Live Reviews
Whitby Goth Weekend – Saturday 1st November, 2014

By Jordan Mooney.

Images by Zhaos Photography.

It was Saturday. I woke up with a headache and the remains of Nutella pizza clouding my memory. Then a seagull screamed past the window, and I swiftly remembered I was in Whitby. Then a steam engine on the NYMR whistled just to make sure.

Like the railway saddo that I am, I spent a good half hour watching out of our conveniently placed apartment window at the ‘run around’ of the train before I donned the top hat and tailcoat for another day’s roaming Whitby.

Unfortunately, Whitby was full.

And I mean ‘full’.

 

It was a positive nightmare trying to get around the town today – and it wasn’t Goths that were the problem. It was the ‘gothwatchers’ – coachloads of them, many with cameras, who would stop the essential streetflow that was keeping people with air in their lungs. Circling around the more extravagant costumes in the most foolish of ‘photogenic’ places.

I have no problems with photographers. I pose for a few of them myself in the quieter open spaces around the abbey, for instance. But I do think it rather foolish when town is ‘full’ to stop people in a ridiculously busy narrow cobbled street when there are much easier places to take a snap.

It gets rather irritating, and those that keep people from moving (Goths having a habit of actually walking to get to a location, chaps. We’re like bats, we’ll sleep if we don’t intend to go anywhere! ) Are causing rather a lot of trouble for the higher-ups who have to deal with the consequences of stupidly busy roads. It can jeopardise more than people seem willing to realise and, for the people arranging the event twice a year, is proving to be a major headache.

You wouldn’t stop your car dead in the middle of a busy road to take a photograph of the car behind you. It might be an amazing car, but that doesn’t give you reason to do it. Be smart, chaps!

Regardless, on the more positive side of things…it was quite amusing seeing a car get stuck on Whitby Bridge.

 

The Bizarre Bazaar on the second day of the event was shuffled slightly – something I’ve personally never noticed before, and had once again gained The Famous Fudge Bar. It remains my theory that goths have a natural love of fudge, and this once again, appeared to be true. The gentleman whom runs the stall is all too willing to give free samples and, at an event so enduring as Whitby Goth Weekend, will provide the essential lifeblood that all Goths crave – excessive sugar and alcoholic flavours. The Bazaar would be at a loss without him!

I think the second day of the market was definitely the superior – slightly more eclectic stalls seemed to pop up and made for far more interesting viewing – although it must be said we only left with fudge and a bottle of English Heritage mead. The evening meal of gentlemen, surely?

Another fun little diversion was the famous Whitby Kustom – a showing of utterly fabulous and often terrifying customised vehicles from bikes to hearses to traction engines. Skulls, artificial rust and coffins were abound, all in a primary school playground no less – and there were people proudly touting a firm knowledge of motor vehicles in each vicinity.

While perhaps not sufficient to take up even the most avid photographer or enthusiast’s day, it made for something a little ‘different’ – and if you add all of the fringe events together (One day we WILL see Goth football!) it really proves how sizable Whitby Goth Weekend is for your money.

Combine art, unfeasibly large wheel arches and heavy graft with metal fabrication and you end up with a pretty fine car show. Just add skulls and bats and it’ll get ten times better. It’s a fact – Goth improves everything!

 

The musical line up this time around was very exciting for us. Our favourite industry gent, Mr. Eddie Eales, had three of his roster on line out of five musicians – Lesbian Bed Death (best name ever), Bad Pollyanna and Rhombus are all bands he’s worked with and carries a supreme pride for, and they’d prove exactly why this evening.

This was guaranteed to be a night of stunning debauchery for all.

 

LESBIAN BED DEATH
Stoke on Trent/Preston/Wolverhampton

http://www.lesbianbeddeath.net
Kittie Racchea (Vocals), Mr.Peach (Guitars), Chuckmaster C (Guitars)

Lesbian Bed DeathLesbian Bed DeathLesbian Bed Death

Lesbian Bed Death have built up a sizeable cult following in their ten year career. Teetering oh-so-precariously on the rifts of Goth, Punk and Hard Rock, they’re a slight heavier than some might expect and carry a hard-as-nails image befitting of their chunky riffs and rattling drumbeats.

Their vocalist, Kittie Racchea, is a particularly strong contender in the continuous trend of female vocalists Cat on the Wall exercises so proudly – her voice is suspiciously elegant for this sort of group and carries much more along the lines of ‘beautiful’ than ‘vicious’. This was their first time performing at Whitby Goth and, as ever, the audience started off scattered across the venue. Within a few moments all had surged forward – a common trend with WGW’s audience and a sure sign you’ve cracked it!

The group seemed to be loving their performance as much as the audience – they were in their element, without question, and really did make for a fantastic display of talent.

