It’s taken a long time but we’re finally ready to talk about WGW Halloween 2014 – and it wasn’t an easy one. This night is a mixed bag, folks. It might even prove a touch..controversial. Remember these opinions are those of one man. Should you disagree? So be it..! We shan’t claim to be right all the time, ladies and gents, but we hope that you, at the very least, believe us to be fair.
By Jordan Mooney.
Photographs by Zhaos Photography.
“When do we stop calling this a music event and start calling it a genuine phenomenon?”
That was the question I asked my friends on both the 31st of October and 1st of November as it took us over fifteen minutes to amble across the 75ft Victorian swing bridge that acts as a sole central connection between Whitby’s famous cliffs.
I asked a similar question of the people running the famous Sherlock‘s coffee shop on Flowergate after eventually getting a table after numerous attempts over three days.
I also asked a similar question of our favourite promoter, Mr. Eddie Eales, after bumping into him in a constant ocean wave of people very peacefully dressed in black, lace, leather and brass.
Everybody I asked said they had never seen such crowds of the beautiful and grotesque – and mentioned that the local businesses will be laughing.
It can’t be denied. This year’s sellout of Whitby Goth is a sure sign that the event is far from over yet – and a sure sign that the acts, at least on a name basis, were perfect for the event. But what really happened? Well, therein lies a few tales concerning our larger-than-usual line-up of nine musicians. Let us begin with Friday. In overtly sumptuous detail.
Friday was a day in which we walked over 20 miles according to our photographer’s pedometer.
To put this into perspective – Whitby is about five miles wide. Six miles at a push, including the very final straggling houses. (This is not scientific. I am not an expert on town boundaries.) Oh yes, people aren’t joking when they say Whitby Goth is almost like an endurance event – especially when one is decked in shirt, waistcoat, top hat and tailcoat…yet still feels somewhat underdressed.
The crowds were impressive, mostly built of beautiful, polite and very pleasant people who were simply there to explore a beautiful old town and see some beautiful things, such is the integral success of the weekend for both the community and the organisers themselves – there’s no conflict. The entire event, at its core, is peaceful and friendly.
After a meal of the world’s finest pies and potatoes at Humble Pie and Mash, our eatery of choice in Whitby (Look at who’s quoted in the menu. We’re genuinely not paid to say any of this stuff. We’re just very passionate about pies.) in a true 1940s surrounding – in a building built in the 1600s (We’re also huge history buffs.) – our day was bound to go rather well.
We spent the day sampling sights and getting our bearings in the picturesque town, generally trying to attain how the event itself was going. Without fail, Friday is usually the quietest time in the WGW calendar, followed by a huge rush on the following Saturday. This gives a first timer – or somebody who still hasn’t quite sampled everything the town was to offer – a day to get their bearings in full dress without looking too out of place.
As ever, the event seems to truly hold the town in its grasp, to a massive threshold – although a wash of photographers seem to now dominate the streets rather than the visitors of the event itself! The cultural significance of the event is clear, and as ever, from an aesthetic standpoint it carried a proud standard and a solid proof that Goth ain’t dead.
It must be said that the Bizarre Bazaar, the three-venue market of Whitby Goth, however, could do with a bit of a shuffle here and there. The impeccable crafts, impressive culinary delights and unusual antiques and eccentricities are always a sight to behold, and people such as the delightful Doctor Geof are now essential fixtures. These can’t be improved upon or missed by any self respecting visitors, but, with my third visit to the event, the retailers and shops making a presence there are beginning to look decidedly unimaginative. This isn’t under the authority of Whitby Goth themselves and it’s difficult to pretend there’s a solution. It’s simply that more variety would be appreciated. Perhaps a greater variety of stock, more unusual displays? Simply some variety and eccentricity to spice up their presence amongst the decidedly more…unusual people seen at the event.
I shan’t claim I didn’t enjoy walking about the venues – as I certainly did! But I find myself buying a little less with each visit. Perhaps it’s just the trait of a tight yorkshireman – but a few folk I did chat with had a somewhat similar outlook on the matter.
The event itself is becoming more diverse with every year. Why should the bazaar be any different?
Soon enough, after an incredibly tiring day of too many steps, we made our way to the Pavilion and settled in at our usual position – front of the audience, left bass speaker. Prepared to be deafened. The lights dimmed, the stage lights lit and expectations were high.
