Darkside of the Con 2
Billed as “North America’s 3-Day Dark Alternative Convention” — and sponsored Jet Berelson’s online community and event-hosting network, Vampire Freaks — the second iteration of Darkside of the Con took place at, and took full control of, the Radisson Hotel in Piscataway, NJ, about midway between NYC and Philadelphia.
Many, if not most of the attendees at this three day, multi-event extravaganza took overnight rooms at the hotel, and wisely so, because there was an available swimming pool, late night activities, dance club events and unofficial parties late into the night. Impresario Jet was joined by famous DJs, including Mike Saga, Aengl, V Christ, Annabell Evil, Swabby, End:The DJ, Sean Templar and Xris Smack in providing late night dance ambience.
The widely diverse agenda included six bands Friday (the first night), nine bands Saturday night and six bands on Sunday morning. Such popular regulars of the scene as the Long Losts, The Rain Within, Ego Likeness, Disorder, Xentrifuge and Panzie* were joined by others, equally popular, but too numerous to mention.
Panel discussions featured celebrity discussants as Sean Templar and Xris Smack among others. Topics discussed included every field of interest and inquiry pertinent to this community, including cosplay, gender issues, oddities, Wicca, vampirism, and “What the Hell is Goth?” Madame X hosted two meetings of the Iron Garden community discussing paranormal experiences and strange sightings. Bella Morte’s lead vocalist, Andy Deane succeeded in conducting group participation in extemporaneously writing a song that turned out with a sci-fi theme.
Fetish and handicraft workshops and ticketed, open-bar socializing parties were among the many activities in which attendees participated. A pool party took place on Saturday night. Vendors hawking corsets, masks, costume jewelry, accessories, toys and eccentric, crafted items contributed to the grotesque atmosphere.
Among the crazy entertainments there was a vampirish ballet in Victorian costumes called “The Burlesque Revue,” and a screening of Little Shop of Horrors simulcast alongside a live performance of the scripted action complete with life-size actors and hand puppets.
By far and away, the major attraction was the attendees themselves whose contribution was to provide the most gorgeous and extravagant outfits, costumes and make-up depicting every conceivable identity and persona that fit into the diverse agenda of the gothic, punk and industrial world. Whether heavily armored in fishnets and leather or scantily exposed in bikinis and boots, the predominantly black-clad population of the dark underground community attained the heights of glamour, beauty and bizarre style. Photographers and mere onlookers stood in the corridors gaping in awe and admiration at the endless parade of beauty and outré fashion.
Darkside of the Con has achieved status as a convention on a scale similar and comparable to some of the major events that take place overseas. When I attend music and cultural gatherings in Europe, I am sometimes asked if there are like events in the States. It has been a long time coming, but now I can answer “yes.”
Clan of Xymox
Brooklyn Bazaar and St. Vitus
March 25-26, 2018
Metropolis recording artists and Dutch dark wavers, Clan of Xymox performed at Brooklyn Bazaar on Sunday night, March 25 and again on Monday ,March 26 at St. Vitus, both Brooklyn venues. Tracing their origin to 1981, Xymox is famous for being early pioneers of the quintessential goth sound. Their origin with iconic 4AD Records adds to their “cred” presented by Mandana Banshee and Sean Templar’s Red Party, they performed identical set list at both places.
We missed the first opening band, but caught the dazzling keyboard-centered Decoded Feedback and the Skinny-Puppy-sound-alike Static Bloom, both of which bands would be well worth going to hear live just on their own.
Xymox started with the eerie, instrumental intro, “Days of Black,” then went into “Stranger” off their first, eponymous 1985 album. The 18-song show included mainly entries representing depressing — seemingly intentionally depressing — tracks from their numerous recordings, e.g. the languid “Leave Me Be” and the morose “Louise.”
They also performed the utterly secular “Hail Mary,” which is not to be confused with the well-known Catholic prayer, although both touch upon the issue of redemption. The relatively recent “In Love We Trust,” title-track off a 2009 album of the same name, was the ninth and midway-through-the-set song. The decidedly industrial “A Day,” integrates a melodious minor key melody and plaintive vocal callings of Ronny Moorings with bursts of mechanized and rapid rhythm. It was followed by “Back Door” from the Medusa album just before the first break.
Encores included “Obsession” from Twist of Shadow the third full album and “Cry in the Wind” and “Farewell” from the post-millennial album of the same name. “Muscoviet Musquito” off the first, eponymous album in 1985 opened the second set of encores. They concluded the final set of encores with the much-covered ‘60s mega-hit, “Venus.”