One of the things I believe carries a particularly strong importance in a stage show is communication. There’s nothing quite so infuriating as a band who doesn’t tell us who they are, what they do or what their songs are about, but thankfully there was plenty of talk that really let the audience into the band’s ‘world’. It’s ten times easier to fall in love with a group when you learn their names, and with Eddie at the helm as their booking agent I have no doubt they’ve honed their skills when it comes to a stage show through sheer experience!

With sound perhaps a touch heavier than their appearance may belie to some, and a fine elegance to an otherwise raw, biting tone, Lesbian Bed Death are a band that have truly earned their following and seem to be only on the way up – just as they should be!

As I said in my review of night one; the first group has the hardest job of the evening. Lesbian Bed Death aced it with ease. They’re simply a superb, unusual group with a really strong, yet oh so seductive sound. Don’t miss them!

 

BAD POLLYANNA
West Yorkshire, UK
http://www.badpollyanna.com/
Olivia Hyde (Vocals, Piano), Nikki Kontinen (Bass, Programming), Stephen Kilpatrick (Guitars), Valerian Adore (Drums,Percussion)

Bad PollyannaBad PollyannaBad Pollyanna

The next step on the line up is a group we’ve seen live in the past, and one that’s popped up in every corner of the Goth movement at one point or another. We remarked the last time we saw them that they were a bond born to grow, grow and grow some more, and of course, our prediction came true – the group have really made themselves an essential part of the scene to many and, with the release of the official S.O.P.H.I.E. single, ‘Invincible Girl‘, have touched the hearts of far more of us ‘freaks’, ‘moshers’ and ‘weirdos’ that could ever have been expected.

It’s not just that, though. The simple fact is that Bad Pollyanna are an incredibly talented cornerstone of the scene that simply ticks all of the boxes. Their music has sprinkles of all the good stuff – it’s catchy, elegant, beautiful, filthy, pounding and carries that oh so delicious electronic flavour that we adore.

I think, however, what truly gives the group their strength is that Olivia Hyde, the simply wonderful frontlady, is not afraid to show every ounce of humanity on stage.

It’s true that a band’s music is the top priority, but communication really is of utmost importance to us when somebody in the audience may not know who you are – ie, at big events with several bands on ‘set’ as well as yourself. Like Whitby Goth. And Miss Hyde is simply incredible in the sheer emotion she releases at events like this. She communicates far beyond what most bands can be expected to do, and most of all, she communicates with relevance and reality. With passion, with love, with a real self-proclaimed endearing eccentricity. She will come close to tears on the importance of S.O.P.H.I.E. and embracing one’s self – she will tell the audience how beautiful they are. She will communicate, without a moment’s hesitation, the importance of those people of every shape and size in the crowd below.

That, for me, is what makes Bad Pollyanna a cornerstone – Olivia Hyde, whether by design or simply through her sheer love of what she does – opens her heart, and forms the ideal spokesperson for ‘us’. And that, in itself, is a considerable talent.

The band’s performance, as ever, was a bewitching display of prowess – these are all born performers, and their music is simply inimitable. The audience loves them, the other performers loved them (more on that later) and, needless to say, we loved them. They function beautifully with a large crowd and, in particular, complimented the preceding act perfectly – just as Lesbian Bed Death complimented them.

Excellence – sheer, heady excellence – with a passion only Olivia Hyde can give. They’re a band that inspire solidarity.

 

RHOMBUS
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
http://www.rhombus.org.uk/
Rob Walker (Guitars), Mya (Vocals), Edward Grassby (Vocals, Bass), Andy Holmes (Guitars),
Fraggle Rhombus (‘Rhombette’), Batty Rhombus (‘Rhombette’), Joanna Moy (Recurring Fiddle Player)

RhombusRhombusRhombus

The next group, to those who might wander in absently in the middle of their set, resemble a very eccentric football team rather than a band. Rhombus seemed to increase in number every time I blinked. And they sounded rather fabulous.

I’ve never seen Rhombus before, or heard their material, but they’ve quite a sizeable reputation – and it’s well deserved – as one of the biggest guns in UK Goth-Rock’s arsenal for quite some time. Not just through populous, but through a rather special style that they’ve built – and kept – as their own.

Mixing electric violins, catchy hooks and a sincerely passionate vocal, what really drives Rhombus to the top in many people’s eyes would be interpreted, for me, as their diversity. Every song is different, that’s a given, but perhaps of greater importance is how many styles, ideas and concepts seem to build through their material. It’s bizarre, but the group really carry an elegance through their music – a soulfulness that doesn’t often appear in the more vicious, dark designs of traditional ‘Goth’.

