Category Archive for Nightcrawling
San Francisco Gothic culture! Death Guild club, metaphysical shops, Hutch Oakland & Herlen Place restaurants.
Let’s continue my adventures in San Francisco — with a look at the Gothic and occult subculture!
I’ll take you inside Herlen Place cafe and Hutch Bar & Kitchen, and out to the Goth club Death Guild. I even got to shoot exclusive photos inside “Loved to Death” boutique (of Oddities fame), as you’ll see.
My friends and I had a mini-reunion in San Francisco. You might recognize Caroline, Trevor, John, and Lauren from Tokyo club nights way back in the blog. None of us live in Japan any more, but we’ve stayed in close touch and continue to meet up regularly around the world.
(Everyone’s stayed in sync over the years… as you can see from the unplanned red and black color scheme! Talk about #squadghouls.)
Xiomara Entropy always shows up with spooky and sweet treats, made by hand. This time, she brought us delicious skull-shaped chocolate with green absinthe filling. When you crack the head open, it looks like zombie brain matter!
Clift Hotel is filled with funky designer chairs. I took advantage of this mirrored one, for a closeup on my sparkly gold ankle boots by Le Babe.
(More of Le Babe’s shoe designs are below:)
The lobby of Clift Hotel is made for taking photos. My ghouls clamored onto Philippe Starck’s “Big Chair.” (Look underneath the seat, and you’ll see a child sticking his tongue out!)
Starck’s giant chair actually serves a function (other than providing seating for giants). He designed it to balance the negative space in the two-story high lobby.
Clift Hotel’s fabulous furniture collection includes Michel Haillard’s Horn Sofa (above), made with ostrich leather, dark wood, bronze, and horns. The devilish sofa is the perfect seating for a quartet of Goths. (For more of my stay at Hotel Clift, see this post.)
We went to Oakland to dine at Hutch Bar & Kitchen, a relatively young restaurant dedicated to Southern cooking and cocktails. The staff treated us to warm American South hospitality from the moment we sat down at this long table, lit by an iron chandelier and Edison bulbs.
Chef/owner David King named the restaurant after his family patriarch, Byron Monroe Hutchison (“Hutch”). The vibe pays tribute to Hutch’s zeal for life, and love of good food, drinks and fellowship.
We were intrigued by Hutch’s bar selection, which included dozens of American ryes, bourbons, and other spirits. If you’re a whiskey connoisseur, try the 3-drink flight that lets you try varieties from different US regions.
The cocktails put a tasty twist on American South classics. You can’t go wrong with the Good Ol’ Fashioned, or the Two Jacks Sazerac with High West double rye, Peychaud’s, and St George Absinthe.
One of my favorite cocktails was the Hutch Sour with 4 Roses bourbon, egg white, lemon, lime, and angostura bitters. All the drinks were beautifully crafted, as you can see from the presentation and foam.
For starters on the lighter side, we dove into a mixed winter greens salad and bourbon-cured trout. The perfect, clean first courses… before the comfort food rolled out of the kitchen!
My friends and I were impressed by the spread of Southern classic dishes, prepared with finesse. We especially loved the shrimp and grits with spicy Creole sauce, seasoned pork chop, and catfish with hush puppies, coleslaw and remoulade. David King’s recipes are chock full of tenderness and flavor, yet not overly heavy.
It’s difficult to choose from the selection of side dishes, but Hutch’s creamy, golden cheese grits are among the best I’ve had (and you’ll recall I ate my away around New Orleans!) We also passed around the delicious collard greens, mac and cheese, roasted butternut squash and black eyed peas.
Leave room for dessert, as the passionfruit cheesecake and bourbon bread pudding (with chocolate sauce and ice cream) were stand-outs. I would come back in a heartbeat, especially with a group of friends, for Hutch’s outstanding Southern cooking.
Time to dance at Death Guild, the longest running weekly Goth Industrial club night in the country (and second oldest in the world, at the ripe age of 25!) The Gothic party usually takes place at San Francisco’s DNA Lounge, but that Saturday, it was at Uptown Oakland.
Alas, Yukiro couldn’t be with us… but we had his lovely cousin Pontus, who rocked a darkwave style.
As you know, I love checking out Goth culture worldwide; each city has a unique expression of the dark subculture.
Death Guild Uptown has two rooms that play a mix of Gothic, Industrial, synthpop and other dark music. At the bar, we watched the Japanese monster-fighting CGI film Gantz:O, while sipping on speciality cocktails and grooving to 80s music. In the dance area, the DJs got us moving to Kate Bush, Garbage, old-school Goth tracks, and more.
