Category Archive for Visual Kei + Music
I’m pleased you enjoyed my first report from Whitby Goth Weekend 2015! It was my first time at this massive British alt music and culture festival, and the entire town was filled with dark inspiration.
Let’s continue this WGW series with style snaps of attendees, a browse through the fashion bazaars…
(Find Goth corsets, boots and more below)
… and a review of the Goth and Glam musical performances.
Whitby is a seaside town in Yorkshire (northern England). At first, this seems to be a bizarre location for a Goth music and culture festival.
However, when you witness the dramatic skies, crashing waves and Dracula abbey on the horizon, it all makes sense.
Photographer Joey Wong spotted this appropriately black cat, giving us the evil eye.
We were glad to have a quaint, comfortable place to relax between the various Goth concerts and activities.
Staying with Sykes Cottages meant we got to experience “country living,” yet stay within walking distance to the center of Whitby. And we weren’t at all “roughing it” — the cottage rental had several bathrooms and a fully stocked modern kitchen.
I recommending finding accommodations through their site, if you’re coming to Whitby Goth Weekend. If only my ghost could linger here longer!
We spent most of our time at the Spa Pavilion, where the live music takes place. The Spa also has a cafeteria and multiple halls filled with vendors.
As I noted before, you’ll have to climb a steep flight of stairs to reach the Spa, so wear appropriate footwear…
The Spa is also the best place to people-watch. We were stunned by this gentleman’s DIY steampunk suit. Those clockwork gears and details!
He even rigged the outfit so that at the press of a button, steam emanated from the top of his headpiece.
We saw an enormous variety of fashion at WGW — carnival, cyber, Goth, deathrock, Victorian, pin-up.
Many attendees wore elaborate clothing that they made themselves, out of materials like feathers.
We recommend getting passes in advance via the Whitby Goth Weekend website, since early birds get discounts. The next event is in October, so you can plan ahead.
The organizers graciously gave us press passes. All of the staff was knowledgeable and well-prepared, and happy to answer questions.
Bring British pounds with you, as there are at least three different locations for vendor markets. These independent sellers set up booth, and sell one-of-a-kind alternative accessories, sweets, clothing, you name it.
This is what the scene looked like, in just one of the halls… As you can imagine, it gets overwhelming! I suggest briskly looking through everything first, and then coming back to narrow down what you want to purchase.
Steampunk is one of the most popular aesthetics at Whitby Goth Weekend. You can complete your outfit with a top hat or brass pocket-watch.
I’m loving this Goth wedding cake, which looks like a weathered book.
It was Whitby Goth Weekend’s 21st anniversary, so they prepared a chocolate skull cake! There were also bat lollies and absinthe chocolates for sale.
The bazaar had lots of spooky-cute designs, like these coffin earrings and Victorian cameo necklaces.
(Below are some Steampunk items for sale.)
I gave the giant stuffed bat a squeeze. There are gifts for all ages, from kawaii-Goth pillows to toddler t-shirts.
Now, let’s take a closer look at people’s personal style at the festival. There was no set dress code — you’ll come across all ages, all aesthetics.
The only overall link was “dark creativity,” as exemplified in this apocalyptic gasmask and steampunk explorer.
My friend Nyx wears Dracula Clothing — love her vampiric collar and collection of silver rings.
We saw a fair number of baby-Goths and children at the event. This one loved posing for photos, and rocked her pink cyber locks.
Very cool to see how Goths from the 80s and 90s now have families, who all take part in the lifestyle.
The Spa also holds the “Bring and Buy,” where you can sell and purchase used clothing at discount prices.
Be sure to arrive early, since all the vending bazaars close around 5pm. After, only wristband-wearers (who bought passes) are allowed into the venue to watch the concerts.
Joey and I got to see the bands from the photography area, just inches from the performers. We began the evening with The Last Dance, a Goth rock band that has been releasing consistently strong albums since they formed in California in 1990.
