have asked for. Incredibly entertaining, incredibly talented and perfectly fitted to close off an evening of – quite literally – space age entertainment.

 

CONCLUSIONS

This was a remarkable evening of music; not a perfect one, but a line that added a touch of other-worldliness to the proceedings with a certain defiance. I could never label any of these ‘Goth’ bands, and that makes me enormously happy.

The lineups at Goth Weekend are far smarter than anybody ever seems to realise; they’re built to get people talking and sell tickets, of course – and I’ve not seen a Goth Weekend that has done otherwise – that may seem obvious, but beyond that they do have engineering behind them. They do have direct themes, a mingling of matching flavours – sometimes they even put bands alongside their major influences, or vice-versa.

In tonight’s set there was a certain sci-fi edge, however subtle it may be – there’s a strong link of themes between Lene Lovich and The Red Paintings, and their artistic approach to music. Both have the power to confuse an audience, and, as a result, felt like a great link in. Considering I never picked this up beforehand, this was a pleasant surprise. It added a flow to the evening’s offering and

April the 22nd was a beautifully genre-defying evening of discovery. It’s been rather a while since I could say I’ve ‘learnt’ from a Goth Weekend, but by Friday is was clear that I would be learning from April 2016’s event. I left the Spa enormously excited for what tomorrow may hold. Will it continue? Well, find out tomorrow…

Marvellous!

WWW.WHITBYGOTHWEEKEND.CO.UK

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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