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, Louise, Debs, Jo, Magenta, Midjet (and the upcoming mini-Midjet) Andy, Paul and Shelley.
ABBEY WHARF – NIGHT ONE – NIGHT TWO (coming soon!)
Help! Where’s that thirteenth top hat? Where’s my cravat? Oh good grief, has another badge dropped off of my jacket?
Whitby Goth Weekend‘s main event is here! And, as we strode through Whitby town from our favourite haunts to the Pavilion – through the crowds of pantomime dress ups and Hallowe’en costumes – we found ourselves all too eager to kick off and start our role in the Alternative world’s greatest seaside party.
it was already clear that a huge atmosphere was building.
Perhaps it was the cold conditions, marked by a bitter wind floating from the great beyond behind those two iconic piers. Maybe the hole in my tailcoat lining. Perhaps it was simply the fact hundreds of Goths had lined the Pavilion’s walls, awaiting the kickoff to one of music’s finest indoor festivals, with a well equipped bar, cafe and plenty of space and seating…
It’s yet another year in the belt of Whitby Goth Weekend; a lofty accomplishment for any music festival. And with Whitby Goth Weekend remaining fully independent, and continuously operating without financing, it’s really a bit of a miracle. It’s rather unfortunate that so many seek to imitate, to muzzle in on its business, and even more of a shame that so many cynics seem so willing to drag it through the mud; there really is no strict agenda behind WGW. It’s an effort of friends and family to maintain a cultural (or rather, subcultural) icon – and the result really is something beautiful.
This irks me, predominantly, because I am honoured to have the rare view of being part of it all. It doesn’t mean I always enjoy the bands (so those reading this and taking a sigh of relief should maintain their guard) and it can sometimes even mean vicious arguments, but the simple fact is that there is no profit, no agenda and no forced red tape to WGW. I dare say many would be surprised at the simple aims and grass roots running of the weekend. It’d make a fine documentary if it wasn’t so sweary and filled with cake.
So what did that group of misfits, weirdos, glamourpusses, spice girl propagandists and more bring you this time? Read on…
Whitby Spa Pavilion, October 27th 2017
Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons
Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons; what can I say that hasn’t already been said? If you haven’t witnessed them live yet, you’re missing out. In fact, you’re rather committing a crime unto yourself. This trio are easily one of the best touring bands in the country. Nobody is going to say Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons will fill a stadium. The band recognise that too: They’re the best out there at what they do – the ultimatum in touring rock groups. From image, to lyrics, to presentation, to merch stand – it has been polished up, preened and prepared for anything.
No, they aren’t going to go on barnstorming worldwide tours and they’re not likely to be in the charts. (Oh nooo, never mind…) But as a dynamic, tightly run ship with catchy tunes that match up beautifully to a few drinks and a good night out? We’ve seen much of what the scene has to offer and this rowdy bunch top it every time.
Every time they roam the Pavilion stage, they’re tighter, louder and their sound deeper and darker. It’s a trend that seems to follow with each album; the sound gets more harsh and biting, while still maintaining that quirky, humorous fashion and exaggerated personality that makes them so utterly endearing.
The Johnsons magic was there: those utterly infectious riffs rumbled across the Pavilion’s hall with reckless abandon, Puss stomped across the stage with her usual attitude (cattitu- no, enough of the cat puns), Antz came at the drums like a careening steamroller, and Jake entered that familiar, swaying trance of a cobra ready to strike. The highlight has to be, for me, when during ‘Midnight Motorway’, members of the audience as far back as halfway through the hall joined in with…
Soft verges, hard urges. Soft verges, hard urges. Soft verges, hard urges…
Christ, that is a catchy hook, isn’t it?
I can’t imagine the adrenaline that comes from performing a Puss set when simply witnessing it unfold hits you hard enough in the ribs to knock you for six. Even when the odd bum note or technical issue hits – and there were a couple, the curse of the first band of WGW being a consistent risk – The band’s style and identity makes that very unimportant. It was all worked beautifully into the show.
It’s evident that this is one of the fan favourites at Whitby Goth Weekend for good reason – all they need next is climbing further up the set; they’ve more than enough material to do far greater than a first band slot, and twice the raw passion and excitement – even experience – of many headliners.
Hands Off Gretel
Hands Off Gretel are back – due to popular demand, I might add, and once again pulled off a fantastic show; but did it top expectations?
This group are a great example of a young band that just doesn’t switch off; Lauren Tate lives and breathes her project. She doesn’t quit, nor do her bandmates or her family, which results in a technicolour treat for the senses every single time. Her music, while perhaps a little ‘safer’ than the band’s early days, really has got the power to make people move.
With their unique colour palettes, strong visual identity and riot grrl attitude, Hands Off Gretel are always going to be a tough ‘brand’ to knock – they’ve really got it all sorted, and as those crunchy, amp-rattling riffs sound off to Lauren’s melodic vocal, you know you can settle in to a professional show planned within an inch of its life. It’s a quality performance; a quality show that’s very difficult to top.
Saying that, to return to our original question – did it top expectations? Can the band top their own debut? That’s a bit more of a complicated answer; their debut show at WGW was just so damned good. And as the band evolves, it’s difficult to really work out if they are the same beast. Regardless of your feelings, the band were enormously well received and hugely popular with the crowd once again, of course – they’ve very much got a home at WGW, and I dare say it’s one for life.