Throughout the show there was an unconventional and fascinating use of handheld bright diode lights of various colors.
COX, founded by Ronny Moorings, Pieter Nooten and Anka Wolbert in the Netherlands in 1981, is now mainly Ronny Moorings. He is joined by Mojca, Mario, Sean & Daniel. Nooten and Wolbert are no longer associated with the band. Despite superficial similarities, COX is not to be mistaken for a cultural spin-off of the immensely more successful band, the Cure. While the Cure is known for dark, introspective music, they have stretched their repertoire to poppy, even jolly, major-key entries, experimenting with brass instrument accompaniment, Latin rhythms and more. The Clan sticks pretty much to the mission of providing reliably gloomy, minor-key and somber electronic works to please the fiercest adherents to goth orthodoxy — whether rapid for dance or slow paced for a funeral. Ronny Moorings’ plaintive vocals express better than almost anyone else — the wounded feelings and existential complaints of Goths around the world.
March 31, 2018
The premiere monthly music event Stimulate celebrated the birthday of its founder and chief promoter, Xris Smack, to close out the month of March with a special edition featuring three live bands at Drom on Avenue A.
The opening band was the Manson-esque group from NYC’s Lower East Side, Panzie*, supporting their new album, The Joke’s on You, and came complete with masks, make-up, balloons and a ferocious sound that contained elements reminiscent of Rage Against The Machine, as well as Rob Zombie. This certainly established a festive atmosphere for Xris’ birthday celebration.
The next two bands were from our home state of New Jersey. Metropolis Record’s hard rockers Panic Lift, supporting their recent releases, “The Poison Remains” and “From Blue to Black,” provided a welcome change to melodious, but heavy, guitar-based sounds with an industrial edge. Coming on late — very late — was the Cleopatra Records’ electro-industrial duo, Xentrifuge, whose harsh, mechanized and highly synthesized sound — drawn mainly from their new album, Desensitized Parallels — was a perfect apocalypse to put a top on Xris’ birthday event.
As is usual, there were gorgeous and exotic dancers joined by the even more gorgeous Ashley Bad whose green vinyl outfit riveted the gaze of onlookers and dance floor participants during between-the-acts sets provided by the stellar cast of DJs, including Father Jeff, Paradox, Joe Hart, Siren and the host himself, Xris Smack.
Beautifully under-dressed Nola Star shocked the audience with an act of self-inflicted piercing to provide Xris with some artfully-placed birthday candles to blow out.
Once again, Stimulate provided a night of over-the-top entertainment filled with great music and glamorous guests, both onstage and off.
Lost in Echoes
BerlinNYC @ The Pyramid
March 30, 2018
Berlin is a “Goth, Industrial, Alternative NuWave (sic) Underground” music event held on select nights of the month at the popular Pyramid Club on Avenue A in the East Village. We attended on Friday, March 30, both to investigate the dance club event and to see a performance by a new cover band, Lost In Echoes. To add incentive, Berlin was also hosting a quickly arranged art exhibit.
Upon our early arrival in the famous downstairs basement space of the Pyramid — entry through the upstairs had cost us $8 each — we were greeted by host and DJ, Alex von Nihil, longtime veteran of the lower Manhattan scene. While he and his colleagues spun danceable tunes, we meandered about in the dim light, augmenting it with our phones’ flashlights, to inspect the remarkable paintings that had been spontaneously churned out by Victor Auton in the preceding seven hours. Full of energy, frenzy and with highly suggestive imagery, they had both the feel of punk and that of a confident and accomplished artist.
When performance time came, the same Victor served as lead guitarist of Lost In Echoes. He was joined by vocalist Jorge Enriquez Obando, Diego on bass and Dyanne on drums.
What followed was a thoroughly entertaining set of new pieces and covers drawn from the tradition of goth and punk, starting with “Human Fly” by the Cramps. Obando imbued each lyric, each note with a mix of furor and punkish rage while still adhering to the most appealing qualities of the originals. “Alice” by Sisters of Mercy, got exactly that treatment as did LIE’s original piece, “Visions.”
A particular treat came when drummer Dyanne, a statuesque brunette, pulled a microphone close so she could take over lead vocals for a cover of Concrete Blond’s best song, “Bloodletting,” although I believe it caused her to break a drum pedal. This only enhanced the raw feel of the high energy show. A heated version of Bauhaus’s “Stigmata” and Peter Murphy’s “Final Solution” concluded the show.
Lost in Echoes at this point has a short-list repertoire but more than makes up for it in energy and dramatic delivery. In many ways, this cover band put on a show that was more entertaining than some highly polished and carefully rehearsed tribute bands. What Lost in Echoes showed above all else is the love and passion they have for the material and the tradition behind the music.