Upstairs, Death Guild has a “Dark Market” where vendors sell hand-made spooky items. We browsed a fine selection of jewelry, homewares, custom art, and crochet creatures of the night.
(For more Goth party info, check out my previous San Francisco Goth clubbing guide — it includes reports of Wicked Grounds, Cat Club and T-Shack.)
A Gothic cultural trip to San Francisco isn’t complete without a visit to Loved to Death in the Haight district. John and I wanted to get everything in this store, which you may recognize from the Oddities SF television show.
The window display hints at the darkness within… Antiques, taxidermy, Victorian memento mori, skeletons and other delights fit for a cabinet of curiosities.
(Loved to Death address: 1681 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA)
It was a pleasure to see owner Audra Kunkle again, who remembered me from my last stop-in. As always, Loved to Death has a riveting selection of odd and perhaps disturbing objects from around the world.
We especially loved the skull with Cthulhu tentacles, and Baphomet the Sabbatic Goat statues (John got one). He brought me a Miffy grey plush bunny from Hong Kong, and she fit right in with these Satanic icons. Hail Miffy!
Wouldn’t you like a two-headed baby skeleton in your home? An antique bicorn hat? Or how about a poisonous spider in a glass jar?
Creep over to the Oddities San Francisco shop in Haight-Ashbury, and see these critters for yourself. (For more photos inside the store, check out my blog post about Loved to Death from 2014.)
Trevor grew up in SF, and suggested that we visit The Sword and Rose, a hidden metaphysical shop. (From the street, all you see is a narrow walkway… which opens up into this spectacular garden). At The Sword & Rose, seekers come for tarot card readings, and mystical supplies like incense, gemstones, crystals and candles.
Address: 85 Carl St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA
San Francisco is one of the world’s biggest hubs of new age / metaphysical / spiritual culture. Some of the shops veer on the tourist side, but not The Sword and Rose: as soon as you step into the little hut, you can feel a special energy. The staff welcomes people from all walks of life and spiritualities.
The mystical shop is small, and contains several altars that celebrate Egyptian gods and other spirits. The Sword & Rose has many regular visitors; some came with their dogs, who added to the joy of the space.
In the back shelf, you can see over 90 oils and incenses, all ritually made by hand. The staff helps you choose a fitting one according to astrological aspects, ceremonial purpose, intention, or deity.
John got this blue “El” powdered incense, as well as a small burner.
Since 1985, San Franciscans have come here for warm and attentive tarot readings. This is a wonderful space with a sense of community, and we’re glad we wandered in.
We ended the San Francisco getaway with a final brunch at Herlen Place. This smiling owl welcomed us into the modern, chic cafe / wine bar, located right by Chinatown’s Dragon gate. A relaxing, Zen-like spot to enjoy a leisurely meal.
Herlen Place serves up a healthy and fresh menu, highlighting organic produce, seasonal herbs and vegetables, and bio-dynamic wines.
The photos speak for themselves… this is brunch heaven! I wish I could order Herlen Place’s Eggs Avocado every day, accompanied by sundried tomato pesto and baby arugula. Be sure to order one of the delicious espresso drinks, and a chocolate croissant. The Eggs Benedict and Farn Fresh Eggs on the other tables also looked delicious.
We dove into the lunch menu: a crisp tuna salad and hearty cauliflower soup, paired with a sparkling mimosa. Cheers to Herlen Place for its healthy, sustainable, vegetable-centric menu that is quintessential San Francisco.
Namaste to the city by the bay, until I come again (I’m here at least every two years or so).
For more San Francisco alternative culture guides, click here. This is my collection of stories over the years, including a stay at the SF Zen Center, drag queen shows, and cat cafes! I hope you find these travel tips helpful for planning a trip here.
Synthwave San Francisco! Turbo Drive retrowave club, design Hotel Clift by Philippe Starck, Alexander’s Steakhouse.
Fire and brimstone… Talk about a warm welcome back to San Francisco!
I recently took a weekend trip to see some of my favorite ghouls. Since I’m currently all about retrowave music, this was also the perfect excuse to check out SF’s synthwave party scene.
San Francisco has long been a hub for subcultures: from the Beatniks to the hippies and onward. Right now, it’s the site of the longest-running and best synthwave party on the planet, Turbo Drive.
Keep reading for a firsthand report of the outrun fun, featuring a performance by French artist Danger (above!)
First, let me introduce you to my favorite new necklace — this minimal choker from Aurum by Guðbjörg. They’re an Icelandic jewelry designer, handcrafting every piece from silver from their workshop in Reykjavík.