Vocalist Jeff Diehm sang a few songs with female guest Velvet Shadow. The band’s category-defying dark synth sound, coupled with a joyous stage presence, made for one of the most enjoyable performances of WGW.
The Last Dance ended with a raucous cover of “Dead Man’s Banter.” You couldn’t help but smile when Jeff and guest Ed Banshee linked arms and swayed together on stage.
Whitby Goth Weekend’s concert hall has impressive acoustics. The space has an intimate feeling, perhaps since everyone in the audience traveled a long way to come to this festival.
For every band, there were fans leaning over the railing, singing along to every song.
Next, it was glitter-punk decadence with Sigue Sigue Sputnik! Mohawks, sequined tops, horse tails, and codpieces took over the stage, and we knew we were in for a wild ride.
The band tore through glam rock numbers from the 1980s to the recent “Electronic” incarnation. The outfits and shenanigans took center stage, but each members had the musical chops to back up this visual candy.
Martin Degville looked like a dystopian punk, with his fishnet mask and salacious gestures. Near the end of the set, he launched into a cover of David Bowie’s “Jean Genie,” to the delight of the crowd.
Last but not least, we have Bella Morte. Joey’s image captures the pure, visceral energy from frontman Andy Deane. He leapt all over the stage — sometimes veering dangerously close to the equipment and ledge — and kept everyone in rapt attention.
The group’s name means “beautiful death,” and it fits their music: sometimes hard and dark, but always beautiful. Bella Morte’s latest album, “Exorcisms,” encapsulates the feeling of watching them raw and live on stage.
After the last set, the Spa turned into the ultimate Goth party! The DJs’ playlist veered towards old school Gothic, New Wave and post-punk tracks, which I personally love to hear.
The dancefloor looked like a coven of witches, swaying in their long black gowns.
See these bands and dancers in action, in the video above and on VideofyMe.
I leave you with the ominous Whitby Abbey… Later, I’ll show you an editorial magazine cover photoshoot that we did right against the church ruins.
Isn’t it wonderful to see dark, alternative bands and fashion thriving, at Whitby Goth Weekend? Perhaps you’ll make the trip out for the next WGW during Halloween 2015!
Joy Division & The Smiths tour: Manchester Music Tours! Factory Records, Salford Lads Club, Ian Curtis grave.
I’m wearing Joy Division tights, and posing like Morrissey — in Manchester, England!
For years, I’ve wanted to make a pilgrimage to this British city, which is one of the birthplaces of Goth and Post-Punk. But as Ian Curtis sang in “Disorder” — “I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand / Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?”
The answer is yes, yes, yes. Manchester Music Tours took me on the perfect customized Joy Division / New Order / The Smiths journey…
… which included stops at Factory Records (above), Ian Curtis’ grave and home, Salford Lads Club, and Manchester Cathedral. Read on for the photos and stories!
(But first — if you aren’t familiar with these bands, I suggest you scroll to the end of this post, and hit “Play” on the musical widget. It contains a selection of their songs, so you can listen as you read.)
Manchester Music Tours is run by Craig Gill, drummer of rock band Inspiral Carpets. I couldn’t have found a more passionate and knowledgeable guide. Craig has lived and breathed the local music scene since he was in his early teens. All day, he riveted me with stories of the Mad-Chester rave days, Noel Gallagher auditioning for his group (and getting rejected), and personal tales of growing up in this gritty city.
Craig offers both bus and walking tours, themed around famous Manchester bands including the Stone Roses and Oasis. He also does bespoke tours, and customized one for me around my personal favorites: Joy Division and The Smiths.
We started at Affleck’s, an alternative fashion center in the Northern Quarter (I’ll take you inside, in an upcoming post).
The exterior has tiled murals dedicated to Manchester luminaries. On the far right is a tribute to Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover — notice it’s the same pattern on my leggings and skirt.
Nearby, there’s a Manchester musical walk of fame. I’m standing on a tribute to the Twisted Wheel Club, a 1960s and 70s nightclub for Northern Soul. (Craig’s band has a triangular plaque on this street too!)