March 2 – July 15, 2018
This exhibit has been on tour for five years and its last stop is here at the Brooklyn Museum. The exposition makes — and ultimately proves — the argument that David Bowie is the greatest rock star of all time. It also makes clear that throughout his career and certainly in the couple of years since he passed, David Bowie is a cultural icon whose persona serves as a symbol for our age.
Entry will cost you $25 on a weekend unless you’re a student with I.D. It’s a timed entry-situation, and we had to make it through three lengthy and long duration lines, the first to get tickets (50 minutes), the second to line up on the floor where the exhibit is housed (15 minutes) and the last one brief, to get into the spectacle itself. Bowie’s show is housed on the fifth floor, accessible by an elevator ride (after another line). I wouldn’t advise using the stairs because each floor is separated by two flights of steps, so your climb is 10 flights! No photos are allowed and cell phones must be in airplane mode.
And well worth all the trouble!
This is one of the most spectacular museum displays of all time, featuring almost countless items, artworks, costumes, video clips, giant-screen shows and historical artifacts and references. All the while the visitor is listening to narratives and to Bowie’s music via headphones that pick up the location-appropriate audio as one moves from station to station and room to room.
It isn’t possible to touch upon the myriad topics and presentations here. The unguided tour starts with his life history, from when he was born David Robert Jones in South London to his youthful interest in Beat poetry and jazz. The situation in Britain at the time of his early artistic developments is outlined — from the economic disaster of post-World War II — to the socialist government that was supposed to remedy it, to young David’s exposure to Elvis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. The Beatles and the British Invasion paved the way for him as he began to explore song and dance and musical instruments. He was also drawing and painting, something he would dabble with all his life. One wall displays numerous line drawings he did in collaboration with Laurie Anderson. A tarot card deck of his design is on view.
In the early days first Bowie knocked around with unsuccessful blues and jazz groups before exploding on to the scene with Space Oddity in 1969, released five days ahead of the Apollo 11 space launch. While a visitor is reading about this, the music is pouring in through his or her headphones. The character of Major Tom is introduced, said to be both heroic and vulnerable, not to say sexually ambiguous. He is to reappear in “Ashes to Ashes,” “Hallo Spaceboy” and in “Blackstar.” The mock astronaut suit Bowie wore for the video is there on display.
What this exhibition reveals is Bowie as a unique entertainer who saw himself as a “One Man Revolution,” determined to define a signature style that underlies all the superficial variations of appearance and persona. Along with this, he maintained an interest in Buddhism, in mime and in literature. His bookcase is displayed, filled with exemplary titles of books that defined our modern world: 1984, A Clockwork Orange, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and The Hidden Persuades.
There’s much display and explanation of Bowie’s costumes, make-up and personae. The iconic facial lightning bolt appears on the Aladdin Sane album and on a mask, but was never — we learn — worn in performance. Its zigzag design also appears on a costume coat, modifying the stripes of the British flag.
The outlandish, sometimes androgynous, and bizarre costumes are shown to be central to his personal style. Among them one will see the giant plastic tux that Bowie wore on an historic 1979 Saturday Night Live appearance with bizarre Bavarian performance artist Klaus Nomi. At that viewing area one will be simultaneously watching a video of the actual SNL TV show. This occasion marked a turning point in both his career and that of Nomi. Bowie was now mainstream. And Nomi subsequently appropriated that tux for his own future stage appearances.
Posters, kabuki and extravagant fashion magazine covers that influenced the aesthetics of Ziggy Stardust are framed for viewing, and notably included images without regard to any particular gender. Bowie allowed there to be confusion of his identity with that of Ziggy. In 1973 he temporarily retired Ziggy but revived him in his final threnody, Blackstar, which was released on his 69th birthday, two days before his death. Bowie took in influences from around the world, and chose from broader, more exotic sources than most.
There’s a “Periodic Table” of Bowie showing the hundred-plus influences, musical and otherwise, laid out like the familiar Periodic Table of the Elements. The exhibition gives due credit is to artists and designers who helped Bowie realize his artistic expression with album covers, costumes and the like.
Astonished attendees stand and gape, fascinated by the many high-tech audio-visual experiences at the exhibition. One of these is a large, mirrored alcove that puts on a dazzling pastiche of video art with accompanying, matching music, fragmentary yet unified. There are many opportunities to just stand and watch movie and TV clips sampling Bowie’s musical and acting careers. And there’s more — much more — to the exhibit than this report.