My necklace is from the Aurum Asterias collection, which is inspired by the country’s unique, dark ocean waves. I love this design because it brings back fond memories of when I visited the black sand beaches of Iceland.
As you know, I’m all about supporting independent designers that produce exquisite pieces. Aurum melds traditional craftsmanship with modern design, and prioritizes sustainability with fair-trade materials and environmentally friendly packaging.
For a special piece, I encourage you to view their collections that include rings, bracelets, earrings and other accessories.
See more from Aurum below:
I had fun staying at San Francisco’s Clift Hotel, which was designed by Philippe Starck (one of my favorite modern furniture/interiors designers) and Ian Schrager (co-founder of the legendary NY nightclub Studio 54).
Monkeying around is encouraged, in this hip hotel. Guests can sit on Starck’s Big Arm Chair and take photos… that is, if they can manage to clamor up there! (Images by Lauren Levitt).
Clift Hotel San Francisco has a mind-bending lobby, featuring a collection of avantgarde chairs. There are seats designed by Ray and Charles Eames, a coffee table by Salvador Dali, and a surreal stool by Roberto Matta who was inspired by René Magritte. (Remember when I went to his surrealist museum in Belgium?).
Clift San Francisco is part of Morgans Hotel Group, hence the eclectic, boutique luxury vibe of the space.
We had cocktails in Clift’s historic Redwood Room; legend says it was carved from the wood of a single redwood tree. The bar has been restored by Starck, with an enormous etched glass bar and plasma TV screens that broadcast digital art.
(I’ll show you more from the hotel further down… but now, it’s time to party.)
Many of my friends and I are currently loving the neo-80s sounds of synthwave: think Stranger Things and John Carpenter. I’ve long wanted to attend Turbo Drive, the first and only San Francisco dance club dedicated to retrowave / outrun.
As the party describes it: “This is the soundtrack for carefree drives along the beach, Day-Glo legwarmer aerobics, sunsets over laser grids, outrunning the cops in a cyberpunk dystopia, falling in love with your first robot crush, and occasionally summoning the unholy forces from the depths with a keytar.”
Turbo Drive takes place regularly in the space about DNA Lounge. I’m hanging with Meikee Magnetic in the DJ booth; he runs the party with Danny Delorean and Devon Dossett. (They also do other events around the city, including Bootie SF and Neon Black).
The club’s playlist is space-synth perfection. The DJs spin Carpenter Brut, Perturbator, Dance with the Dead, Com Truise, Gost, Robert Parker… the soundtrack of night-driving in space.
Then, Danger took the stage! The French musician electrified the crowd with his glowing eyes, behind a mask reminiscent of Daft Punk or Aural Vampire’s Raveman.
Danger had tremendous energy throughout his set, never letting up on the pounding hyperdrive. He drew in a packed room, and by the end, everyone was headbanging hard to the retro-futuristic sounds of the 80s.
Thanks to Meikee for inviting me to Turbo Drive. It was great to catch up with friends, and experience this intergalactic club scene. If you come to San Fran, hopefully you too can check one of their synthwave events.
Here’s another look at my “Kung Fury” outfit of the day. I’m constantly wearing this 90s-style red beret by Mary Wyatt London.
My Dragon midi skirt is from Print All Over Me, which lets you print custom designs on 200 high-quality templates. You can also order designs by top artists; my skirt is by gentlethrills.
San Francisco’s Hotel Clift is made for photo-shooting. Lauren and I got access to one of the mod suites, with high ceilings and a dining room with furniture designed by Philippe Starck.
Mirrors, mirrors everywhere. (As you can see, PAOM skirt is double-sided!)
The suite at Clift San Francisco is a study in sumptuous textures. Silk, leather, velvet, chrome and Venetian Murano glass.
The relaxed opulence fit with my embroidered high heel shoes by Le Babe. (More of their designs featured below:)
One of my friends rented a Clift suite for a birthday party. This would also be a fabulous spot to ring in the New Year, as it’s centrally located in downtown San Fran.
Lauren’s black latex dress and cat mask matched the playful energy of the hotel. (On each level, you’ll find a big circular mirror and these reflective chairs).
Don’t miss out on the 16th floor, featuring this lavender spiral staircase and glass lights.
At an art hotel like The Clift, adventure awaits… Shout-out to the staff for welcoming us here, and their kind comments on our various outfits!