A huge range of favourites were rattled through song by song, and while I still wish a bit more room was given to Lauren’s vocals on stage, the grungey, uproarious punk sound that has made the band such a solidified part of the Goth Weekend repertoire was still out in full force, and resulted in a particularly fine part of the evening. There are many bands that would break a sweat knowing they were sat between Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons and the Membranes on one night, but Hands Off Gretel can take just about anything in their stride and ride the wave with the best of them.
However, I do need to point out that something with the presentation seemed off: almost as if the band were working off of eachother rather than the audience, who they just didn’t seem to be paying that much attention to. Mired further with what felt like an excess of strobe lighting, I can’t say this is the best HOG performance I’ve seen – perhaps the charm of that nervous, pounding debut is simply how I prefer the band on stage. It happens!
Probably just my own view; c’est la vie – It was still a fantastic performance and I’ve no doubt they’ll be back again very, very soon.
Now this was a payoff. At first I wasn’t so sure with The Membranes. I’m not the most acquainted with their music, and their astrophysical theme is a difficult one to immediately connect with; thankfully, if there’s one thing John Robb knows, it’s how to introduce himself to an audience.
It took me a little while; but after a few tracks I was completely into it.
With deep, chugging tones, a rattling vocal and a sound so dark, deep and vast, it’s little wonder that The Membranes match up beautifully with their spacey focus. Under washes of deep blue lighting, it really does feel like some sort of cosmic journey through time and the universe itself. It’s a masterpiece of atmosphere; and bloody good music too.
John Robb himself is a very, very charismatic frontman – one of the best I’ve seen. He constantly communicates, and does so in such a way that thrusts the audience into an equal limelight; he indulges his fans, spots those with Membranes tattoos, even takes song requests. He makes a real circus out of a great live show, and gets the audience reaction for it. He creates that feeling of something bigger the moment he steps foot onto the stage and continues it with relentless energy until it’s over; letting the audience crash back down to earth in an exhilarating freefall.
With WGW’s audience having a slightly older resident age than many festivals in the United Kingdom, I’ve no doubt there were a few in the Spa who were there when the Membranes first hit the scene in 1977, met with the pleasure of reconnecting with a group who evidently never left their prime. With a continuous passion, throbbing energy and explosive, relentless music on stage, this was a group that will drag you, kicking and screaming, into its circle – and remind you just how significant the world of space and its outer reaches really are.
Oh yes – make no mistake. The Membranes impacted like an asteroid.
Theatre of Hate
It’s time for our headliner already?! The night has really thundered along effortlessly, and now we’re on our final act for the evening, I don’t quite know what to do with myself.
Kirk Brandon and his projects very rarely require introduction, and the room was already filling with Brandon fans as the stage was prepared. I was already looking forward to the proceedings, but one thing in particular peaked it.
Saxophones. Yes please!
I love seeing brass or double bass striking on the Pavilion Stage, and as the music kicks in I often feel this proves itself outright. It’s nothing new, but it adds an extra dimension with stunning ease and an effortless cool. Musically, the band provided a luxurious, top-tier post punk show with a classy, smooth and well pampered coat; it’s no longer at its most aggressive, and the band no longer seem to seek that angle – instead, it just feels – well, like a luxury.
It’s fair to say that Kirk Brandon himself was the highlight of the set, but it wasn’t due to his tunefulness. No, Kirk proved above all an enormous amount of passion – an incredible effort laid out to the audience that almost looked a little painful. Mr. Brandon’s voice isn’t where it used to be, and while he runs a risk of criticism, I honestly can’t give it. He’s lived a life, and it’s brought him to entertaining hundreds at Whitby Goth Weekend, and doing it pretty bloody well.
I would be more critical if he seemed lax or uninterested in his show; but the opposite was true. As a band they pumped out classic after classic, breathlessly creating a beautifully diverse and excitable set – as a vocalist, Kirk Brandon may not have hit every note, but hammered every single syllable with so much enthusiasm that I found it utterly impossible not to enjoy.
The best headliner in Goth Weekend history? Maybe not. One of the most passionate? Undoubtedly. And a fine closer for what was a superb night of music.
Theatre of Hate are an antithesis of headliners treating it as ‘another day in the office’ – This show felt like it really mattered; and at this stage of a band’s career, that’s both hugely important and a huge compliment to the festival itself.
The line up for WGW Winter 2017 has been built with a lot of popular returnees – and while there maybe wasn’t so much we could dub as ‘new’ on the Pavilion Stage this Friday, it can be lauded as being utterly superb; a specialist gift box of tunes and personalities thrown into the crowd. It’s a gift that kept on giving – a night that seemed uninterested in stopping for breath. I rather feel that each artist fed off of the previous act’s energy – each act seemed superbly matched and made for a consistent, punk addled theme that matched Cat on the Wall’s tastes to a tee.
The evening was a bright, colourful grup of people who seemed, most of all, utterly invested and dedicated to what they do. Their passion fed into the crowd’s – and while it wasn’t the busiest WGW in the event’s history, it was one of the finest I’ve been to in terms of pure vibe.
Will this trend continue? Does WGW have a further, delicious ace up its sleeve? What could tomorrow hold?
Join us again soon as we tackle Saturday’s line up… keep that cigar lit, prepare the kippers and… go on, another pint of stout never did anybody any harm.
ABBEY WHARF – NIGHT ONE – NIGHT TWO (coming soon!)
Next Event On 27th – 29th of April 2018