I, personally, did not have much of a clue on the Friday’s line up. I’m not a huge fan of ‘retro’ (buy your pitchforks here..!), so often these bits of the roster tend to hit me in the ‘unknown’ category when the audience goes wild for them. Out of the four bands on the set this evening, two were ‘old groups’ and two were relative whippersnappers. I’d not seen any of them in the past, and I’d only heard my dear mother remarking about how much she used to fancy Heaven 17‘s vocalist.
As a result, I often judge bands – no matter of age or presence, or even audience reaction, on the same threshold. Do they entertain? Do they sound good? Do I want to follow the group to the ends of the Earth? Do they communicate? The list goes on. This threshold will be placed on a group we’ve seen a hundred times just as much as a group we’ve seen once or twice.
Did I get this from all of tonight’s acts? Well… let’s kick off, shall we?
Reza Udhin (Vocals), Will Crewdson (Guitars)
Many people are quick to say that headliners have the hardest job in a live show. The biggest act with the biggest expectations placed upon them, the one that plays the longest set, and, often, the one most likely to have drawn the audience. The ‘big guns’.
However, I’m not convinced this is always the case – I believe the first act at WGW has the most work ahead of them when they’re signed up to that ‘slot’ on the setlist. They’re often the youngest, the one that holds the least sway, and, with few exceptions, has to provide the first glimpse of exciting atmosphere to capture an audience’s attention. With an audience of this size? Not an easy task. And I think this difficulty – at least for my notoriously stiff upper lip – was characterised by Halloween’s starting band.
Black Volition are a group that’s proven difficult to look back upon – as I can’t quite pick a subject of discussion. They’re a talented bunch! The singer can sing, the guitarist can strum and the electronic aspects of the group’s performance provided a decent selling point, but the only thing that really captured my attention was the group’s incredibly passionate drummer.
It’s impossible to put into words how damned enjoyable it was watching Black Volition’s drummer. His head shaking, chewing on his own moustache, completely lost in his own music. His drums sounded fantastic, perfectly in tone and reverberating far beyond his relatively modest role. To put it in a slighter less eloquent perspective, one member of our party said it looked like he was off his face. I doubt that he was, but I’ve never seen a man so satisfied doing what he does. Ironically, I don’t believe I ever heard his name and I can’t find a mention of it in the band’s media.
Unfortunately, nothing else really enraptured me or caught me. Do I think this was a misfire? Maybe for my personal tastes. I’m a lover of starting bands – I find they really throw their all into a loud, kickass performance to introduce themselves to a potentially massive group of new listeners.
I get the impression that Black Volition made effort, but I don’t get the impression they really pushed themselves. It felt suspiciously regular, and, unfortunately, that’s the one thing you can’t do on that pavilion’s stage. Ultimately, the biggest problem was the group came off as being far too calm. There were a few gentle foot tappers, and the higher tempo tracks seemed to perk things up a tad, but the group simply didn’t hit me in the way a lead-in band perhaps should. The atmosphere – at one point characterised by a spoken word track – they tried to bring didn’t provide a heavy hitter, either. Rather, it seemed to build expectation for something that didn’t materialise.
Now, there is nothing wrong with a slow pace, or a light, non-bombastic approach to your performance at Goth Weekend. It can work beautifully, but for it to work well at WGW – where people do enjoy loud noises and heavy beats, it would have to be something really rather stunning. Thinking along the lines of Jordan Reyne – a slow, elegant and beautiful performance worth the ticket price alone.
There was a lot of beauty trying to get out in Black Volition. I’m not sure if it ever did.
I’ve no doubt that they probably got a bullseye with a fair fraction of the audience – but I’m afraid it was too slow and lacked enough atmosphere to get me overly excited. I think it’s more likely that my own expectations – after fantastic opening acts every WGW we’ve attended thus far – were stacked a little too high.
Jay Smith (Vocals, diabolical mastermind), Cheryl (Keys), Mark Bartholomew (Drums)
In my last Whitby Goth Weekend, I made a point of mentioning that excessive strobes -for seemingly no purpose – isn’t a wise decision, as it often alienates an audience – specifically, those that have epilepsy or, effectively, any other difficulties with bright, flashing lights. WGW’s management maintained their usual high standards on this topic, and, with their usual fine manner, they read this feedback and sent me an explanation, apology and took it on board very sincerely.
Indeed, the event has taken this on board nicely, with signs around the venue warning that strobes will be a fixture of the evening. There were plenty of signs, very noticeable, too, and I think that much lauding is due to the people whom have really taken the time to react to a small bit of criticism.