On our first night, I enjoyed a brilliant meal at Alexander’s Steakhouse with Dr John Skutlin, who was in town to speak at a University of San Francisco conference about tattoo culture in Asia. He says, “Alexander’s elegant and sophisticated interior and warm ambient lighting set the mood for an evening of gastronomic delights guided by their expert staff.”
The restaurant is a traditional steak house, yet they innovate with fusion dishes and creative cocktails. My gin curry cocktail above is a perfect example; decorated with edible flowers, this Indian inspired drink is wonderfully refreshing.
(John and I are wearing rings by Alex Streeter, our favorite jewelry designer. The legendary silversmith created the Angel Heart Ring, which was memorialized in the movie starring Robert De Niro as Lucifer. This pentagram design comes in several variations; John’s ring has two silver devils on the side. I’m wearing Alex Streeter’s Ouroboros and Bone Claw rings.”)
John continues, “Of course, steak is the name of the game, but before our massive cuts of beef we were treated to hon Hamachi “shots” – a line of shotglasses each filled with avocado, serrano, cilantro, and of course raw yellowtail, all topped off with a splash of yuzu soy sauce for a refreshing aperitif.”
The server quipped that we could throw back a dozen of these and still want more… as you can see from my expression, he was correct! Other restaurants have copied this dish, but Alexander’s hamachi shots are the original ones.
“Might I say that I’m Old Fashioned?” Our server brought us an extensive wine and cocktail list to peruse.
John says, “The libations were almost too numerous to choose from, but the double rye Manhattan was perfectly balanced between the vermouth and the heavy dose of rye. Everyone knows about aging wine and whiskey, but cocktails can be mixed and then aged as well, allowing the ingredients to fuse together in subtle and surprising ways, as I found with the aged Rob Roy cocktail Alexander’s served up.”
Alexander’s Steakhouse has a meticulously curated beef program, highlighting small farms from the US, Australia, and Japan. They are also one of the only restaurants in the US certified to serve authentic Kobe beef.
In John’s words, “The star of the show was the steak. Wagyu Japanese beef has become a household name in the US, but here we found a menu with rare and intriguing selections, including Hokkaido privately farmed beef from cattle raised in below freezing temperatures, and extremely limited olive-fed beef from Shodoshima Island in Kagawa, Japan.”
Our server recommended the aged T-bone, which John is cutting into. The meat was tender and juicy, and at a perfect medium rare: total umami. We accompanied it with sides of wild mushrooms and mashed potatoes, all beautifully prepared and not too heavy.
At the bottom, you can see the Hidagyu from Gifu Prefecture that we sampled. John raves, “It was richly marbled, a hallmark of Wagyu beef, and practically melted in our mouths. The beef was served with what can only be described as a “flight” of twelve different salts from around the world, some smoky, some almost sweet. Each brought out a new dimension of flavor from the meat.”
The staff impressed us with their knowledge, and treated us with little extras such as a splash of red wine to pair with the steaks. They also created special cocktails for us based on our favorite tastes — mine had yuzu in it, and was spot on!
We ended with a warm, gooey souffle and lemon poppy cake. Fresh out of the oven and not overly sweet; exactly how I like my desserts.
Alexander’s Steakhouse was a five-star experience, all around. The dishes, drinks, atmosphere and especially the service deserve the highest rating. For a special night out or celebration in San Francisco, I’d book a table at Alexander’s without hesitation.
More to come from San Francisco — including shopping at occult shops, and the Death Guild Goth party!
It was such a treat to reunite with friends that I met in Tokyo, over 10 years ago! I’m sure you recognize them from this blog over the years. Have you ever had a reunion like ours?
New York Goth travel guide! Ryan & Regina Cohn’s Oddities Flea Market, House of Wax bar, Archer Hotel NYC.
New York, New York. It’s always good to be back.
A lot has changed since I lived here (it seems I’m in reminiscence mode these days). NYC has become a different world than the one I knew: there’s now WiFi in the subways; everyone relies on smartphones for getting around, and takes Ubers to parties in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, I can recall the days of flip-phones and the Korova Milk Bar!
Still, this remains “Gotham City.” I was delighted to meet up with friends old and new, and check out NY’s latest Goth / bizarre bars, club nights and more.
Read on for an exclusive look at House of Wax bar, the upcoming Oddities Flea Market run by Ryan and Regina Cohn…
… as well as Stella Rose’s pop up fashion boutique, Gothic nightlife, and tips for alternative travelers!
This time, I stayed at Archer Hotel NYC right in midtown Manhattan. If you’re only in the city for a few days and love boutique design hotels, then this is the place for you.
(Keep scrolling down for a full look inside, including the epic view of the Empire State from their rooftop bar.)