We hopped back on the bus, and drove to Factory Records — the label of Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays and other British indie bands. (I did my makeup in 80s Goth style, to commemorate this era!)
● Outfit Details ●
– LovelySally leggings and skirt, featuring the Unknown Pleasures album cover print. This brand has many unique prints, including forest scenes and galaxies.
– Skull t-shirt from Iceland’s Dead Gallery. In an upcoming post, I’ll take you inside artist Jón Sæmundur’s studio.
Shop for Joy Division fashion and accessories below.
Nearby, we found a stencil of “Mr Manchester” by street artist Stewy. That’s the nickname of Tony Wilson, founder of The Factory and energy force behind the Manchester music and nightlife revival.
Tony Wilson is portrayed brilliantly in the movie 24 Hour Party People — I encourage you to watch it, if you haven’t already.
Today, this is building is home to FAC251, or the Factory Manchester nightclub. It’s co-owned by Peter Hook, bassist of New Order and Joy Division.
Thanks to Craig’s distinctive yellow bus, we were able to visit many famous spots in the course of a day. Photographer Joey Wong and I wanted to re-create famous visuals of the bands, so we stopped by Epping Walk bridge for a quick photoshoot.
This is the footbridge where Kevin Cummins took the iconic photo of Joy Division (above), in the late 1970s.
So cool, to be standing in their footsteps! The feeling of the bridge remains the same, over 40 years later.
(Although for some reason, the city replaced the original streetlamps and placed them on the other side. It appears they’ve added a safety hand rail too.)
Next, we drove to Salford to pay tribute to this famous photo, from the sleeve of The Smiths – Queen is Dead album.
Since 1903, the Salford Lads Club has run sports and recreational activities for young men (and now women). Today, the community is still going strong thanks to volunteers.
I did my best to imitate Morrissey‘s smug mug for the photos.
Located at the corner of Coronation Street, the Club has become one of the most famous musical landmarks. Fans from all over come to pose between the rounded arches.
Inside, I saw an old wood door marked with “The Smiths.” Inside, I found Leslie Holmes putting up photos and notes from devotees!
In 2004, Leslie led a project to turn the weightlifting room into a shrine for The Smiths. He loves meeting visitors from around the world, and puts his heart into maintaining this room for them.
He invited me to send in my photo taken outside the Salford Lads Club, which he’ll add to the wall. (Look for La Carmina, if you visit…)
The wall includes album covers, signed photos, and the original Affleck’s mosaic featuring Morrissey.
So happy to have Craig as my enthusiastic guide. He was fantastic at answering my questions, and sharing stories of the bands.
Since this was a customized tour, we could move at our own pace. We stopped for lunch at The Wizard Pub at Alderley Edge. What a special place: the inn dates back to the 16th century, and the surrounding countryside is the site of Merlin legends.
Still dreaming of that ricotta and spinach pie… (In an upcoming post, I’ll show you how Manchester’s food scene pleasantly surprised me, and defied stereotypes about British cuisine.)
It took about 45 minutes to reach Macclesfield, the town south of Manchester where Joy Division’s vocalist grew up. I loved seeing the peaceful, green countryside outside my window as Craig drove us to Macclesfield Cemetery, where he is buried.
Ian Curtis was cremated here in 1980. Fans continue to visit his curbstone, leaving photos and gifts for this beloved musician.
(The original memorial stone had a more Gothic font, but it was stolen in 2008!)
Perhaps you recognize this view from the movie Control. The final scene pans out to show the chimney where he was cremated.
This Victorian-era graveyard is beautiful — the perfect resting place for the man who many consider to be the first Gothic musician.
Manchester Music Tours also took us to the Macclesfield home that Ian Curtis shared with his wife (and where he ultimately committed suicide, in the kitchen). The house was recently sold to an unknown buyer. Let’s hope he or she is a Joy Division aficionado, and will preserve the rose-stained door
Also in the movie Control, you’ll see the actor playing Ian Curtis walk from this exact home to his job nearby, as an employment agent. The back of his jacket reads “Hate.”
