Photographs by Zhaos Photography.
The Cat on the Wall crew™ is: Jordan Mooney, Matthew Sambrook, Kane Foster, Eddie Eales and Ross Eales.
With thanks to Jo, Jem, Magenta, Mark, Sarah, Dave, Mandy, Louise, Andy, Pete and Deborah.
Is it really that time of year already? As Cat on the Wall’s work with Whitby Goth Weekend steadily increases, the time to actually get things done fettles away at a despicable pace. Once again, our day of departure was marked by frantic rushing for lists, notebooks, cravats, socks, HDMI cables… etcetera, etcetera. Such as seems to be Goth Weekend tradition.
It’s a bizarre experience, waking up and realising you’re off for another week of seaside musical chaos; but we wouldn’t have it any other way. It tends to hit – we find – when the stunning drive through the North Yorkshire Moors serves to prove just how secluded the town of Whitby truly is. It’s a pertinent reminder that, once you’re there, it’ll swallow you up in its own little microculture; a land of freshly caught seafood, cobbled streets, terrible weather (!) and beautiful old architecture – a combination that, in our eyes, it has no competition for.
Many people tell us that Whitby, by rights, should be completely routine for us by now -a bi-annual break, non-stop for three years, isn’t something that to many’s ears should be a special occasion. I often find that’s said by people who have never been to Whitby or, indeed, Goth Weekend – it is a special occasion; every one is a unique experience and no other event I know has the same level of sincerity, informality and independent approach.
It’s as infectious as the ‘Whurgy’ – it’s an inescapably eccentric experience that’s dedicated not only to becoming a safe haven for the alternative and their sometimes difficult walks of life, but also to allow others to understand it. It opens its arms – it doesn’t discriminate. If you’ve never been, it’s often a learning process – if you’ve been continuously, well – it can still show you something new.
There’s nothing quite like it: many have tried to imitate, but all have failed.
Now, without further ado, we’ve much to talk about and plenty of words to do it in. Let’s go!
The Bizarre Bazaar
The bazaar is effectively what the event runs by; the traders are essential to Goth Weekend and it’s still one of the finest alternative markets in Europe. There’s not much that can really compete with what the Bazaar does, but the incredibly high rebooking rate can make it start to seem very stale after a couple of visits. The food stalls are always a good stop, naturally, but I do find myself browsing the market less and less. The lack of diversification and even interest or willingness to change their products can make it rather frustrating – particularly when some stalls end up selling the same items for different prices.
This isn’t something the event can be held responsible for; it’s the traders only really having what…well, what they’ve got. I’d love to see a touch more of a shrewd approach to how Whitby Goth Weekend is treated, but I don’t really have answer for the problem either. A little bit more in the way of engagement would, I feel, set them apart; but how does one engage hundreds of people when so many prove to be ‘window shopping’?
Of course, all of the classic fixtures still stand there proud – the Fudge Bar, Anne Sudworth‘s incredible artwork, the antique and curio stalls, the umpteen sources of classic accoutrements such as hats and waistcoats. The market looks and feels as spectacular as ever; but I wonder how long it is until everybody’s bought what they want and simply decides not to bother next year…
Of course, I’m also a skintflint who hates spending money; perhaps I take a rathermore cynical approach in these things by nature.
One thing I am not cynical towards, however, is this weekend’s line up. And, speaking of, I think it’s about time we got into it, isn’t it? Without further ado…
The Line Up
It’s time to up sticks, climb the winding roads to the Spa Pavilion and settle in. It’s time for the reason we’re all here – the live music, and one of the most eclectic and fascinating line ups of returnees and old favourites we’ve ever seen. Friday night looked spectacular from the moment it was announced. Did it hold up to expectation? Saddle up kiddies, and we’ll soon find out!
Is this one of the strongest WGW debuts in history? Kicking off with the cacophonous screams of guitar that sounds utterly possessed, Healthy Junkies feel huge. Beyond a fantastic wardrobe, there’s a real burning rock and roll atmosphere to this lot that’s willing to singe away the hair of your ears and make sure that, no matter quite where you’re standing, there’s a real show on display.
Guitarist, Phil Jones, looks almost effortless on stage – it’s as if his guitar is just another limb, as he goes around the stage barely acknowledging the work of his own fingers on a cacophony of riffs and chords. It was rather unworldly, and if he were anywhere else I dare say he’d be burned as witch.
The Junkies sound so impeccably practised and beautifully choreographed (in a particularly punk rock, organic way, of course) that it’s hard to pick a fault. What makes it so naturally attractive is that the moment those shrieking guitars go silent, Nina‘s stunning, hefty vocal dies down into a speaking voice and manner that’s incredibly welcoming – and even nervous. There’s a real humanity to how they approached Goth Weekend for the first time, and it serves as a fine reminder of how important this sort of slot can be. I’ve known very few bands to level such immense talent with such a strong hospitality.
Superb doesn’t even cut through the crust of what Healthy Junkies has to offer Goth Weekend. Incredible charisma, infectious vocals, and stunning guitar guitarwork bring it dangerously close to Riot Grrrl; with a hefty lashing of what makes punk rock truly great.
After an already fantastic set, the Junkies embarked on one of the most dramatic closures of a set I think I’ve ever seen. The guitar was passed to Nina, whom swiftly forced out the sound of pure fucking war cry from its (by now extremely tender) strings, down on her knees – to the screams of the audience who would be no more enthused if it was a rock god of sixty years on stage.
This is a group of proper rock and roll showmen and women, absolutely limitless in their ability to push what a ‘small group’ is capable of doing. Tonight pushed the limits of the ‘first slot’ to breaking point. The first band has the biggest mountains to climb of any group on the line up – Nina and her cronies steamrolled those mountains flat.