While I was in New York, Ryan Matthew Cohn and Regina Marie Cohn invited me to visit them in Brooklyn. As you can see in these images, their home is a treasure trove of morbid curiosities!
It was a joy to see Ryan’s infamous skull collections in person, as well as pet their British Shorthair cat, Percy Blue. (The white Scottish Fold, Princess Andromeda, was hiding!)
I’m sure you recognize Ryan Matthew Cohn from his regular appearances on the Discovery / Science TV show, “Oddities.”
You might recall that I was a guest on Oddities; we’ve kept in touch since then, as we obviously share a love of all things dark and deathly.
Ryan and his lovely wife Regina currently work together in this fascinating field. They source, restore and sell unique osteological artifacts and other curiosities, as well as curate, lecture and educate on these subjects.
Exciting news: Ryan and Regina recently launched an Oddities Flea Market, which brings together vendors of all things peculiar! Mike Zohn and Evan Michelson of Obscura Antiques will be two of the many participants.
Their first event was such a success that they’re now hosting a two-day market on September 30th and October 1st –– NY friends, you must come check this out.
Ryan and Regina have brought together only the best purveyors to take part in the Oddities Market. In a single location (Brooklyn Bazaar), guests can browse and buy anatomical wonders, taxidermy, Gothic jewelry, bizarre art… you get the picture.
These photos of Ryan and Regina’s home give you a sense of what to expect. I spy an Anatomical Venus, medical preparations in jars, shrunken heads, and skulls galore… I could spend hours browsing their personal collections, which are enough to fill a museum!
Ryan and Regina are constantly traveling in search of “morbid anatomy” objects, which will be available for sale at the market. Plus, you can browse dozens of tables from Blood Milk, Amber Maykut, Goldengrove Jewelry, Adam Wallacavage, Meagan Meli and others.
Come join Ryan Matthew Cohn, Regina Marie Cohn and friends!
What: 2nd Oddities Flea Market
When: September 30th and October 1st, from 12PM to 6PM.
Where: Brooklyn Bazaar, NY
Ticketing: VIP pre-sale tickets are available for purchase through Atlas Obscura (act fast, Saturday is already sold out). These tickets will gain you entry at 11 am with full access to all 43 sales tables.
Or, just show up for general admission at the door, which is only $3. There’s more info on the Oddities Market RSVP page.
Be sure to let your New York friends know, and say hello to Regina and Ryan for me! I wish I could be there, but we’ll get together again very soon.
Find out more news on Ryan’s Facebook page, and keep reading to peer inside the House of Wax Bar in Brooklyn that he curated…
… but first, an outfit change back at Archer Hotel New York! The midtown location was near tons of subway stations, which made it easy for me to get to appointments in different boroughs. (Address: 45 W 38th St, between 5th and 6th Ave).
I love clean design, and felt right at home amidst the modern, industrial brick-and-glass decor.
My windows had a magnificent view of the Empire State Building (see first photo in this post). Every room came with cozy robes, bedtime books and cute his-and-hers slippers. I could have lounged all day in this plush bed, surrounded by classic brick walls…
… but when you’re in the Big Apple, you’ve got to explore! With Archer Hotel NY’s central location, you can walk to lots of local spots. I confess I made several trips to Joe’s Pizza, which has a new Times Square location for its classic New York slices.
Right in the hotel lobby, you can enjoy a memorable dinner at Charlie Palmer Steak. The NY steakhouse reflects chef Palmer’s bold, progressive American cuisine, which draws upon seasonal / local flavors from surrounding waterways and farms.
Charlie Palmer’s menu has an impressive raw bar and seafood selection. We began with the special appetizer of the day: scallop ceviche. Our server also recommended the outstanding tuna tartare with citrus ponzu, pickled ginger and sesame crisps. It went perfectly with my Midtown Manhattan with rye, aperol, bitters and grapefruit peel. (You know I love my “old man drinks,” and the cocktails here were on point.)
Next came a perfectly seared, melt in your mouth filet mignon. It was hard to choose from the many spectacular sides available (truffle potatoes, asparagus) and sauces (the house CP sauce is recommended).
Finally, dessert: creme brulee with black currant and Tahitian vanilla creme, with passionfruit and vanilla ice cream. For a special celebratory meal with excellent service, Charlie Palmer Steak delivers big-time.
A stay at Archer Hotel NY isn’t complete without a cocktail at their Spyglass Rooftop Bar. On the 22nd floor, you can take in a panoramic view of the Empire State and Chrysler Building, while sipping a crafted cocktail.
