Live Reviews
Whitby Goth Weekend – Hallowe’en 2015 (Part One – Friday 30th October)

By Jordan Mooney.
Photos by Zhaos Photography
With thanks to Rowan Jackson for proofreading.
Extra thanks to Jo, Louise, Paul, Shelley and Chris.
CAT ON THE WALL CREW: Jordan, Matthew, Kane, Eddie, Ross

Disclaimer – for the purposes of transparency: For October 2015 I’ve been made the PR Scribe for Whitby Goth Weekend; a paid position promoting the line up to independent and online press. This shall have no bearing on my review regardless – I have been instructed to maintain a truthfulness throughout, independent of my promotional work, and I am comfortable that this target has been met…

 

Whitby Goth Weekend was imminent. And, as I sat with my hearty crew of rogues, scallywags and music fans in the Humble Pie and Mash Shop, eating a pie which carries my quote in the menu, that all too familiar feeling began to overtake me – manifesting as a large smile.

I’m home.

That, truly, is what Whitby – and its world-renowned music festival – has become to your hapless, mutton-chopped writer. It has become a welcoming land of people and places, tea and scones, sensibly priced Full English Breakfasts and excellent music.

And, of course, when all is said and done, the music is why we came here in the first place. And, as we strode our way through the hoards of tailcoats and corsets, and the Pavilion – soaked in a rare douse of sunshine – came into view, nestled precariously as it is on a rapidly eroding cliff face, the anticipation only grew – we have quite a line up to review and would prefer not to take a month in doing it, so, without further ado…

(see, we’ve only taken HALF a month.)

Tonight is largely familiar territory, with regular bands making reappearances on the Pavilion Stage; Bad Pollyanna, veritable regulars of the Gothic movement, and Fearless Vampire Killers, once again dousing us with their tales of palaces and revolutions – it’s a brilliant line up for the younger members of the audience and with the legendary Clare Grogan headlining, there was every reason to stick around. But if anybody truly took our attention this evening, it was our first act…

 

Chasing Dragons

Leeds, West Yorkshire
Tank (Vocals), Mitch (Guitar/Vocals), Murf (Bass), Kate (Drums)
http://www.chasingdragons.co.uk/

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Yes, Chasing Dragons are back on Cat on the Wall, yes, we’re terribly biased in their favour, and yes, they really were that good. The group have progressed absolutely enormously since we saw them last, and for the first time in living memory the Spa’s enviable set up seemed to struggle from the sheer epic vibrations from Tank’s vocal chords.

I mean it sincerely when I say I have never seen, heard, or felt what the Dragons brought onto the Spa on Friday the 30th. It was honestly one of the most intense, impressive and outright fucking fantastic performances I’ve ever seen on stage, at the Spa or elsewhere – oh yes, Chasing Dragons are no longer a little group from Leeds; they’re a big hitter waiting to take the bat, and they’re ready any minute.

I’ve often wondered which rock bands can be expected to properly fill a stadium when the great ‘legends’ of rock begin to pass away and trickle out of the spotlight – the likes of Motorhead, Sabbath and Maiden (although it is of your writer’s opinion most were met a long time ago) beginning to leave the music world – and somebody, somewhere, is needed to take up the reins and fill up some of Britain’s largest venues with arses on seats and noise from amplifiers. Chasing Dragons could take on Wembley yesterday, today or tomorrow and would be able to send masonry rattling from all corners. The next step is simply assembling more people.

This is not just a decent rock group, it’s a world-beating rock group. They are overtaken by passion, and on Whitby Goth’s stage the entire outfit seemed so utterly excited to be there that they gave what seemed to be the show of their lives. I have seen effort on stage plenty of times; I have not seen people genuinely looking shocked at their own excellence before.

It would be pertinent to say that everybody in the group is primed for it, and all are batting on the same level – Kate and Tank are most definitely the spine of the group, but Mitch and Murf provide the shoulders and limbs with ample veracity. It’s a line up that’s improved and built itself naturally – and the journey doesn’t seem to be over. Not by a long shot.

Mark my words, it’s a legend in the making – and WGW may be one of the most important shows of the group’s career.

If I was to criticise, there was a tiny bit of cracking in Tank’s voice towards the absolute end of the show. I don’t think this is a sign of weakness, however – it’s a product of humanity from a vocalist whom very nearly appeared inhuman; and returned to reality for a only minute or so at the end of Broken Jaws. You’d have to have been there to understand just how little that minute really mattered in context; Tank is positively one of the best front ladies in rock and roll today.

Crikey. That was quite a way to start the night. What’s next on the cards…

 

Bad Pollyanna

Huddersfield & London, UK
Olivia Hyde (Vocals), Nikki Kontinen (Bass), Stephen Kilpatrick (Guitars), Valerian Adore (Drums)
http://www.badpollyanna.com/

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We’ve seen Bad Pollyanna plenty of times. We love them, their passion, and their ambassadorial charge for the alternative movement and, perhaps most importantly, the enormous importance with which they carry the Sophie Lancaster Foundation’s standards like knights striding into battle. We’ve often seen them performing alongside Chasing Dragons, too – so surely if anybody can keep a near-flawless match against them – a counterattack, if you will – it’s them?

Unfortunately I’m not so sure that they did. Gasps! Shock and horror! Burn the witch! Etc..