Frontman (sort of? I’m not sure who we can proclaim the leader of this musical army!) Edward Grassby, whom has a delightful taste in suits and hats, reminds one irresistibly of a soul musician rather than a rocker, and through his rather more unusual presence on stage seems to lead ‘goth’ into territories relatively unknown – something I feel a group should always be commended for.

The female vocalist, Mya, offers a rather more terrestrial form of Goth vocal but does so with such gusto that it, too, manages to seduce the stoniest-hearted of the gothic movement with terrifying ease.

Perhaps the only criticism I can offer is that the drum machine sounds rather flat in comparison to the palpable battalion that take the stage. What I question is whether it’s feasible for such a massive group to have someone else in their number. Perhaps strap a drummer onto the roof of the van? Lord knows. Perhaps it’s more of a compliment that automated drums that will sound consistent in any situation are blown away by the people who program it!

If you label a band as ‘one of the best’ of a genre in recent years, it’s more than likely people will try to pass it off as a generic representation of that particular scene (typically, so will I!). The beauty in Rhombus earning this status is that it’s due to their self-representation. They don’t rely on the past for their music. And that can be taken to the bank.

Soulful, sizeable, but, above all else, unique; that’s what makes Rhombus such a spectacular group on so many levels. And what makes them such a hit with Whitby Goth every time they pop up on stage. And what drew our attention.

 

HUGH CORNWELL
http://www.hughcornwell.com/
Hugh Cornwell (Vocals, Guitar), Caroline ‘Caz’ Campbell (Bass), Chris Bell (Drums)

Hugh CornwellHugh CornwellHugh Cornwell

We were lucky enough this year to get five musicians on the second night of festivities, and our fourth, Hugh Cornwell, represented the ‘retro’ side of things in a way that I don’t believe to have seen on stage before – a three piece group overflowing with talent that’s fuelled in its entirety by simplicity. Guitar, drums, bass and vocals, three people, providing a very chilled and casual atmosphere. No fancy lighting, no frills – just calm, relaxing chugs of bass, beer and guitar without anything to get in the way.

The bassist and drummer were incredibly talented people right up to Hugh’s capabilities, and communicated via smiles, nods and hand gestures with such understanding that nothing seemed to go the slightest bit unexpected. Caroline ‘Caz’ Campbell, the beautiful and incredibly talented bassist, really managed to wrestle Hugh for the limelight – I’ve not heard bass of such a calibre given such an equal showing on stage before – benefiting, once again, from the simplicity and ‘cleanliness’ of the set up. And hearing that oh-so-legendary bass from ‘Peaches‘ strung out so beautifully got me unseasonably excited.

With a mix of old and new, I think what made Hugh such a personable experience is that it almost felt as if it wasn’t a concert at all – more of a jam session. It didn’t feel like it was pre-planned or to a set list – it just felt like musicians doing what they do best.

Once again part of me wonders if the dark overlords of Whitby Goth plan out their bands with more precision than is often recognised. After some seriously heavy groups, things with Hugh suddenly seemed incredibly simplistic and airy, and, above all else, hugely relaxing.

We even got an encore.

And unfortunately that went on far too long.

I don’t know what factors contributed to this one – but the ‘encore’ – from which I understand to be a short, additional performance upon request – seemed to go on forever – to be point wherein the ‘set’ was bulked up by at least twenty minutes – if not more – and a few audience members had to leave before seeing the ‘true headliner’ of Aurelio Voltaire.

While the music was fantastic, by the end of the encore it was getting a bit harder to show enthusiasm. In fact, it was almost getting to be a test of endurance – especially as we, and, most likely, the majority of the audience, had spent the past few days walking nonstop, and were running low on that essential lifeblood of fudge and mead.

By the end of the set people were yawning, but Hugh got a hearty applause deserving of his skill. It’s just a shame that it became so tedious. Perhaps proof that good things are best in smaller portions. Regardless of the unfortunate overrunning, that, if Facebook is anything to go by (is it ever?), made a couple of people slightly bitter, Hugh Cornwell is honestly one of the finest, if simplest, shows I’ve seen on stage, and I’d go see him again in a shot.

…As long as there’s less encore.

 

Before Voltaire, a man all too familiar to Cat on the Wall, came onto stage, there was a particularly…awkward interruption to an otherwise decent flow to the evening. As Hugh left, the stage chaps came up to start taking down his backdrop.

Despite Hugh running over by quite a sizeable degree, they actually delayed the final act further clearing the stage. Something that struck as completely unnecessary at best and a bit of a pisstake at worst.

After this we had the tedium of watch them slowly rolling up the backdrop. Only to realise they were rolling it up the wrong way. And had the tedium of watching them slowly unroll it and slowly roll it back up the right way.

Was it really necessary? Perhaps Hugh isn’t a man to stick around at gigs. I dunno. But people were getting infuriated with such a silly delay to an already overdue act that most people were particularly excited to see.

