Tuesday, May 1, 2018

State of the Scene Address

Greetings my dear Gothlings!

Running New Goth City puts me in the unique position of having my finger on the pulse of many, many Goth cultural scenes all across America, and it's growing -- the finger, that is -- day by day! Unfortunately, I have been noticing a disturbing trend, as of late, that attendance at Goth events have been dwindling. This, of course, can be attributed to many factors such as: fewer individuals embracing the Goth lifestyle and culture, economic issues, splitting up a local scene with too many events competing on a specific night (Saturday night in N.Y.C....I'm looking at You, kid!), or simply just plain ol' disinterest.

At this moment in time, this is a harsh reality and many event promoters are understandably feeling the pinch. Just yesterday, I learned that a long running Goth nightclub event, Ulteria, was being put to rest after 12 years in Connecticut! As someone who has distinctive love of the Goth lifestyle and culture, and who is working tirelessly for its preservation, it saddens me when I hear such news. But I also applaud and vehemently support those who are determined to stay in the fight and start up new events!

Ultimately, as a community organizer, I have to take a giant step back and try to look at the bigger picture here. Goth culture might be in a downswing or slump now in the U.S....but why??? One big part of the problem is that there are less older Goths dedicated to the culture than when they were younger because...well...life happens; and there are far fewer younglings exploring Goth culture than before. Let me address the latter first...

Being Goth has long been associated with teen angst and identity crisis phases, but we all know that it is something much more complex than just a brooding teen that wants to be in a "dark" place...but isn't it? Isn't the "spark" of being Goth a sense of the self longing to be and to feel different from the rest of the mundane world? To reject conventionality and live in a world that has an emotional connection with the beauty of the macabre? Think about it...every last one of us has this sort of origin story!!!

That's why I will never understand the disdain that certain older Goths have against "babybats" or "kindergoths." These young Gothlings shouldn't be ridiculed or put down because of how young or inexperienced they are...they get plenty of flack and grief from their mainstream counterparts for being brave enough to be Goth! Why are we adding to that misery? On the contrary, I feel that we should welcome, embrace, and guide younger generations of Goths...not turn them away!!! That's EXACTLY what led to the entire "Emo" mess years back! Do we really want a repeat of THAT?!?! 

For event promoters, I do realize that all ages & 18+ events are much harder to pull off than 21+ nights when you have to deal with the venue who makes its money from alcoholic beverage sales. I do get that...but it doesn't mean that you shouldn't try! You would be shocked by how many under 21 year old Goths (or even 21+ Goths with young children) who are begging me to find Gothic events and activities to participate in! It breaks my heart when I can't provide them a simple solution. This is mainly the reason why I started including sightseeing attractions to the listings on NewGothCity.com. But it's not enough! Young Gothlings are thirsty for acceptance and want to belong to something greater and darker than themselves. They shouldn't be punished to for wanting to join in our spooky fun! On that note, I just want to personally, and officially, state that I find the practice of charging those who are 18, 19, or 20 years old, at an 18+ event, more for admission than those who are 21+ a really awful trend. You are literally sending the message those who are under 21 that they are second class citizens within the scene. I believe that this door policy should stop at once. Equal entry prices regardless of age will also cultivate your future 21+ clientele...remember that, promoters!

And speaking of 18+ events, it actually reminds me of a very sweet story from about ten years back...

PICTURE IT! Tribeca, New York City on a hot summer night in 2007! There was a faithful weekly Goth party called Necromantic, run by one of the most kindest, generous, and adorable nightlife promoters at the time, Francine. Her event was held at the Knitting Factory in downtown N.Y.C. on Leonard Street.

This is the event wherein I fully embraced my Gothic lifestyle. Hell, it was Francine who actually gave me the idea and drive to start New Goth City -- I will forever be in her debt for that!!! (We miss you Francine! Hope that you are doing well!!! Kisses! 💜💜💜)

At the time, Necromantic was not only the true classic Goth dance party, but also a rare weekly event that catered to an 18+ crowd. The lower level of the Knitting Factory was really a perfect space...a hot black box lit only by rotating red police siren lights and kept a Goth atmosphere by the occasional spurt of smoke from a fog machine. Damn, I miss those nights!!!

