Major Festival: Darkside of the Con III
There are almost countless “fandom” conventions that cater to one or more pop culture phenomena. Prime examples include Comic Con, Steampunk Con, Dragon Con, as well as conventions devoted to Anime, Manga, Star Trek, gaming, and many more. Most fandom cons include a significant component of darkside interest. For example, the first con I ever attended was Goth Con in New Orleans in 2001.
For the past three years, under the auspices of his online community, Vampire Freaks, impresario and producer Jet Berelson (Jet VF) has hosted an increasingly popular, annual convention that caters to the fans of dark entertainment and interest—those generally known as Goths.
Darkside of the Con III was a three-day convention held at a castle-shaped, luxury hotel—the Sheraton, in Parsippany, NJ. Its scope, as in two previous iterations, included everything dark and creepy, whether musical or fashion related, especially those morbid phenomena with a sly, tongue-in-cheek aspect. Goth—as the subculture labels itself—is a “big tent” phenomenon, built around post punk, electronic, and industrial music, and its adherents are identified by predominantly black attire.
Performances by nearly eighteen bands, including such famous acts as Stabbing Westward, Aesthetic Perfection, and Assemblage 23, were held in a Grand Ballroom. Beloved local and indie bands filled the bill. Renowned DJs from New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia spun appropriate tracks for late night dance parties, balls, and nightclub-themed events, including Cybertron, Stimulate, The Red Party, and QXT’s. Naughty burlesque performances and a costume contest featuring outrageous and diverse characters took place. Some contestants wore incandescent and LED-illuminated body garb. Others appeared as villains and victims of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror fiction. A live theater troupe performed the action of A Nightmare Before Christmas simultaneously while the movie itself ran on the big screen behind them.
Panels, lectures, and workshops abounded with such interesting and useful subjects as Goth Parenting, the Paranormal, Rope Bondage, Gothic and Horror Literature, Mask Making, and Elders of the Goth Community. Live action role playing theater invited attendees to participate in the action. Artisans of all ages got to paint in a workshop, and aspiring composers were treated to an introduction in making electronic music. History buffs got to learn about the original Goths and how they shaped the world.
A lecture and demonstration of live bats was presented in a side room by state-licensed wildlife exhibitor “Batman” Joe D’Angeli. Joe’s background as a singer in a nineties glam metal band, and as a frequent presenter at Chiller, granted him a certain theatricality in addition to his take on conservation science.
The halls were lined at all times with vendors selling artwork, jewelry, garments, accessories, literature, and more. No one, not even Jet VF himself—who was omnipresent, seeing to the smooth running of events—could take it all in. Not only does Goth flaunt the norms of mainstream culture and society, but it encompasses numerous subdivisions and outliers that go against the norms of Goth itself!
Museum Exhibit: Play It Loud — The Instruments of Rock & Roll
The Metropolitan Museum just launched a mega-exhibition entitled Play It Loud — Instruments of Rock & Roll, co-organized with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This is the first time a major museum has examined the instruments of rock. It’s impossible to overestimate the influence of rock ‘n’ roll on 20th Century culture. The instruments have had a profound impact on the form that rock music has taken.
Guitars and bass guitars make up the essential bedrock of the exhibit, and include the first ever Fender from 1949, Les Paul’s early “Klunker” (1942), “The Hoss” Telecaster, the Stratocaster, the Gibson Southern Jumbo (1944), Rickenbacker’s Twelve-String, and Eddie Van Halen’s “Frankenstein” composite electric.
Radical designs include such novel shapes as the “Flying V,” the skewed Explorer, and the SG by Gibson. But the collection also includes a petite grand piano, a Tama drum set, an upright bass, the Aztec 5-string, and a bass violin.
The Hammond organ is represented along with the Moog synthesizer and numerous compact electric keyboards. The venerable saxophone made the transition over from jazz and blues to rock ‘n’ roll, and is seen in the collection along with such special items as the autoharp, Brian Jones’s Appalachian dulcimer—the Rolling Stones’ violin. Trumpets, trombones, the sitar, and even the theremin are on view.
Rigs, amps, and Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP piano with custom housing round out the music-making machines. But, there are also stage costume garments and iconic posters that demonstrate the rock ‘n’ roll sensibility in graphic arts. Many of the items show wear and tear, as well as actual destructive abuse. The term “loud” in the title refers not only to the sound, but to a whole style and attitude. All in all, there are 185 objects that make up the exhibit, and there is a catalog as well as a photo book available for purchase. The exhibition is free with museum admission, and is running now through October 1.
Album Review: Dead Can Dance, Dionysus – Act II: The Invocation
Back in October of last year, we reported that Dead Can Dance was releasing their ninth studio album. Dionysus – Act II: The Invocation was released in November of 2018, and recently Dead Can Dance have released a fascinatingly beautiful video for “The Invocation,” the second movement of Act II. It was directed by a Bulgarian company and contains breath-taking imagery including Bulgarian folk dancers—called “kukeri,” in colorful, exotic costumes. They perform ancient Balkan ritual dances as a form of exorcism to ward off evil in a tradition that is believed to date back to the cult of Dionysus, the Greek god and the subject of DCD’s latest work. Mingled with the dance sequence are magnificent time-lapse landscape and skyscape sequences that are the signature style of video artist Ron Fricke, previous videographer for DCD and responsible for Koyaanisqatsi (1982) and Baraka (1992).
Above all, the track features the glorious and blissful music of Dead Can Dance and vocals by Lisa Gerrard that are of surpassing beauty. It’s easy to access and view on Youtube by searching for it under the title and Dead Can Dance. DCD will tour Europe in May and June of this year, though they haven’t announced an American tour yet.