Do we have to say it? Bowie’s influence spreads farther and deeper than just the entertainment world. His fabulous good looks allowed him to juxtapose weird costumes and makeup while remaining irresistibly attractive and at the same time promoting gender ambiguity, preposterous appearance and implicit iconoclasm. It’s hard to imagine the individualistic appearances of today’s world of style, fashion and gender identity without recognizing the spin put on our world by David Bowie.
Morbid Anatomy Library
Goths and other denizens of the dark cultural scene can rejoice at the resurrection of one of — if not THE most beloved institution in the greater NY/NJ area — the Morbid Anatomy Library. After an all too brief and glorious two year run in Brooklyn’s Park Slope from 2014 to 2016, the Morbid Anatomy Museum closed its doors amidst much grieving by its devoted members and enchanted visitors.
It’s important to remember that the Museum had its origins in a smaller, less ambitious establishment called the Morbid Anatomy Library, which was founded in 2008 in Proteus Gowanus, and before that in 2007 in the Morbid Anatomy blog of founder Joanna Ebenstein.
The mission of examining and celebrating the intersection of “art, medicine, death and culture” goes on — and never really ceased. It is now headquartered in the historic and fitting edifice that is the Fort Hamilton Gate House of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
An open house the new digs was held on Easter weekend, March 31 and April 1. The dedicated core of Morbid Anatomy, namely artistic director Joanna Ebenstein and events coordinator and librarian Laetitia Barbier, greeted guests and well-wishers on the second floor where recognizable artifacts from the original collection were on view and members of the press and other media were taking notes both days.
Downstairs on the first floor was an exhibit area, the centerpiece of which was the marvelous miniature diorama model of the fabled museum, lovingly and painstakingly built by Joel Schlemowitz. It shows both the iconic black exterior and the two main floors complete with breath-taking, detailed reproductions of furniture, architectural details and display articles. A video of the diorama can be viewed on YouTube under “Miniature Diorama of Morbid Anatomy Museum.”
The events-schedule of Morbid Anatomy continues. There is an ongoing Morbid Anatomy exhibition on artworks created with human hair at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia. One can learn about and plan to attend or visit upcoming local lectures, exhibits and activities of the Morbid Anatomy community by following their page on Facebook or going to the Morbid Anatomy blogspot.
Congratulations and best wishes from New Dark Age!
The January Sessions – 1998
The Empire Hideous
Gothic metal band The Empire Hideous was active mainly between 1988 and 1998, although there were a few spurts of activity and a couple of CDs released in the post-millennium decade. Just before and in anticipation of the official breakup of the band in early 1998, EH went into the studio with their best-ever lineup of musicians and recorded their then-current set list, in a series of sessions. Early this year, on the 20th anniversary, the recording of those January sessions has been released, consisting of 14 tracks — some of which had appeared on earlier albums, some that had only been heard live, and some that would find their way onto CDs released after the band had gone into hibernation.
In a sense, this collection represents the band at its mature peak of artistic achievement. The Empire Hideous’s signature sound, combining howling, sorrowful guitar lines, ultra deep, bass guitar fulmination and compelling, urgent rhythms combine with mournful minor key melodies and Myke’s legendary voice. Fans of EH will feast their ears upon Myke’s unique vocal style, heavy with vibrato and echoic effects as he presents his poetic narratives that range from melancholy to demonic, delivered with an anguished intensity.
Four of these tracks were included in the sold out and no-longer-available CD, Victim Destroys Assailant. These include the funereal “God and I,” the rapidly-paced “Talk Is Cheap,” the surprisingly folksy “Dead Season” and the hypnotic “Otherside.”
Live versions of “Kissing Your Poison” and “Parasite’s Bible,” with its recognizable harmonics riff, are resurrected from the first full length album, Only Time Will Tell. Covers in this collection include a driving, speeded up version of “All I Want” by the Cure and a version of “God of Thunder” that is more serious, less facetious than the original by KISS. “Girl at the End of My Gun” by Alien Sex Fiend gets the EH treatment in a frantically paced, faithful tribute to the original.
As this collection basically represents the concluding achievement and final culmination of the Empire Hideous, it was fitting that it should end with Paul Anka’s “My Way,” famously made into a mega-hit by Frank Sinatra and later the Sex Pistols. Here it starts ballad-like, highlighting Myke’s native and unaltered vocal qualities. About a third of the way through it accelerates and transforms into a goth rock anthem, serving as a perfectly apt conclusion to an album, a collection and a career.
This album is available only in mp3 version from various Hideous websites that can be found via the Internet, Facebook, Spotify, etc.