BOLOGNA, ITALY—Decadence is a recurring event held in many and varied locations throughout northern Italy and elsewhere in Europe, ranging from dance clubs to historical locations; from the Slimelight in London to Medieval castles, to an 18th century church. Decadence represents not just a club night, but an Italian subculture group with alternative music at its core. It has been in existence almost 10 years, with aspirations to go international. Although it exists primarily to hold events at various underground venues, it sees itself as an ongoing socio-cultural phenomenon that doesn’t end with the closing of each gathering. The focus is on both live and recorded music in the goth/industrial category. The organization, such as it is, even aspires to a certain level of community service by way of fundraising events, etc.

Decadence, as a social affiliation, maintains a dress code that calls for either matching the recommended theme attire of the evening, or simply dressing in a style recognizably “decadent.” Thus, Baroque costumes are seen intermingled with leather, vinyl and rubber fetish-wear. The event promoter, Elena Noire, runs what she calls the “Black List,” i.e. the exclusive guest list without which one would be denied entry. There is always screening at the door. Those who have the logo “Decadence” tattooed upon them are held in special esteem.

The club we visited this spring was QuBo, which is an acronym for “cubes”—the many cubicles within the club—and the name of the city itself, Bologna. Doors opened an hour or so before midnight, and the musical and other festivities continued until dawn. The interior consists of series of small, upper and lower level chambers linked by tunnels and stairwells.

One enters through a neon-lit bar at street level, decorated with white leather couches, and is greeted by a shirtless barista covered, as far as one can see, with tattoos. There, one encounters patrons attired appropriately, some wearing as little as fishnet-cum-electrical-tape ensembles, casually sipping cocktails at and around the bar.

Descending a stairwell one enters into an underground grotto where Elvio “DJ Skull” is spinning mainly Italian industrial music but is happy to honor requests for anything that fits from the international category. Live performances of the synthpop genre are held in an adjacent room. Up two levels, a fetish-themed lounge is in full operation. There one might witness a bondage demonstration to the accompaniment of recognizable, heavy, thrash music. Club scene regulars and Decadence luminaries were everywhere. Burlesque queen Giulia Moser (Nuit Blanche) made a celebrity appearance.

American tourists were few to none in number, but those that were in actual attendance are feverishly planning their next trip to Bologna and to Decadence.

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