By my calculations these people putting the backdrop away – and raising and lowering the rig it was attached to – delayed our final act by another quarter hour. At least.

All to prepare for a man with a guitar, microphone and 1.5 litre bottle of rum.

Thankfully, Voltaire is a man who can bring humour to even the worst situations, and by the time our perky, wise-cracking man-stallion was on stage giving his usual talk, nobody cared about the delays.

Let’s just try and get those four people on a class for backdrop rolling or something. It was an awkward show I don’t think anybody would want to see repeated.

 

AURELIO VOLTAIRE
New York, New York (it’s a hell of a town…)
http://www.voltaire.net/
Aurelio Voltaire (Vocals, Guitar, Dirty Jokes), Captain Morgan (Increasingly Inappropriate Behaviour, Slurring)

VoltaireVoltaireVoltaire

Before I begin here it’s worth noting that Voltaire began with one very important line.
Bad Pollyanna. Wow. If they’re not performing in stadiums within the next few years? I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

That is bloody amazing. And really stands as testimony to the beautifully informal approach that Voltaire so proudly carries in his music. There’s not many groups who just step out and say that a band is that good. And I hope Bad Pollyanna heard it too – it’s well deserved!

Anyway…

It seems almost redundant to review another fine Voltaire showing. The man’s musical abilities are only matched by his capability of providing sheer entertainment – he’s got a great sense of humour, and his personality is as much of a drive for his shows as the music.

The setlist, as ever, proved to be a fine, eclectic mix of old and new. Voltaire’s a man with a knowledge of exactly what his Whitby fans want – up tempo, funny stuff, maybe a few heartfelts here and there along the way. His set was a long one – and I mean long – seemingly to the point he had no idea how long it was! – But, because he breaks up tracks with plenty communication, jokes, rude gestures and the constant chugging of rum, it’s not an act that gathers tedium. It just continues. It continues being funny, it continues being a display of some fantastic talent and it continues to provide a masterclass of communicating with an audience.

If any musicians don’t ‘get’ communication, whether it be in front of an audience, on social networks…you name it; Voltaire is a pretty good man to watch for guidance.

The fact is that Voltaire is a bit of an overlord for the younger – and young at heart – audience members of Whitby Goth. A veritable powerhouse of creativity whom successfully increases the status of his name continuously every year.

He leads the audience beautifully like a strappilly dressed piper leading to a den of pure, distilled debauchery. And we’re all suckers for it.

I can’t really say much more than that on the man’s performances that I haven’t before – they’re inherently funny, chock full of talent, but, above all else, they’re testament to years of work in several fields that have shaped a genuinely brilliant man.

If you ever see Voltaire playing near you, it is your duty to follow him wherever he may turn up. And buy his music. And love him.

We’ve done exactly that.

…It’s a long story.

audience

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

Saturday night was an improvement on the preceding. It was more in line, it made far more sense and, above all else, it was five brilliant performances. It’s almost a shame we couldn’t have transplanted one or two of them to Friday instead, simply to help out a night that needed it a little more. In fact, Deviant would have been bloody spectacular on this evening instead. C’est la vie!

Our first three groups were a spectacular showing of ‘the new’ of the movement – a beautiful look at some of the very latest alternative talents that are really making a name for themselves for good reason. Not because they’re in the charge of 80s-styled rock posers who think they’re like a Gothic KISS, but because they’re all spectacularly unusual, eccentric, beautiful and elegant in their own elements. They all seem to flow with eachother perfectly, in fact. Perhaps a gentle nudge for a trio tour?! I’ll say no more for fear of incrimination.

It’s one thing to talk about the talents of acts that have been on the scene for a while. But it’s another thing entirely to talk about the younger groups that have often been inspired by them – and manage to provide a glimpse of a future for the Gothic scene – to the point where one can’t help but feel that future events are only set to become more and more spectacular. It introduces an optimism that’s impossible to shake – and that’s testament to these groups that go out there and hammer out a performance that would leave even the most jaded Goth awe-inspired.

Whitby Goth truly does succeed in providing a catalyst to the alternative scene – one of the largest, most capable gatherings in the United Kingdom. It’s often imitated, but with a fine mix of location, people and performers, it simply can’t be beaten.

I’d like to once again extend my sincere thanks to everybody who made this event what it is and what makes it such a thrilling display every year.

You’ve succeeded yet again – bring on the 21st celebrations!

 

Speaking of…

Whitby Goth Weekend will be sporting its 21st celebrations in style with four nights of celebrations due from the 23rd of April to the 26th. We’ll be there, and we hope you will be too – let’s really make this something to remember!

http://www.whitbygothweekend.co.uk/

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.

1 Comment

  1. Johan

    the pollyanan bad is very pretty.

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