On one particular Necromantic Friday night, I found myself just outside of the party's entrance doors, chatting with Francine, by the stairwell. It was then that I spotted a short, middle-aged man who clearly was out of place there, patiently standing in front of a cork board lined wall that featured posters and flyers of upcoming concerts & events. At the moment it was only about 12:30am, but  the party was just hitting its stride as the dance crowd grew inside.

All of the sudden, the doors that led into the club flung open and an obviously very young Gothling, wearing a very cute but simple Gothy dress with black & white striped leggings, burst forth and approaches this solitary man by the wall. 

"DAD!" she exclaims, "Can I pleeeeease stay a bit longer? It's soooo cool in there and it's just getting started!!! PLEEEEAAASE????"

The father thinks for a beat or two, looks at his watch, and tells her, "O.K....Just one more hour, then we have to get home before your mother starts to worry."

I detected that the father had a slight Eastern European accent, whereas his daughter had none. In my mind, this told me that this entire setting must have seemed very alien to him, however, he was supportive enough to accept her manner of dress, accompany her to a nightclub, wait outside, and grant her an added hour of dancing. 

"THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!!" she squealed as she joyfully bounced up and down and gave him a loving peck on the cheek before bolting back onto the dance floor. Accepting his fate of waiting an added hour, Dad simply leaned back onto the wall to reclaim his previous pose while his daughter danced to the likes of Joy Division and Siouxsie Sioux.

As I observed all of this, I couldn't help but be deeply moved from what I just witnessed! I don't have any children of my own, so I cannot fully relate, but this man, in my book, just won the father of the decade award!!!

As I continued to (maybe creepily) stare at this father who was quietly waiting out the generous hour, I felt so compelled to approach him and say: "Greetings! I couldn't help but overhear that you are here supporting your daughter enjoy this party tonight!" He smiles at me for the acknowledgement and admits, "It is my daughter's 18th birthday today, and her only wish was to come to this party where everyone is dressed in black! How could I say no?"

HOT DAMN, if I didn't have tears welling up in my eyes from that statement! "Well, as long as you are waiting here," I tell him, "Can I offer you a drink from inside for being such a great dad?"

"Thank you very much," he politely declines, "but I am driving tonight...but I will take a glass of water." Without hesitation, I sprint inside to the bar and order 2 small bottles of Poland Spring water to return to my personal hero. 

Later on that night, I never did see the father and his daughter leave, nor have I ever seen her at any future events...at least not to my knowledge...but this poignant memory has always stuck with me. In a way, my respect for this man still, to this day, makes me champion for young Goths who are fascinated by what we freely express on a day to day basis, and determined for them to be more involved! This type of attitude should be further practiced...

This brings me to a special Goth nightlife promoter & DJ known as Angel Metro. She holds  weekly Tuesday night event simply called Goth Night mainly at Cinema Taco which is also *GASP* and ALL AGES EVENT!!! Held in Charlottesville, Virginia...this small, yet iconic, event draws a very loyal crowd that is over and under 18 years of age! Admittedly, Charlottesville is not as populated at Chicago, Portland, Los Angeles, and other larger markets, but the way Angel has crafted her precious scene is to be a close group of friends who have become a community and an incredible following! You maybe asking yourself,  "Well...what about the admission price? It must be huge to make it worth it, right?" Actually, you will be surprised to learn that she only humbly asks for a suggested donation of $10.00 for entry fee! THAT's the way it's done!!! And those are the type of events that need to be supported across every local scenes! I really applaud her for that...however, it's only the beginning...

In this regard, I must also give a strong nod too my good friend, JET of VampireFreaks.com, whom I just recently had the pleasure of attending a most amazing afternoon house party at his place in New Jersey! For as long as Jet has been tirelessly working on his VF empire -- and now the Dark Side Of The Con -- he has always understood the notion that focusing on youth is the key to remaining relevant (not to mention we all believe that he has the Fountain of Youth in his basement...he just never ages!!!). His Industrial nightclub events, Cybertron, have mostly always been 18+, but more recently he has included fun all ages events to his roster, ranging from an annual Cybergoth water gun/water balloon fight every summer in N.Y.C.'s Washington Square Park, to a pizza/video game arcade party and meet-up! The notion is that Jet embraces is the notion that not every Goth/Industrial/Alt event has to be a nightclub event! 