However, my problem, personally, was more that the strobes displayed by New Model Army in April were pointless. They played no thematic purpose – and made for a very cluttered sort of visual. The tempo wasn’t high enough to justify it, it didn’t work with the songs, and, simply, it struck me as a bit…daft. I’m a fussy man with my lighting – I believe it’s an essential part of a gig and has to always be done correctly. So when thematics are thrown out or ruined by a fixture that isn’t really required? I’ll complain.
Simply, strobes are perfect if you’ve got a group that’s trying to emulate a nightclub, or just trying to be gloriously overindulgent and celebrate the excessive.
These labels fit the second performer on the setlist, Deviant, perfectly.
Deviant’s performance is one I can’t help but rave about. It was high-octane, full of a real atmosphere, and the people that make up this group clearly understand how to go in hard and heavy. (Ooh matron!) Jay Smith is loud, overactive and blatantly lives for what he does. He’s a party animal – there’s no other term. Despite being no small fellow, he can thrash around more than most kids I’ve met, and brings a ton of energy to the stage without fault. Deviant have become such a big name, he’s rather along the lines of an alternative pop star. He strikes as a pure winner, a born frontman – and he brings an absolute circus to the stage effortlessly.
The entire group forms a formidable display of compete overindulgence. There is a shit ton of strobes. And I mean that. It’s near enough constant. But it’s what the band are. This outfit are disruptive by nature – it’s like a gathering of Goths taking over a club in Ibiza. The result is a group that pulls you in by the collar, cravat or corset cord and throws itself at you.
It’s an incredibly exhausting experience. The group are like an entire week’s worth of debauchery hitting you in about half an hour. It flies by with such intensity that one almost expected the sound barrier to break. It’s a group that lives and breathes for the performance, and so help me, it was bloody fantastic.
It’s a bit of a shame that those with adversity to strobes might be unable to view a Deviant performance…but I can’t imagine this rabble performing without. By nature of their performance, it’s part and parcel. Thematically, it seems essential. And as long as the lighting makes sense? I’m all for it. Deviant are a fairly regular visitor to WGW and it’s easy to see why. It’s loud, it’s hyperactive, it’s full of debauchery and terrible morals. And it’s a ton of fun. Brilliant.
Steve Strange (Vocals), Steve Barnacle (Bass), Lauren Duvall (Vocals), Robin Simon (Drums)
This is a difficult one. Visage are a hugely popular group from days gone by – a true cornerstone of the 80s era of the ‘alt’ movement – and they seemingly had a fair following in the evening’s audience. They’re pretty influential in the alternative movement (close friends with the legendary Bowie, don’tcha know!) and it’s pretty clear a lot of people – organisers, staff and audience alike – were excited to have them on stage.
I tried to like the performance. Really, I did.
But this was …not a favourite, to say the least.
The group’s vocalist, the famous Steve Strange, from what was communicated, was ill, but it must be said that this wasn’t the only problem with the show they provided. To start with, their methods of performing are, at least, to me, a touch bizarre. Visage are not exactly known for their noise or shouting into a microphone. They’re a bit more atmospheric than that. Slow crooning, some even teetering on spoken word is normally the standard set down by their more legendary material. Yet throughout the set, vocals were shouted into the microphone rather than…well, sang. If one is ill, one doesn’t shout, in my experience. Maybe I’m missing something?
I’m always crossed on these old groups – it’s a continuous trend that they rarely ‘click’ with me. But this is the first time I can categorically declare it as a performance I just didn’t like.
The biggest issue is simply that the group are supposed to be capable of much better. They seemed to be making an effort, good grief did Steve himself seem to be trying his hardest! ..But their songs were poorly replicated, and the band themselves performing with very little in the way of passion. The synths were a decent capture of the group’s past hits, but it was the only thing that provided a glimmer of what the band are actually meant to sound like.
The use of the screen – a fixture I don’t recall seeing at WGW in the past – nice touch, too – To show their music videos, more than anything increased my curiosity for what the band are meant to be performing. The result is, it has to be said, a complete world away. And I simply don’t understand their poor showing.
I only wish that there was a saving grace here. I’ve got nothing of positive matter to discuss apart from the fact that they are old boys of the alt movement and it was nice to have them ‘ticked off’ of the WGW list. The synthesisers carried some good sound but nothing else embodied beyond this lacklustre compliment.