The Spyglass bar also has a classic Manhattan happy hour; the “Archer Palmer” with black tea-infused gin and lemon fit with the retro vibe. Cheers to Archer Hotel New York for a fantastic stay!
I enjoyed more outstanding cocktails at The House of Wax Bar in Brooklyn, with my friend Lily Streeter of Alex Streeter Jewelry. As soon as we arrived at the entrance, which is lined with 19th century death masks, we knew we were in for an adventure.
House of Wax is a little hard to find, so listen up: it’s inside the Alamo Drafthouse movie complex on the fourth floor, in the same building as Dekalb Market Hall and Trader Joe’s. (Address: 445 Albee Square).
Lily was wearing the Angel Heart pentagram ring, one of Alex Streeter’s most iconic designs.
We examined the cocktail list by candlelight: they drew upon 19th century ingredients, and had names such as Butcher of Hanover, and Napoleon Death Mask (made with Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac, Cardamaro, Cynar, rhubarb bitters.) Talk about mixology meeting the macabre!
I’ve been to a lot of theme bars worldwide, but this was one of the most outstanding. House of Wax features a permanent collection of 19th century wax moulages, curated by Ryan Matthew Cohn. He sourced over a hundred medical wax models from Germany, which were once used to demonstrate surgical procedures and diseases.
Lily and I loved trying the Anatomical and Pathological cocktails, which were perfectly balanced and creatively concocted with old-time ingredients. We snacked on small bites (the menu includes pretzels with cheese, edamame hummus, flatbreads and cheese boards).
Between rounds, we walked around and admired the glass display cases of wax figures, eerily lit by chandeliers.
This is not a Halloween kitsch bar. House of Wax is better described as a museum, with a mesmerizing collection that transports you back in time. Lily and I marveled at the wax renditions of diseases such as syphilis, floating hands that demonstrated operations, and painful-looking birth canals. (This collection was also once at the Morbid Anatomy Museum, which is now sadly closed.)
Behind the bar, there were dozens of New York beers on tap. I’m an absinthe aficionado though, and couldn’t resist this cocktail with an egg white foam.
Without doubt, I’ll be coming back to The House of Wax Bar with friends. I couldn’t think of a better place in NY to have a Gothic gathering.
Now, time for some nightcrawling. I’ve written about Goth nights in NYC over the years; the party scene is constantly changing. Right now, a lot of the best Gothic / underground / alternative parties are in Brooklyn.
We started the night with a rooftop DJ set…
… then headed to Saint Vitus bar in Greenpoint, for a 1980s Goth night. Quite a few Gothic dance parties take place in this venue, which has stained glass artifacts, upside-down crosses, and this resident weirdo (at first, I didn’t realize he was a mannequin!)
I reunited with my old pal Zachary, and we reminisced about fun times at the Trash! party. RIP DJ Jess Marquis…
New York’s nightlife is always evolving, and it’s not a bad thing. Zachary told me that St Vitus now has a brilliant synthwave party, called Night.Wav. As a retrowave addict, I’d love to check it out (as well as the other outrun events that are starting to bloom worldwide, like San Francisco’s Turbo Drive).
4am on the waterfront. Late, decadent, alternative nights in New York with friends… that is something that will never grow old.
Last but certainly not least, I stopped by the pop-up shop of my friend Stella Rose. She and I were bloggers way back in the day, and I’ve watched her grow her spirited clothing line to the success it is today.
The boutique was filled with her charming and cheeky designs, from her It’s Stella Rose fashion collection. I have the “No Thank You” pink backpack and sheer tank top above, which she made in collaboration with Print All Over Me.
Isn’t the Stella Rose boutique fabulously decorated? I tried on her handmade rose beret, and held on to her fuzzy pom-pom hair ties that come in different colors.
Angry animals, tropical skirts, ghosts… the cuteness meets attitude is distinctively Stella.
I ended my trip with a “Goth latte.” I heard that Round K Cafe served a matte black latte, blackened with organic coconut ash, almond paste and coconut cream. A drink for dark, lost souls.
Time to pack up my Minions x Away luggage, until my next trip to NYC… I’ll be back soon, as always.
Did you enjoy this peek into Ryan Matthew Cohn’s world, and Oddities Market? If you’re looking for more New York City Goth travel tips, click here – this blog has a decade’s worth of stories from the city!
Celebrating 10 years of blogging! Perturbator concert review: synthwave outrun retro wave music, Akade 80s fashion.
Back to the future, baby!