But something felt a little unstable, even perhaps a touch tense in the Pollyanna crew this evening. I’ve since been informed that they hadn’t performed ‘in the flesh’ for a good few months, and I’m sorry to say that it showed. The entertainment they provided on stage was great, a fantastic show – but Bad Pollyanna are capable of better. Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by such a high standard?

The backing track had a hiccup and managed to send a song or two off-kilter – bonus points if anybody other than our group noticed that one – and by the end of the set, Olivia’s stunning voice seemed a little tired. I do believe this seeming lack of preparation can be attributed to lack of in-person practise in recent times – and I hope it’s something the group can rectify.

It must be said that everything else present on stage was as tight as ever, and it still had that charming trait of celebrating individuality and championing the underdog – the band itself are still there in every nook and cranny – just not quite up to the standard they’ve proven themselves capable of.

For what it’s worth I expect their fans won’t be particularly phased – and may not have even noticed. More power to them, I say!

 

Fearless Vampire Killers

Beccles, UK
Kier Kemp, Laurence Beveridge (vocalists), Cyrus Barrone (guitar), Drew Woolnough (bass), Luke Illingworth (drums)
http://www.fearlessvampirekillers.com/

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FVK are very evidently not my thing. As a result, it probably isn’t something I can very readily judge upon – It’s just not what I’m personally into.

I can, however, judge upon how people reacted and on what I could judge ‘in context’ – and the result was immensely positive. I dare say bands like Fearless Vampire Killers are prone to similar attitudes to people such as Ashestoangels, tutting and eye-rolling at the expense of an act whether they have talent or not, especially at such a relatively old audience as that at Whitby Goth Weekend – but I heard very few bad words against them.

The fact is, love it or hate it, their show is brilliant. Dressing up as Jim Carrey characters helps, of course – we’ll always buy into a bit of costume play around this time of year (unless you’re blocking the roads in town, of course) – and that little bit of extra flamboyance will always go a long way in this reviewer’s eyes. It’s theatrical, well communicated, and still tinged with that bit of essential informality. Combine this with unexpected covers (I Need A Hero. Yes, really – I never thought I’d see that at WGW!) and you can tell a group has upped sticks to bring a full experience to everybody, no matter who they are; artists plying their unique trade on a stage ahead of thousands.

If you hate Jim Carry, Bonnie Tyler and bright colours, the show is definitely not for you – but you still have to show a bit of common, decent respect.

There’s a lot I’m not personally keen on when it comes to FVK – but there’s nothing wrong with it; it’s simply a matter of taste. And for what it’s worth? They do what they do pretty bloody well.

 

Clare Grogan’s Altered Images

Glasgow, UK
http://www.facebook.com/ClareGrogansAlteredImages/

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I always get a bit worried when it comes to headliners; rightfully so if you’ve read many of my WGW reviews in the past. I’m not a man who can take a long set for…well, very long, and when it’s a musician whom I’ve never particularly listened to (I’m a little whippersnapper, aren’t I? Bless.) I always expect these parts of my reviews to be relatively tepid. But by god, Miss Grogan’s sheer enthusiasm is not only infectious, but capable of causing an epidemic across the Spa. I have never seen somebody who looks quite so excited to be on stage. She’s bubbly, energetic and really drives an utterly incredible stage presence – The moment she steps on stage she’s like a jackrabbit at the sound of gunfire.

There’s a very genuine feeling that Ms. Grogan has wanted to appear at Whitby Goth forever and is overjoyed to be there – I’ve not a clue if that’s actually the case, but she really has a talent of making an audience feel particularly special; like we were watching her give the performance of her life. I have no doubts that many before us has felt the same – sheer enthusiasm seems to be the ruling force of her performance.

Her voice, too, is utterly angelic – almost too angelic for the material she sings. Having never indulged in her musical stylings in the past, it came as a very pleasant surprise. She has a wonderful feeling of innocence, the enthusiasm of a youngster carving an impact on the scene, and appears as cheery and chipper as anything – quite a surprise for somebody who’s endured so many years in the music and television industry. I almost expect by nature a certain amount of venom, an aspect of cynicism or tiredness – but instead there was almost a bubblegum excitement – not naivety, but a concrete passion and pleasure for what she does. The entire group is built of ladies with exactly the same enthusiasm and drive; born performers. (And how rare is it to actually see an all-girl band on stage these days?)

Clare Grogan completely surpassed anything I expected – and I think she blew the audience away. She’s a phenomenal talent and fits in at Goth Weekend far better than I think most could estimate.

Very well done. Very, very well done. A fitting closer to a wonderful evening.

CONCLUSIONS

Do you know, Whitby Goth’s line up this year was a tricky one; it may, at first, have seemed a little lacklustre to the more elitist sorts among the regular clientele – but there simply wasn’t, in my view, a ‘bad’ band on stage this evening – a near perfect line up perhaps? The cynics were doomed the moment that Glittery Craig (dear, sweet glittery Craig) stepped on stage and the night burst into action.

I understand that very few tickets were left for Friday the 30th, and if you found yourself in the audience looking behind you, the doors were very much obscured by top hats and obscenely large hairstyles. Goth bands? Maybe not – great bands? Without a doubt. It was a fantastic line up that I very much doubt could have gone down any other way – something for every audience demographic and something to impress at each corner.

Can Hallowe’en’s tuneful line-up truly compete? Can Jordan resist a Sherlock’s scone? How many cups of tea can Kane drink in an hour? Where have all of the custard creams at the apartment gone?! All of these questions and more may or may not be answered soon…

Dedicated to seabiscuit the pony-skin jacket. You were probably delicious.

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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