Music, absinth, lace: goth club culture

van Elferen, Isabella (2014) Music, absinth, lace: goth club culture. In: Gothic Study Day; 06 Dec 2014, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Goth festivals and parties are unlike any other type of nightlife. At the Whitby Gothic Weekend or Gala Nocturna, Goths dress up in the most elaborate outfits, they listen to poetry, watch Gothic films, witness cabaret or fetish performances, drink absinthe, smoke clove cigarettes, dance to Goth music. With their lush settings and Victorian figures dancing in slow-motion to darkly romantic music, Goth nightlife offers a world outside the day-to-day, a twilight zone in which gender, history and sexual normativity are not boundaries but possibilities. All of this is accompanied by the sounds of carefully construed soundtracks, which typically start off with old school Goth evoking past times, then change to the drones of electronic body music (EBM), and end with the martial stomp of Cybergoth music. Goth clubbers dance the night away, and with it go the here and now. Only when the night is over they feel their feet, and the bleak lights outside the club return them to 21st century reality. Through analyses of Goth music, lyrics, and social practices, this paper explores the ways in which music contributes to the alternate realities established at Goth parties. Because of the immense range of Goth substyles, such realities may vary greatly in style and sound: some parties aim to recreate the atmosphere of London’s 1980s Batcave club, others thematise the rituals of pagan pasts, and yet others celebrate futuristic aesthetics. Despite their differences, though, all these types of Goth music present a timeless memory space inspired by romantic nostalgia and dark fantasy.

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