I doubt I’ll chase them down in future for a second showing.
Now, I understand that Visage’s members have been through the grinder a touch over their music careers, particularly in the form of drug usage and the odd scarring that they’ll be living with for the rest of their life. And I’ve always found it quite impressive that they have been relatively open about the matter. But one can’t help but stumble upon a really unfortunate conclusion:
“When is it time to throw in the towel?”
And I know I’ll be blitzed for that one. And it’s not a recommendation, either. I just wonder if this is a ‘standard’ performance, and, if so, how long it can continue.
I suppose for those older audience members, those with a true nostalgia for the group’s output, it would form a much more positive experience. I honestly can’t recall how the masses reacted. But as a man with little connection? It was difficult to hide my relief when they stepped off of the stage.
Sheffield, UK (at least, originally!)
Glenn Gregory (Vocals), Martyn Ware (Vocals, Keyboards)
Asa Bennett (Guitar), Julian Crampton (Bass), Kelly Barnes, Rachel Mosleh, Billie Godfrey (Backing Vocals)
So, ultimately, the night was on a very uneven playing field. Deviant were getting a complete wash on the evening thus far – memorable, fun, loud and excessive. Beautifully so. But nothing else quite caught the positive vibe the band were capable of.
Then Dracula (or Martyn Ware, if you like.) stepped onto the stage.
Holy shit, the crowd went mental.
Heaven 17 blew me away. And that’s no easy feat – this was seriously hard hitting stuff. With three lovely ladies providing pretty damn stunning choral vocals, a mass of atmosphere and a performance that went above and beyond their studio material, this is a band that lived and breathed what the weekend stood for. All in some sort of spooky get up – Joker style make up, the aforementioned count, black dresses and face paint, Halloween truly was the order of the night. Glenn Gregory’s vocals are still perfectly in check, and such was their draw that to reach the entrance to the hall was now rendered impossible.
What was a crowd loosely scattered across the venue was now a crowd throwing itself forward at this group of 1980s rowdies providing some of the finest I’ve ever seen on the Pavilion stage. Not a single negative mark here – their performance was thorough, full in volume and breadth and, perhaps most importantly, chock full of communication and humour that made every member of the audience feel comfortable and at home watching the group play – whether young or old. Despite being one of the more established groups performing this weekend, we got firm introductions and even discussion and a little bit of history. This is a serious asset to any live performance, and 17 flourished on getting the crowd – and every person on stage – involved. We even got a cheeky cover of a Human League track. That’ll do for me, lads!
This is evidently a band that have mastered themselves over their career – to the point that their studio material seems rather pale in comparison. The group surprised, entertained and left me utterly amazed as they stepped proudly off of the stage, capes flapping in the wind.
This is not a group of old boys, and they’re far from irrelevant, either. They’re smart, they’re loaded with satire and commentary on the background they were born from and they sound absolutely fantastic. It’s a sheer spectacle to see such a large group of people work to such an inimitable standard.
If you get a chance to see these chaps performing? Stalk them. Stalk them to the ends of the Earth – they’re bloody brilliant.
It’d be fair to say that Friday Night’s music was a very, very mixed bag. It wasn’t a bad showing – two fantastic groups really leaving behind a strong impact – but I’ve never quite been faced by a ‘bad’ performance before. And for it to be brought about by a pretty well recognised name? It’s just not a regular occurrence. In fact, it’s somewhat puzzling.
It’s worth nothing that Whitby Goth has a polite audience. Any band will get at least some applause, and any band will be supported. This is the beauty of the event, in many ways – it’s not, perhaps, the finest way of giving feedback – but it’s welcoming. Respectful.
I don’t think one could ever claim that tonight’s Whitby Goth was not a success – people came out smiling, bands were applauded, the venue was full. But whether each act could be placed on the same threshold is another matter entirely.
I think it’s often very easy for people to forget that when bands are on the stage, it’s no longer in the event’s hands – it’s up to the groups to provide a standard of discipline and entertainment and, without fail, they do to the best of their ability. Even those I may have been…less appreciative of deserve to be lauded. The evening ran smoothly from start to finish, and for the professionalism that one comes to expect at Whitby Goth, these people do have to work hard, work fast, and above all else, act ‘the biz’. And very rarely do these fine people manage to let the audience, or the event, down.
I have no doubts that many people will disagree with my opinion on certain groups, but rest assured…my review of the 1st of November will be a much more positive result..! (And hopefully won’t take a month this time…!)