Whitby Goth weekend – a review

Whitby Goth Weekend (WGW) began in 1994, when a bored young goth decided to gather some of her pen friends together for a weekend by the seaside, her name was Jo Hampshire and she chose Whitby and proceeded to invite some two dozen people to join her. Well, as people often do, they told their friends, some bands asked if they could play in the pub they were going to meet in, and in the end over 300 people turned up. The rest, as they so often say, is history.
These days the town is home to the festival twice a year, in Spring and again around Halloween and some 5000 people usually swarm to the town, most to just take in the atmosphere and to photograph people in their ‘costumes’, but for a diehard 1000 or so its still about the music, and this spring saw those people rewarded with a weekend that so many said was ‘just like the old days’. Over the past few years a small army of people has built up, heading to the town each day the event runs, either ‘dressed up’ or there to photograph those that had, probably none of them really caring there was a music festival even going on.
This year was the first time we’d booked five bands a night (instead of the usual 3) and for many it signalled a return to the event being about music again. My ‘job’ is band liaison, which means for the 6 months between each event I’m booking bands, negotiating and arranging contracts, passing on tech and rider requirements to those that need it and generally working behind the scenes to ensure that the event runs as smoothly as possibly.
Friday’s opening band were Dutch Order and they played an absolutely storming set for the first band on, with a pretty decent size crowd too considering the early slot, think Joy Division with flashes of Jim Morrison coming through and you’re halfway there, they picked up a lot of new fans after this gig I’m sure. Black Moth were next, their sound getting a lot heavier since they were booked to play, and now more Led Zep than the post punk styling they used to have, a bit of a shock but those that like their metal seems to rate them highly and they kept the crowd there for the next band on, Dr Arthur Krause, Sweden’s finest export after booze, cars and dodgy movies. A blend of Sisters of Mercy style goth but with their own twist. Fuzzbox came on to a near capacity crowd and rattled through a hits set encompassing everything from the early days of ‘Rules and Regulations’, ‘She’ and ‘Love is the Slug’ through to the latter hits like ‘Pink Sunshine’, even initiating a crowd sing-along at one point. Headline band for this night were Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and they were on top form, sounding far better than I ever remembering them doing and bringing the live part of the even to a close with DJ’s keeping the crowd going til closing time. By the time I got back to the rented cottage around 4.30am I could hardly walk, the 16 hour day spent running around sorting things had resulted in swollen feet and some really big blisters.
4 hours of sleep and we’re up and getting ready for day two, Saturday, the problems with my feet had settled down a little so I wrapped my toes in plasters and got to the venue again for midday, ready for another long day. This is where I found that earlier two people had been at the upstairs entrance telling people that there was nothing going on, and that our banners around town were ‘missing’, as they were held on with padlocks they’d been removed using bolt cutters! Sad to see that someone felt this was necessary, even going to the point of telling local cab companies it was cancelled.  Still, this day was going to be busier, Saturdays always are, and we were close to capacity on advance sales so it was looking good. The Damned were due to show at 2pm but their brand new hire van blew up on the way and they didn’t show til about half 7pm. It’s the little things that make this job stressful!
First band on were Pink Hearse, an all girl horrorpunk band, again to a really good size crowd, and they ran through a great set ending with a cover from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Next up Luxury Stranger, the new line up really working well and sounding great, a kind of early Cure meets a mix of styles from those early post punk days, but original and never less than spellbinding, one of the performances of the weekend for me. The Beauty of Gemina flew in from Switzerland to play once again and gave us a fantastic set to a crowd by now reaching near the back of the room, when I looked back from the side of the stage as they ran through their set all I could see was people dancing. Frankenstein with that unique blend of garage / punk / billy meant the crowd went wild from the moment they took to the stage, with Dave Grave on fine form, winding himself up into a frenzy, spitting beer in the air and really warming things up for the main band of the night, The Damned. I don’t think that in thirty odd years I’ve ever seen a bad performance from them, and this was no exception, a set covering the ‘goth’ classics as well as dipping in an out of the punk years and everything else in between. A perfect end to the two days of live music.
This last weekend was without doubt a turning point for WGW, with so many people saying that it felt like it used to, when people were there for the bands and music and just having fun, and I think they’re right. I can’t remember a previous weekend for a long while like this one, even the ones that sold out, where the atmosphere was so good. The Spa DJ’s did a great job of keeping people there dancing after the bands finished each night and the club nights either side of the main event did a great too.
We can only build on this now and get the numbers back for the people that just come to ‘see the goths’ and take photo’s, or dress up and wander around not even caring if there’s a music festival on. We don’t really need them to make it to have fun, that’s been obvious from this weekend, but the town needs their money, and for that reason alone I look forward to them being there. I can do without the being stopped for photos every few yards, and the TV crews with their clueless interviewers but Whitby like any other small town relies on them.
If you’ve never been to the festival and have been put off by the ‘goth’ part of it then don’t be, there’s much more to it that just one genre. You’ll find ticket info on the website, give it a go.

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21 comments on “Whitby Goth weekend – a review”

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  1. Thanks for having us Martin, we had a brilliant night and met some wonderful people. I’m glad there was space in their hearts for something a little heavier ;-) X


    Bloody great band!!!

    I think that any scene “revival” (for the want of a less debatable term) will never have the same longevity that it had the first time round, though of course you will get the core faithfuls… It is also about about mixing things up a bit (as were the goth bands and variations of the genre during the post-punk 80s). It would be an insult to assume that someone who’s a goth can’t like Led Zeppelin.

    A band has to follow where their creative paths lead and not create just to win over a target audience, in this case Goths… I read that Fuzzbox played and NO WAY were they ever a Goth band!!!! Completely the opposite!!!

    Black Moth are at least keeping it heavy and keeping it dark and I’m sure more fans will follow, goths as well as other “scene”sters and generally, fans of great bloody music, whatever pigeonhole people want to use.


    • Absolutely, a band has to follow their own hearts and as I say, Black Moth went down really well and I’ve had some great feedback from the section of the crowd that prefer things a little heavier. Hopefully they’ve picked up some new fans from playing the weekend.

  3. Great night thanks for everything,
    Thanks crew and Martin

  4. Couldn’t agree more with the write up here , having been to every single goth weekend other than the first two I have to admit that this weekend ( or rather the whole week which I stayed for) was one of the very best I have ever been to.
    It was fabulous to see so many familiar faces in the crowd some if which I think came along knowing that this time it was purely for the fantastic bands and official WGW club nights around the event.
    I have a stall down in the spa pavilions bizarre bazar as I have every year I have been and I have to admit that the stall did very well pulling in the same amount of custom as ever so I think the shoppers were there too!
    So with a big smile in my face I would like to raise a glass to Jo Hampshire and Martin and the rest if the official WGW team , thank you all so much for your hard work with this brilliant event and start looking forward to the November event!

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