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 Rachel, Lara, Shelley, Paul, Andy & Baz Duarte and the inimitable Mr. Savage.
Whitby. We awaken in the midst of miserable weather and a cloud of mysterious, black velvet darkness. Only to realise we had passed out in our tailcoats only the night before.
It turns out, this Goth Weekend was proving particularly busy. And particularly tiring. But the fun had already begun, and was bound to continue: After another day roaming Whitby’s streets and the Bizarre Bazaar, and as night began to fall, we made our way back to the Pavilion for another night of tuneful (and impeccably dressed) entertainment.
Tonight, there’s two new faces to Goth Weekend – one fiercely anticipated, and the other a good friend of ours – rubbing shoulders with two WGW ‘Classics’ in the two ruling slots. It sounds like a fine mix to me; but how will it hold up on stage?
Dock your top hat to a roguish angle, chaps – we’ve no more preamble, and we think it’s about time to begin…!
Magic Eight Ball
Magic Eight Ball are good friends of Cat on the Wall, and seeing them live really proves as to why we rate them so highly. There’s a love, a passion and relentless excitement to their dynamic. We’ve covered what they are many times before; it’s lovely to see a heavy rock group with a clean, smooth vocal. A vocal born for pop and radio play, coupled up with riffs and drums capable of rattling the brain. It’s a rare thing with an all-male entourage, and the result is utterly fantastic.
It’s the sound of a delicate and meticulous approach blown through the speakers at 11 – polished up beautifully and preened – resplendent with “graveyard” make up and skeletal suit. Catchy tracks, soulful vocals and a sense of real scale all go part and parcel into a master package. Particular tip of the hat does have to go to Mr. Doling, who may well be the most charismatic drummer I’ve ever seen on stage!
The first band, as has often been stated, has a difficult task when they set foot on that stage. Technical issues are more likely and often ‘iron out’ for later acts (though tonight will forever be known as the night of the demon drumkit) – despite this, Baz and his cronies soldiered on relentlessly through some unusually difficult sound issues. The drums tried to run away from the considerable hammerblow more than once, and Whitby Goth’s valiant Mr. Savage constantly leapt up to catch it before a disaster took place. I’m afraid that M8B may have not got the ‘proper’ experience of Whitby Goth Weekend, and as a result, the audience may not have had it either – but I didn’t hear a negative word, the room was full and people were having fun. With a good band, even the most difficult shows won’t stop talent, I suppose.
I got the impression that Mr. Francis really hammed up the spooky edge when cavorting on stage; I’m unsure if this is the usual approach of Magic Eight Ball, or if it’s quite representing their vast repertoire of styles and themes. I’d probably recommend toning it down a little bit here and there for the group’s personality to shine: It was very entertaining, but I wonder if this could cause any new fans to become disappointed?
By the time Keep Me Out of the Sunlight was playing, the audience seemed to have really opened arms to the jaunty approach Eight Ball had at their finger tips – it’s elegant, it’s tuneful, but it’s got a certain dark, oily atmosphere that runs throughout the back catalogue like an electrified wire.
Not only was it delightful to finally meet our friends at long last, but it was even more delightful to see them perform – even if it was against the odds. I hope to see them back very soon; hopefully with less in the way of technical difficulties.
The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing
The Men have been enormously anticipated at WGW for years – hefty punk tunes inspired by Victorian figures of engineering and invention? That’s practically our taste laid out on paper! There’s nothing quite like this rabble – they’re uniquely well researched and thorough in their treatment of a very British history of engineering, science and technology – with a storybook treatment and irresistible sense of humour that forms a surprisingly attractive series of dark fairytales.
Their passion for their subject is what makes their cheeky sense of humour really shine. The Men have often been dubbed as dousing the usual steampunk themes with far more punk attitude. Rowdy chants, simple – albeit catchy – riffs, and lots of big leather boots: This makes them seem far more convincing stalwarts of Victorian work culture than most of the big Victoriana groups in Alternative circles. There’s no room for elegance, only for a rampant dousing of paraffin lubricant in a hot, sticky environment of thrashing cylinders. Andy Heintz, Andrew O’Neill, Marc Burrows and Jez Miller are simply irreplaceable for how many filthy, sooty chunks of imagery they can spit from their musical furnace at a breakneck pace.
The band were obviously excited to be there, but the audience’s thrill is what really got my attention. For their first time performing, they obviously have quite a reputation with the attendees – People sang along, cheered, pumped fists – if it wasn’t for the bowler hats and long jackets, you might have convinced me The Damned were performing.
The set only got better and better as the band ‘bedded in’, and by the end of the line (hoho! Railway puns!) it seemed like it had ground to a halt all too soon. A longer set in future, please. Absolutely superb – and I’d even be tempted to dub it one of the highlights of the evening.