I’m currently obsessed with synthwave / outrun / retrowave — the music genre that pays tribute to the synthesizers, video games and night driving soundtracks of the 1980s. If you’re in the same boat (or Testarossa), then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this story about Perturbator’s concert and Akade fashion.
This is a flashback post for another major reason… Believe it or not, I’ve reached my 10 year anniversary of blogging! That’s correct: I began this La Carmina blog a decade ago, on Sept 14, 2007.
We’ll celebrate this ten year milestone with a ride down memory lane, through Neo Tokyo and the Future 80s.
Let’s start with the present: I’m currently in love with all things shiny and chrome. Since I was on my way to a futuresynth concert, I wanted to wear something along the lines of this aesthetic (imagine electric neon cityscapes and Miami’s midnight highways, circa 1983).
Unfamiliar with synthwave music? Here’s a dark gaming mix to get you in the mood. Think John Carpenter soundtracks x eighties nostalgia against pulsing, dark, spacey dance beats.
Some of my favorite synth artists are Carpenter Brut, Gost, Lazerhawk, Dan Terminus, Dance with the Dead… and Perturbator, who I was about to see live.
I was “dressed to kill” in Akade Wear, an indie clothing line inspired by the retrowave revival. I’m wearing Akade’s New Retro Wave tshirt, which is unisex (I got size XS and tied the end in a bundle, as I did in the early 90s.)
I paired it with this Iron Fist silver skeleton skirt (available here), and a Spiral UK bum bag (which comes in holographic and glitter versions too). Fanny packs rule — why on earth did they go out of style?
I finished the look with a silver hair ribbon in my high sideways ponytail, silver heels, and a bomber jacket by Disturbia. It has a spider on the back, similar to the scorpion jacket in the movie Drive.
The Akade Wear fashion line is a branch of New Retro Wave, the online hub for all things outrun. They’re passionate about the musical genre and associated culture, and bring fans together with articles, streams, events, and now clothing. As they put it, “the sound, drive and sheer passion of the 80’s-90’s is one of the most refreshing sounds to hit the music scene, and has been long overdue.”
I’m having fun “living the 80s dream” in streetwear from Akade! They have a large selection of nostalgic, high-saturation designs for both men and women, and ship worldwide.
Synthwave has gained ground in recent years, and the leading artists are now touring worldwide. Interestingly, a lot of my Goth friends have independently discovered and fallen in love with the genre. Many metalheads and geek-types are also drawn to the retrofuturistic sound, bringing together a fanbase from various subcultures.
Those with a Gothic disposition tend to be fond of France’s Perturbator, who creates futuresynth with a dark edge. The pentagram posters are spot on: “Satan is a computer.” “If machines could feel the way we do, would they believe in a god?”
I was excited to see Perturbator live, at the Rickshaw Theater in Vancouver (he’s currently touring North America, with tour dates in major US and Canadian cities). The concert was close to sold out; I spotted lots of guys in long hair, girls in platform boots, and pentagrams on everyone.
“The Legend Says He’s Half Human, Half Synthesizer” — yes! James Kent (Perturbator) helmed a spaceship pod surrounded by vertical lights, which strobed and flashed blinding colors.
From the moment Perturbator took the stage, the audience never stopped moving. He delivered relentless darkwave, heavy and sinister yet uplifting: one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time.
You can see video clips from the Vancouver show above and here on my Instagram. He played many of his faster, more aggro tracks like “Satanic Rites,” “Neo Tokyo,” “Humans are Such Easy Prey.”
I was riveted by the strobe and color effects behind him, simple yet powerful. Perturbator kept his hood on and never spoke to the crowd, but bobbed his head to the driving basslines and gestured with his hands during the climaxes.
I haven’t been out to as many concerts recently, but synth-wave is changing this up. Perturbator’s live was enormously engaging, and he’s an act that you need to see in person.
During the concert, my friend turned to me and asked, “How long have you been blogging for?” My expression was like above… for I realized we had reached Year Ten!
My “La Carmina blog” launched on September 14th, 2007 — a time when blogging and social media were in their infancy. To put it mildly, a lot has happened since then.
As we reach my blog’s 10th birthday, it makes sense to do a trip down memory lane. I considered recapping the top events, but you can already find my Year in Review summaries here, and all my travel destination stories in one place.
Instead, I’ve recently been in nostalgic mode — and thought you might have fun revisiting these memories as well.
The early days of this blog (2007-2012 approximately) were very different from the current incarnation. Long-time readers will recall that I focused almost exclusively on Japanese subcultures, particularly Gothic Lolita fashion and Tokyo nightlife.