This notion is also shared by Stella Caughell, hailing from Chico, California, who organizes free all ages events such as her bi-weekly Gothy Coffee afternoon meet-ups and family Gothic Game Night at a local pizza restaurant! I speak from experience when I state that it is these types of unique gatherings that form true bonds, create new friends, and are really effective to fortify & strengthen a local Goth scene...No-Brainer!

But wait...let me take yet another giant step back and look at the broader spectrum...How does a young individual become interested or even influenced into becoming Goth in the first place? The answer, my friends, is (brace yourselves) in the form of...wait for it...mainstream pop culture!!! 


WAIT!!! Hear me out...hear.me.out!!! Throughout the formative Goth years from the 1970's throughout the 1990's and even into the 2000's, there were many Goth characters in mainstream TV, movies and other mediums. Here are just a few examples, in no particular order (follow the links for visuals):

OK...now, granted...this list features more female characters than male ones, has a substantial amount of animated characters vs. humanoids, and can be subject to endless debate (if you want to put in your 2 cents and add to the list, please feel free to put it in a comment below)...however, let's use this generic list for now. For my argument, I'd like to point out that, except from a very few examples, there really isn't that many positive Goth role model characters in mainstream pop culture in the present day that can inspire a new generation of Gothlings to explore our dark culture. By now, you must be chomping at the bit and asking yourself why in the HELL would I call upon mainstream pop culture to assist with this issue? The answer is simple: widespread reach. Like it or not, most of the time the first exposure someone has to Goth culture is actually via mainstream culture, whether the portrayal was flattering or mocking us. Just look again at the above list of characters and you'll soon understand that these characters are, in fact, all influencers! But in my opinion there needs to be far more of these types of characters coming out of Hollywood and the like, to further influence a new breed of Goths...then we'll take it from there! 

While most of these positive Goth characters are now somewhat missing from mainstream consciousness, I am happy to report that both a Beetlejuice movie sequel and a Beetlejuice Broadway musical are currently in the works...so Lydia Deetz will certainly be making a comeback!!!

Now...lastly, as far as the seasoned Goths that find themselves slowly retiring from the scene, this is largely due in part to simple boredom! I'm find myself a little guilty of this from time to time! Weekly and monthly events tend to suffer the fate of the dreaded "I can always just catch the next one!" syndrome of which individuals will just opt out of attending an event knowing that the same "exact" event will reoccur the next week or month! Meanwhile, as a collective, general attendance starts to dwindle substantially because this notion starts to spread like wildfire amongst others! Soon enough the local event is no longer supported by the host venue and is forced to close...meanwhile, the once patrons of this party are left scratching their heads wondering just what went wrong...and it is at that precise moment that this particular local scene just became that much smaller! 

The solution to end this conundrum is to keep the events very innovative and fresh, especially for the weekly ones, or reduce the frequency of the events. I know, I know...easier said than done, and we all need much more precise and practical solutions to all bolster our local scenes and keep the collective Goth culture alive! That is why I have recently created a collaborative group on Facebook called the New Goth City Conference Room -- a virtual space for nightlife promoters, establishment owners, and entertainers within the nationwide Goth scene network to all share our ideas and experiences! Just like the notion of ostracizing younger Goths for their youth, we shouldn't turn away ideas and help from other influencers from other parts of the country! 

My bottom line here is this: there needs to be a lot more collaboration than division (Joyful or not...see what I did there?) If the local scenes start to think on a statewide level, and then start to think on a nationwide level when traveling or touring, then our beloved Goth culture can grow exponentially, continue to prosper, and thrive well beyond the next 40 years of its existence! This might not be an easy endeavor to tackle, but together, it will certainly be a worthwhile one to continue to pursue!!!

See you in the Dark!

Sir William Welles

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