I don’t give a damn will be in my head for weeks.
- Departing from usual or accepted standards, especially in social or sexual behaviour.
I could probably finish my review here, couldn’t I?
I really do love Deviant UK. Have done since I first saw them on stage at WGW. They’re so over the top and hedonistic that they demand attention – even if it’s for somebody’s Nan to voice disapproval while wiggling a finger.
In another of Jay, Cheryl and Hig Le-Hig’s worldending sets, the pavilion once again became a leather-clad nightclub. Jay doesn’t just love being on stage. It feels like he lives it. He sweats enthusiasm, bleeds sincerity and goes through every minute with that tiniest bit of self depreciating cheekiness that makes him difficult to love; but impossible not to like. He is effectively the finest example of a club performer, the Gothique popstar to end all popstars. The Gary Numan figure that people attach to; look to for a good time whatever the weather. (Although I don’t think he has a pilot’s license. Yet.)
The sheer energy, enthusiasm and dominating persona Deviant UK have built is irreplaceable. His songs are beautifully orchestrated – in a very savage, unyielding way – to hit people on the breast and knock them onto their feet. If more artists could tap into that Jay Smith formula, I don’t think anybody could replicate them even passably. Stark lighting, a sodden brow, raging guitar and a stage personality to end all stage personalities all guarantee that any Deviant UK performance will be as memorable as a show can be – especially when coupled up to a series of (often slightly near the bone) visuals on the screen behind, and a thrusting excitement that can only be satisfied by a rock hard, throbbing… bassline.
The audience was, naturally, immensely receptive – if Jay screamed, they screamed. Dances start at random. Mosh pits aren’t impossible. Half of the audience’s mascara and white foundation swiftly flooded down their shirts as the atmosphere became hotter and hotter; like they were being confronted by a supernova of strobes and bass.
As the man said himself…
Whitby. Thank you so much for tonight. It’s been amazing. Deviant UK is back.
The entire thing is so gloriously self-indulgent and over the top; a masterpiece of everything that could corrupt the innocent Goths into something far darker. We’d best keep Deviant UK our dirty little secret, or the country’s done for.
And with what seemed like a snap of the fingers, it was all over. Wait, what? What happened? Did anybody get the license plate of that lorry…? Etc.
After what I felt was an unusually poor show last time they performed, I was concerned it was unrealistic to hedge high hopes on Bad Pollyanna. However, when we were given the treat of an – immensely theatrical – hospital video being used for their introduction, I found myself taking a couple of steps back; Bad Pollyanna seem to have their edge back. It’s heavier, harder and feels far more like the group is primed for success; like they have their mojo back. The audience still adore them, that much is sure – I doubt that ever changed, naturally – but that little murmur of cynicism I was beginning to hear in the Gothic circles seemed pretty well extinguished with the first note.
I think that if BP work more towards this new theatrical edge – and concentrate on a stage show primed for Olivia‘s obvious skill as a frontwoman – they’ve got a chance to top everything they’ve done. The world isn’t in their way; a bit of extra creativity in their live presentation is already proving beneficial. I hope it continues and the band climb their way back to what was already in their reach.
With a great set of old classics and the odd new feature, the band’s progression is made perfectly clear – the guitars are crunchier, the sound is thicker, gooier and louder – hits harder, hits longer and gets an audience moving even more than they already had a penchant for. There’s also a costume change in the set, more motion from all of the band – it just feels like they’re having more fun.
Extra nods have to go to COTW favourite Eloise Kerry joining Olivia on stage for an incredible duet. It feels so good to finally see her on the main stage at WGW – and the two complimented and commanded eachother flawlessly.
This is the best Bad Pollyanna have been for what feels like a long, long time – I hope this is going to be the start of a long, long streak of success. More theatrics, more movement, more excitement. That’s all we need to get a full head of steam back into the boiler of the beast.
Superb. I look forward to the future!
Toyah is Toyah. She’s irresistibly enthusiastic, bouncy and infectiously happy when she’s on stage; and her performances at Goth Weekend always charm even the most cynical of the audience. She’s still not quite my thing – the 80s don’t dredge up an enormous amount of nostalgia for me (as I happened to not exist at the time) but her sheer passion for what she does is impossible to ignore.
A lot of her audience are likely ‘old friends’ to her music and have seen her perform umpteen times under several musical guises. Most of the audience will have at the very least seen her on television. Like it or lump it, Toyah is effectively engrained into British pop culture, the art world and more – and you don’t gain those kinds of credentials without a sense of playing to an audience.
Bedazzled in what looked like several thousand silver sequins, Toyah played to the usual lofty standards that people expect; catchy synths, the odd quip, a humble attitude – and a lot of dancing. Even if I can’t claim to be a Toyah fan (Toyahns? Is there a term for Toyah fans? Please do inform.) It’s obvious as to why so many people love her.
While this is effectively another day in the office for Miss Willcox, you would never think it by her unbridled enthusiasm. She’s always a great show, and while I can still never claim to be a fan or even particularly knowledgeable on what she does, I can certainly appreciate her presence.
Friday is testament to the fun one can have at Goth Weekend. It tipped convention on its head; it’s one thing to have stalwarts like Toyah and Bad Pollyanna perform WGW, but it’s another thing entirely to get them alongside more ‘challenging’ acts like Deviant UK and Healthy Junkies, who – for me, at least – managed to storm the evening with their delightful levels of excess.
I always tend to get particularly attached to Friday Nights at Whitby Goth, and here is no exception. Wonderfully over the top, wonderfully varied, and with something for everybody. Marvellous stuff, and a great night for all.
Special bonus: Our photographer’s next best pic(k)s…