This was a particularly exciting era in Tokyo, especially for the Goth clubbing scene, weird pop culture, and experimental style. You’ll find a lot of exciting subcultures in Japan still, but they aren’t the same as they were in the mid to late 2000s.
Looking back, I’m glad I captured this transformative time. In 2008, I spent part of the year in Tokyo, and met many of the “creatures of the night” that remain my closest friends to this day.
The Gothic nightlife was wonderfully inclusive, bringing together an electrifying group of locals and expats. In particular, Mistress Maya’s club night Midnight Mess and DJ Sisen’s parties formed the heart of the dark subculture (above is the infamous night when Covenant played).
There was the feeling of anything-goes: the freedom to experiment with fashion (even if it resulted in some fails), dive into the dark arts, and dance til morning to cybergoth electro.
I always felt inspired by the clubgoers at Midnight Mess, as well as the stage shows. You might see Akira Death perform robotic metal, the Dark Marchen prance around in Rococo gowns, and Mistress Maya tie up and dominate a Sweet Lolita dolly.
Many Japanese creatives were regulars at these events, always showing up in death-disco ghoul fashion. Above is Goth designer Kenzo A, and nAo12xu of the band †13th Moon†.
The queens of darkness were of course DJ Sisen and Selia, who mesmerized us with her dark operetta vocals. Absinthe, corsets, feathered eyelashes, cyberlox and chains — yes please.
Our personal style has all changed quite a bit since these days… but oh, we had fun!
I went down the rabbit hole, and realized I’d forgotten about many of the events I’d written about in the early days.
For example, do you remember D’s Valentine? He was the master behind Alamode Market and Gothic Bar Heaven, and club nights at venues like Tamachi Cube — I haven’t thought of these places in years.
At the time, Japan’s extreme body modifications were not widely known about. Snake tongue and bagelheads, oh my!
I laughed at the caption I had written under this photo. “Unzipped pants and nipple tape… what more do you need in a boy?”
Department H, the hentai / drag / fetish party, has always been a funhouse and remains this way today.
Some of the people I partied with have disappeared, while others remain in my life… albeit with different hair, makeup and clothing choices.
The old school Tokyo Goth crew, on the way to Midnight Mess after dinner at Hibari sushi in Shinjuku. Ah… I’d love to teleport back for a night.
Two things that always guarantee a good time: the twins Atsushi and Takashi, and a can of Strong Zero convenience store alcohol!
In the beginning of the blog, I was very Japan-focused. Yukiro and I did a memorable trip to Osaka, where we raged with hard rocker Fu-Ki at occult club night Black Veil. Somehow, I was inspired to do KISS makeup that night…
Harajuku fashion remains exciting now, but it was certainly weirder and rave-ier in those days. I remember that people were infatuated with Takuya Angel’s designs, and yearned to take part in his fashion walk.
Gothic Lolita fashion was thriving. My friends and I loved to gawk at the frilled fashion in Laforet, and hunt for secondhand bargains at Closet Child.
Many of the brands have now closed or downsized, and Lolita style no longer feels fresh to me — but at the time, it was a joy to wear.
I took this snap on Harajuku bridge. Youths still dressed up and hung out here; this is a rarity today.
I was also a huge fan of Visual Kei / J-Rock music at the time (now, I never listen to it — I gravitate to Italo Disco and retrowave). I saw many of my favorite Japanese bands perform, including Versailles and Moi dix Mois (above are Mana cosplays and tributes at the concert).
I forgot that I saw Deluhi live. VK hair and styling though… still so good.
How can anyone resist a host boy with bleach-blonde sky-high hair, and velvet joggers with a leopard print top?
I remember that readers were fascinated by the Japanese pop culture oddities I reported on, such as maid cafes. Today, these are common knowledge, and you can find theme cafes (such as cat ones) worldwide. Times have changed…
While you can’t go back to the past, you can certainly revisit it… 10 years is a long time! I know some of you have been reading this blog since MySpace days, and I am enormously grateful. Thanks for growing with me through some bad point-and-shoot photography, dubious style choices, and epic adventures with friends.
I hope you had fun reading this “old school La Carmina blog” retrospective. Do you have any favorite “member-berries” from Tokyo, or thoughts on how things have changed?
PS: you can find old blog posts in the right-hand sidebar of this blog, under Archives (there’s a drop-down menu that filters by month and year). You can also see all my Tokyo, Japan stories here, from 2007 to today.
PPS: What’s coming up in the future? Only time will tell… fasten your seatbelts, and stay tuned for more wild rides!