To put it simply, as a bit of a railway and engineering historian myself, any band with a song of Isambard Kingdom Brunel gets my attention. I could turn Cat on the Wall into a Brunel-based Zine tomorrow if I felt like it; so hearing his name shouted from atop that stage brought a real smile to my face.
Yeah well…I’m not a lot of men!
This is my second time seeing Abney Park live at WGW, and I’ve ultimately come to the conclusion they’re simply not my thing. That’s very subjective, hardly suitable for a review, but I can’t quite fight off the feeling I’m missing something when they perform.
The audience adore them, they’re one of the founding parties of Steampunk, yet they never actually manage to grab my attention. For a group with their enormous variety of instrumental skill and talent, their communication feels lacking. I want to know about their narrative, I want to see a stage show – but the wardrobe and theme still feels disconnected.
Robert Brown is a smashing vocalist, full of charisma and a charming, cheeky personality that suits their somewhat post-apocalyptic, lone ranger premise perfectly. His band are superbly creative, and never lack passion, weaving extravagant tales of times that never were; all in costume, all in great confidence. But I’m never fully immersed, I never feel like I’m really part of it all. I can get into a song and enjoy it, but a theatrical group feels like it should be providing more to display their immense achievement.
In my last review of Abney Park I found the same stumbling block; do you interrupt the music for your narrative or do you just try to make the narrative reflect in your lyrics? For me, there is really no ‘correct approach’. I find their work and their themes extremely fascinating, but the lack of presence of it on stage frustrates me.
There’s something really, truly great in Abney Park’s formula – their popularity is proof of this alone – I’m simply unable to tap into it. I feel like on a conceptual level there’s a lot more that can, feasibly, be done to make them feel more like a whole. I just can’t explain what.
New York, USA
When Voltaire performs, there’s always a certain sense that he truly connects with his audience and views them as friends just as readily as fans, and for whatever reason, on that dark, cold night on April 22nd, he seemed to really open up and talk to us like that precious old friend that you simply couldn’t bear to lose. He explained the darkest periods in his life, he spoke to us about what he’s seen and done – and while a loose chatter is a common component in his stage presence, this seemed like the first time we weren’t watching a performance or some cabaret banter, but, instead, we were really talking to the man himself.
Yes, it probably meant skipping a track or two, but the importance could really be seen by the audience, who fell silent, listened intently – some even had tears in their eyes, some were holding hands. The atmosphere changed into something very, very different.
Whether it was Voltaire’s intention or not, every member of that 750+ audience seemed united as one; no matter how brief it was.
This isn’t to say that there wasn’t the usual ribaldry and bawdiness that has made his performances so acclaimed; oh no. Voltaire’s lark was there in spades, his unique brand of rude, kooky and spooky songwriting thoroughly strung across the Spa’s stage, cast out like leathery wings on display. His incredible charisma mean that even as just one man, a guitar and a bottle of rum, he doesn’t look lost against the vast backdrop. His grin is infectious, his enjoyment is obvious – but that’s all a standard part of his show. This is the first time I could honestly say it felt like he was taking every Goth in that room by the hand, looking them in the eye and saying ‘I know how you feel’.
It was a particularly fitting as a closing note; we’re all together in that room at the Pavilion, perched ever so precariously atop Whitby’s cliff face. No matter how much it rains, hails, snows, or shines outside, we’re united in a love for music, good company and a good drink.
From the man’s personality alone, this headliner slot was particularly beautiful – and it was all driven home with the audience on stage for “When You’re Evil” – such is tradition.
It was an interesting line up of bands for April 2017 – and spread across the entirety of the town, a particularly fascinating landscape of people from every genre and walk of life. I’ll always maintain that the unique edge to Whitby Goth Weekend is its incredible diversity, and willingness to cater to any and all genres within the alternative circle.
There’s simply no time for a Goth to frown when there’s so much to see, hear and do – and that’s why, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll never see a sad one in Whitby.
If you’ve never been to Whitby Goth Weekend, you’re seriously missing out. It’s peerless in what it provides for its audience; and I dare say you’ll never find anything quite like it.
We couldn’t possibly imagine a year without a visit. So it’s just as well we get two…!
What else is there to say? It’s another impressive notch on the belt of Goth Weekend’s broadening horizons – a great line up, great performances, and most of all – great company.
If you crossed paths with us at Whitby Goth, I extend a formal tip of the topper – thank you. Every new person we meet, every friend we embrace, every hand we shake – it all helps make every event that little bit better. We love all of you very dearly.
Special bonus: Our Photographer’s next best pic(k)s…