While working here, Ian witnessed a woman suffering a seizure, inspiring the lyrics of the Joy Division song “She’s Lost Control.”
Craig Gill and I posed in front of the Juveniles sign (there’s a plaque for the band on another wall). We seem to be imitating the “dancing girls” emoji pose.
For our last stop, we drove back to Manchester and stopped by the cathedral where the band took these shivering pictures
That’s as Gothic as it gets. (If you dig what I’m wearing, below are links to Joy Division shirts and more).
Love the Gargoyles perched on the pillars.
Manchester Cathedral has a history that dates back centuries. Today, it holds poetry readings, musical performances and more.
I can’t thank Manchester Music Tours enough for this inspiring journey! Goth / post-punk music fans, I urge you to join one of Craig’s tours (schedules and more info are on his site). Having a passionate, easygoing guide like him was invaluable, and let us visit multiple locations in just half a day.
(Below is a bonus photo of The Hacienda, Tony Wilson’s happening club and music venue. Today, it’s an apartment complex but the name remains.)
Craig’s band, Inspiral Carpets, recently released a new studio album that you can pick up here. Psychedelic organs, spoken word, and dark beats — I’ve been listening to it on loop in my car.
Manchester’s music scene continues to rock hard. Inspiral Carpets is performing with Echo & The Bunnymen, Gang of Four and other indie bands on May 23rd at Manchester Academy (I wish I could be there.) Tickets are available online.
I leave you with a final shot of the Morrissey room at Salford Lads Club. “Farewell to this land’s cheerless marches / Hemmed in like a boar between arches…”
Wouldn’t you love to go on Goth music adventure like mine? Thanks to Visit Manchester for making these travels possible.
(For a taste of the bands featured in this Manchester Music Tour, click on the player below.)
WGW began as a small gathering in 1994, and is now one of the world’s biggest celebrations of Gothic music, fashion and culture. Twice a year, the festival brings alternative types together, in the charming seaside town of Whitby, England.
It’s quite the sight… Locals mixing with Victorian gentlemen, steampunk ladies, and even furries! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the travel basics, followed by style snaps and a performance by Andi Sex Gang.
First, how do you get to Whitby Goth Weekend? Most people first travel to a nearby city, such as Liverpool or even London. I was already in Manchester with my crew, so we easily rode the train and changed tracks at Darlington or Middlesbrough. Our ride was about 5 hours long, and gave us a gorgeous view of the English countryside. However if you have a car, driving is usually the most direct way to get to Whitby. The festival also runs a “late bus” to nearby Scarborough, which is where some people stay.
Now, how can you find accommodations during Whitby Goth Weekend? Let me warn you: on these festival dates, Whitby hotels and rentals get booked up months in advance! Plan ahead, and don’t expect to “wing it” or you’ll be in trouble.
I stayed in a Sykes Cottages rental with my friends, and it was the perfect solution. We got a cute cottage to ourselves, within walking distance of the city center. The location (Captain Cook haven) was picture-perfect, as you can see above. We even saw bunnies in our yard!
We rented this Sykes Sunnybrae cottage, which mixed countryside charm with modern appliances. I did my best to haunt the kitchen. (Perhaps that explains the mystery of the disappearing cookies?)
Sykes makes it easy for you to search and book cottages all over the UK, via their site. Our cottage had 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a spacious living room and kitchen — what a deal, especially when shared between a few friends. Sykes even provided us with snacks and everything we needed for English afternoon tea! (I’ll show you more in the next post.)
We were a stone’s throw away from the Larpool Viaduct, which was built in the late 19th century and spans the River Esk.
My friends and I walked on the viaduct, and it led us straight to Whitby town center. I’m wearing a Victorian dress and Da Vinci print corset from Dracula Clothing.
(Shop corsets and steam punk clothing below)
How gorgeous is Yorkshire, Northern England? This was my first time in this county, and it’s so different from London: lush landscapes, friendly folk.
