Monday, 31 January 2011

Return and Regret

There's a tired old cliche amongst veteran Goths, that we are always questioned by wide-eyed eager teenagers as to "What is Goth?"
Like Zen, the Force, or the offside rule, there's no straightforward answer, and more of it lies in a subconscious 'state of mind', plus a tendency towards black clothes regardless of the weather, and a preference for cider and black (and falling over afterwards).

Of slightly less tired-cliche nature, but still debated at length by men in their forties who haven't cut their hair since their twenties, is the 'origins' of Goth, quite how we ended up with some of the unspoken standards of the scene. Between the rock'n'roll excesses of the time and the tendency towards denial of some of the pioneers, nobody is quite sure.

One name that keeps coming up frequently is the Batcave, a London nightclub that tried to get away from the polished-pop tunes of the New Romantic movement in the eighties. A good history, including quotations, was written by
Pete Scathe and indeed his website is a good attempt to track the drunken amble through history of the Goth scene.

The name 'Batcave' these days is generally a bracket-term to describe anything
that came from those anarchic days of the early eighties, when there wasn't so much an alternative scene, as a general desire to rebel against the mainstream. Some of the most definitive bands of that first wave broke out at the time, and when a Goth mentions Batcave, you know they're talking about the original genesis.

Now that we've established these vague definitions, you can imagine the interest we had in a night called 'Return to the Batcave', organised within Leeds. The flyer promised a night of bands from the Batcave era and just beyond, the fabled Second Wave of bands including Leeds-based reluctant associates The Sisters of Mercy. Fronted by DJ Claire, former resident of Club Phonographique (the Leeds answer to Batcave), great things were expected of this unique promotion.

However, this wasn't the first time a Batcave event had been tried. In March 2010, a similar night was run - I missed it, and heard grumblings of discontent at the way it was run. I am, though, as well as being a Goth, a Journalist and determind to get at the truth of the matter - and hopefully have a good time along the way.

My suspicions were immediately aroused when we discovered it was being held in the Cockpit on a Saturday night - supposedly in a separate section to the usual club night Garage, a night playing all the terrible bastard offspring of the alternative sound, and the modern world.
Unfortunately, that separate section was merely the second bar, with the doors between 'our' room and the main floor open and allowing free flow of punters between.

You'll permit me to be judgemental here, mainly because it's my blog, but also because I endure undue judgement every time I step out of my door. I've been into Goth since the mid-nineties, and grudgingly accept that torrent of abuse both physical and mental that goes with dressing differently to whatever fad is passing through youth subculture.
My trips to nightclubs, therefore, are a chance to escape from the vacuous zombies who traipse into Jack Wills to wear whatever MTV tells them to. It's a sanctuary, a chance to have fun without the unwated judgements of complete strangers who every day feel obliged to hurl abuse at me because of the way I look.

I do not therefore want to share a bar, dancefloor and compromising public space with the very worst examples of drunken student scum who regularly clog our city centres and accident and emergency wards of a weekend.
It's a darkly amusing irony that as Goths, we are coldly polite and accepting of whatever jabbering thug meanders into our clubs, yet we would not survive ten minutes in some violence-wracked fleshmarket like Tiger Tiger or Oceana.
Violence is simply out of character in a Goth's psychological make-up, confrontation is something we - quite frankly - run from. In the wake of the Sophie Lancaster tragedy, we've become even more withdrawn from confrontation, and so the precious few people who'd actually turned up for the event braved the tides of squalling, inebriated idiots as best they could.

At one point, I spotted a sequin-topped girl approach the DJ. After she walked away with a confused expression, I had to find out more. Apparently, she'd asked for 'Super Furry Animals' or 'Pulp', and been baffled when the DJ explained it was a Goth night.
Perhaps nobody had explained this to the DJ either, though. Let me put some things straight - Metallica is not Goth. Placebo, desperately trying though they may be, are not Goth. Nine Inch Nails might be Goth by association, but certainly don't belong at a night supposedly dedicated to playing the best of the early eighties. Blondie might be in the right era, but is pretty much so far out of the Goth bracket you'd be hard pressed to see it.

And finally, playing these songs more than twice is the death-knell for any attempt at DJing. Couple that with mixing that sounded like a forty-year old Volvo crossing three lanes on the M62 backwards at seventy miles an hour, and you seriously consider asking for your money back.

But I mentioned earlier about how polite Goths are - we simply left, quietly furious at how out of pocket we were on a night that disappointed in every single way. If it wasn't for nights like Flock at the Library, you'd be hard pressed to think Leeds was ever part of the Goth scene, let alone a major hub.

let's hope the disaffected clubbers who turned up can come up with a suitable the alternative.


  1. I agree! I was very disappointed! After spending many hours getting ready and looking forward to the night, I felt very let down by the night for all the reasons you mentioned. That night would have never worked in that room. I wonder why it wasn't in the third room as advertised?

  2. Sounds like a real arse of a night. Feel free to be judgemental, as old-school music journalism is about being an opinated smartarse.

    How is it that DJs have an aversion to playing goth music like the kind they advertise? It's bad enough with EBM nights but this? Although I have to ask, what was the rest of the setlist like?

    Alternative to the alternative...heh, think I saw the phrase in the NME goth special, and again by Neffs head Carl McCoy. How very fitting.