Home > cultural commentary > Goth – black shoots of recovery?

Goth – black shoots of recovery?

I’ve been busy commenting on other people’s blogs, writing stories (3000 words in one day – phew!) and dealing with distance learning assessments. But I thought I’d share just one thought with you. This is prompted by the fact that I tracking what people look at on this blog, and the most popular blog entry appears to be the piece I did a while back on the state of goth.

In that piece, Now We Are All Goths, I mused on a number of things, but one was that goth seemed to go into decline at the point the mainstream (fashion, for example) began to plunder the style.

There are still many, many traces of goth in the mainstream – consider the ‘look and feel’ of Florence and the Machine for example, which borrows some goth elements, and the continuing fascination with goth style evident at Trendhunter.

But gothic seems to operate on a cyclical pattern, and after a drought of maybe a year or so in which venues closed, goth nights stopped running, niche clothes shops stopped stocking the fashions and a bunch of internet traders to the goth market folded, there are some, er, black new shoots of recovery. Events are starting to run again, though not that well attended as yet. There’s a bit more action on some of the LiveJournal goth discussion forums. Even the BBC is back in on the act, with an upcoming BBC2 documentary series on the 1980s that will cover goths and New Romantics. So goth didn’t die: like some batwinged and lace-covered flower, it allowed its flowers to shrivel, put energy back into its bulb and sat out the seasons waiting for an appropriate time to emerge again.

Whether it will come back exactly the same as last time is yet to be seen. The flyers I’ve seen for upcoming events seem to suggest a bit of fusion going on – mixes of goth with psychedelic, trance, dance/rave and so forth. On the fashion side, Trendhunter seems to like rebranding goth as ‘postmodern postmortem’ or lump it in with ‘dark grunge’ or ‘edgy punk’, but it’s there all right.

So it’s a case of ‘watch this space’ I think.

Incidentally my CD player (I’m too retro to go with an iPod quite yet) is largely playing Angelspit and Emilie Autumn at the moment. Emilie Autumn seems to be very divisive, people love it or hate it even within the goth scene, but you have to admire someone who’s not merely coping with her bipolar but turned it into an art form – it’s a brave and out-there thing to wear on your sleeve!

I was going to write something else entirely about pensions and politics, but as it’s an election day it would be in bad taste – so that’s one for tomorrow.

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  1. May 8, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    I was just doing a search for “Goth” on wordpress and came across this. I just read the related article you wrote & linked to as well. It’s so well-written and interesting. My theory is that goth wasn’t even on a downswing exactly, I just think that the romantic goth style within the goth community has declined in popularity and that is what the mainstream mostly recognizes as goth, while goths just see it as a sub-set. Meanwhile, steampunk and cybergoth/cyberpunk is gaining. I did notice what you talked about with club nights folding, less people coming out etc. in my local scene however our problems coincided with Hurricane Katrina. I didn’t realize it was going on anyplace else. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to New Orleans but it’s kind of funny how it’s been painted as this Gothic mecca in the past but our scene consists of two clubs, a couple bars and 2 monthly club nights. From what I’ve heard right now Virginia has a bigger scene than we do!

  2. May 9, 2010 at 12:27 am

    We’re obviously talking across a US/UK context here – in the UK, outside London you’d be lucky to get more than about 90 people to a goth event these days and I’ve personally seen some internationally-known goth bands perform to audiences of about 35 in the last year.

    There are obviously exceptions. Club Antichrist (if it’s still running, I haven’t had any updates from them in a while and know they had venue problems at one point) was getting about 1000 people – but that was in London and attracted a mixed crowd of goth and fetish plus a lot of people who don’t consider themselves remotely ‘goth’ but like the slightly darker feel of such events. Wave Gotik Treffen is still huge (reportedly) but is a pan-European festival in Germany. The general trend seems to have been a downward spiral in the UK for 12-18 months, slightly moderated now by some mainstream cultural interest and a few new events being promoted.

    I’m not entirely sure what I’m seeing in the UK is purely to do with romantigoths – our experiences, given that we’re on different continents, may differ! The cybergoths seem, as best I can tell, to be going to more psy/trance-oriented events and I suspect their subcultural identity is mutating; it’s true steampunk has come on hugely and there are distinct steampunk events.

    I don’t know whether there are global trends that happen all at the same time or whether things happen at different times in different countries. I have a suspicion that goth may still be quite a big thing in Eastern Europe?

    As to the actual size of the ‘scene’ in different places – people’s perceptions often do go out of sync with what’s actually happening and I can well imagine New Orleans having a reputation that endures on the basis of the amount of contemporary gothic fiction referring to it, while the actual scene is currently much smaller. Doesn’t surprise me in the least.

    All the best!

  3. May 11, 2010 at 1:31 am

    Ah, that changes things. I somehow missed that you were in the UK.

  4. May 11, 2010 at 1:51 am

    It’s probably the case that since we’re looking at different scenes, separated by a few thousand miles, we’re seeing slightly different patterns, or maybe the same patterns but just not running in sync with each other.

    But maybe the more amusing question coming out of your original comment is ‘what does the goth community recognise as goth?’ – because most goths I know (who are still keeping up the style and taste) will vehemently deny they’re goth and find other words to describe themselves these days. But in a way that was always the case. In-group and out-group perceptions are quite different so I guess that’s another dimension to factor in to descriptions of what’s going on?

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