Tip: wear good walking shoes (I wore “trainers” and carried my heels in a bag). While this is a pleasant walk, it’s a long one and there are some steep areas. Bring a coat too, since the weather can get chilly especially near the ocean.
At the end of the path, we descended a steep set of stairs and arrived at this adorable row of boats. While Whitby is a small resort town, there are a good number of shops and restaurants, so you’ll have plenty to see and do.
Seagulls chirped and circled though the air. Whitby is known as a prime fishing port, and their fish and chips are considered the best in Britain.
Why is Whitby the location of a Goth festival? Because Bram Stoker wrote Dracula while staying in this fishing town. Whitby Abbey (to my left) provided dark inspiration for his vampire novel.
The ruins of the Abbey called to me… We went there later, to shoot a magazine cover. Stay tuned, and I’ll take you up there. (All photos by Joey Wong)
Everywhere we walked, there was a Goth! We saw people of all ages in alternative fashion, ranging from Steampunk to Fairy to Cyber to Horror. (I’ll show you more snaps of festival-goers in the next post.)
The walk worked up our appetite. We stopped for lunch at the Magpie Cafe, one of the top-rated restaurants in Whitby. They’re famed for their fish & chips, and have a extensive menu featuring fresh seafood. (Tip: go during off-hours. We went on a Friday afternoon, and were lucky to get a table. On Saturday and Sunday evenings, the lineup will snake around the block).
I posed at the Magpie Cafe entrance with my friends Nyx and Truls, who is the designer of Dracula Clothing. We’re all wearing his dark designs.
The “Bizarre Bazaar” and concerts are all held at “The Spa” Pavilion. Where is this venue exactly? On the cliff, not far from the whale bones sculpture. (Address: West Cliff, Whitby, North Yorkshire)
Below the Spa is a long stretch of beach. Some cheeky Goths drew a giant pentagram in the sand.
It was wonderful to see so many “creatures of the night” gathered in one place. I loved how people dressed and expressed themselves in their own ways, like this steampunk lad playing a ukelele. My friends found a Dracula store that matched their aesthetic!
Dracula Clothing also designed the brass goggles that I’m wearing as a necklace. My purple-blue hair is the work of Stephanie Hoy at Stratosphere Salon in Vancouver.
We passed by a row of decorated Goth cars. This license plate says it all.
Now that’s “Dead-ication” to the spooky lifestyle.
There were a lot of photographers asking to take images. Some have complained that “looky-loos” are turning the weekend into too much a “circus attraction,” but aside for a few moments on the busiest streets, I didn’t feel hounded or on display.
21 years after the first Whitby Gothic Weekend, the scene retains an inclusive, genuine atmosphere. Many of the attendees have been part of the lifestyle for decades, and still going strong.
During the day, anyone is welcome to browse the shopping “bazaars” (there are three locations) and attend free events, like a pool and golf tournament. However, when night falls, only wristband-wearers are allowed into the Spa pavilion, where the bands perform.
This year, WGW performers included Cruxshadows, The Birthday Massacre and Abney Park. I only attended Friday and Saturday night, so I didn’t see all the shows. However, I was front and center for Andi Sex Gang (above).
My friend Justin Minister was playing bass in Andi Sex Gang. (Remember I saw him play with Amy’s Arms in Toronto?)
Oh, Andi. The founder and singer of Sex Gang Children (seminal 1980s Goth band) is powerful as ever, in his solo incarnation. He crouched and splayed his hands, moving like a Japanese butoh artist. Paint divided his face in two halves, which shone in different colors as the lights changed.
The group played tracks from the past, and from their new album Achilles In The Eurozone. The latest songs are as evocative at ever, pulsing with a modern sound — Andi is always stepping up his game.
(We had press passes, so Joey got to shoot these dramatic photos from the foot of the stage.)
He’s a study in stage presence: scuttling across the stage like a spider, and hitting every note with intensity. Between songs, Andi wished Whitby Goth Weekend a happy birthday, in his best horror-film voice.
The band grounded the tracks with dark, pulsing rhythms. The background showed eccentric film clips, like a Hindu god spreading a multitude of arms.
If Uncle Fester could sing… Bravo to Andi Sex Gang for a magnificent headlining performance. They’re currently on tour in Europe; check out their Facebook for upcoming show dates.
I filmed some clips of Whitby bands performing — I hope these give you a sense of the energy on stage. Watch the compilation video above and on VideofyMe.
Attending Whitby Goth Weekend was a dream come true! I have a lot more to share with you — please take a moment to bookmark this site and add me on Facebook, to make sure you won’t miss it.
The next Whitby Goth Weekend takes place October 30 to November 1 (Halloween 2015!) More info about tickets, performers etc can be found on their website.
Have you heard of WGW? What’s your impression of this Gothic festival so far?
(Shop my favorite Steampunk fashion, shoes and accessories below)
Readers often ask me: “Where can I buy Jrock CDs and Visual Kei memorabilia in Tokyo?”
In this post, I’ll take you to some of my favorite musical haunts in Shinjuku: Book Off, Closet Child Mens, and Pure Sound. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find more info about J-rock stores in Harajuku and Ikebukuro.
My shopping partner of the day was Yukiro Dravarious, wearing signature purple and lots of kitty-cat influences.
Who says Goths can’t rock neon? The Japanese taxi in the back matches the look.
I hadn’t brushed out my curls yet, but this gives you a sense of the blue-green shaded color. The scarf is by Sex Pot Revenge, and the sunglasses are old ones by Salvatore Ferragamo.
We first stopped by Book-Off, which has various locations. One is located near the Southern Terrace and Shinjuku station south exit.
Inside, you’ll find tons of used music and magazines. We picked up recent copies of Kera and Gothic Lolita Bible, and Yukiro even found Malice Mizer cds for about $2 each!
We walked to the West side of Shinjuku station, and spotted these rock-style boys looking at music posters. Obviously, we were in the right place…
Here is a map of Closet Child Men’s; you may need to walk around a bit to find it.
On one side of the small store, you’ll find tons of J-rock and Visual Kei memorabilia, including special edition CDs and concert booklets. Many young people hang around, browsing for treasure, like this green haired girl.
Note: only the Men’s and Ikebukuro branches of Closet Child sell music as well as clothing.
On the other side, there’s a nice selection of Goth, punk and alternative men’s fashion. These brands include unisex ones like Super Lovers and Sexy Dynamite.
Right next door is Pure Sound, a Jrock-oriented music shop. When you see the giant posters of boys with teased colored hair and makeup, you’re there.
Pure Sound often has special events, such as band signings. If so, the shop may be temporary closed, and there could be a long lineup of fans.
All your favorite VK music is sold inside, like Penicillin, The Gazette, Golden Bomber and more.
Tip: pick up the free band flyers at the front of the shop. You can used these to decorate your walls.
A smaller rock music shop nearby also sells some used Lolita and Harajuku fashion.
The best place to shop for secondhand Goth Lolita Punk clothes, however, remains Closet Child. This is a snap of the upper “rock” floor of the Shinjuku location. (For more info about the various branches of CC, see my Tokyo shopping guide.)
I leave you with some close-ups of Yukiro’s cute accessories. A zombie doll…
… a cute faced plush cat.
Bright pink sneakers and mis-matched socks, a Harajuku staple.
Want more Jrock posts? Check out my collection of concert reviews including Dir en Grey, X Japan and Moi dix Mois.
There are also more Visual Kei merchandise stores in Harajuku; I’ve listed a few at the bottom of this comprehensive guide.
Which bands are currently on your playlist? Share your favorites with us in the comments!
Tons more Tokyo coverage coming right up — including the owl cafe, Heavy Pop Harajuku party and a horror themed bar. Be sure to add my Instagram for previews of my Asia adventures.