Goth is hardly the wild beast it once was. It’s certainly had an interesting ride, though, from its early days of ’80s glammy punk weirdness, vampire rock-and-roleplaying in the ’90s on into futurepop and misogynistic bro-dustrial in the ’00s (with a resulting old-school revival backlash, naturally). On top of this, there are all the post-modern, Internet-led aspects which the more stodgy parts of the scene won’t admit exist but that bring in new kids and keep le darq scene shambling about in the underground.
Of course, it’s good to step into the light once in a while. That’s what the giant festival Wave-Gotik-Treffen is for: a chance to gather in large groups with friends, purchase expensive black clothes in massive halls, and then wander up and down the main streets posing for photos all day. Okay—that’s a bit uncharitable. WGT often has a killer lineup, including this year which had a bunch of great stuff. Orphx and Youth Code, for example, topped my must-see list. But the fancy-dress aspect is not really my vibe. I get it, goth these days is mostly a social/fashion scene for a lot of people, but a hot’n’horny EternaTeen like myself needs something less capitalistic and more apocalyptic.
I’ve been frequenting the WGT on and off for the last ten years, but I tend to stick to its bastard offspring—the parties that have sprung up at the fringes, enticing festival-goers with promises of dancefloor delights. If you’re looking for something different at the I’m Different Festival, here are three highly recommended alternatives that I stumbled into drunk at 3 am, each of them showcasing different sides of the dark music scene.
Leipzig’s most decadent queer-wave party embodies the glam side of goth, with plenty of leather to go along with that lace. From the body-jacking EBM of DAF to modern party bois Schwefelgelb, the music is prime-cut electro with a distinctly European edge. G+T organizer Zacker No wanted to give the queer community a WGT headquarters, where dark hearts could dance to the heroes they loved in a welcoming environment. “It’s a cliché that all goth people are open-minded, tolerant and thoughtful/profound,” Zacker told me. “Not to mention the absurd sexism that pops up here and there with some bands. I think it is still important to provide a kind of ‘shelter’—not encapsulation, but a place where you can smooch safely and flirt and dance without any risk whether you’re male, female, homo, hetero, trans or above and beyond.” Glitter + Trauma lives up to its name—expect to leave covered in glitter and sweat, not all of which will be yours.
Not a party as such, but the last two years have seen this relatively new Leipzig club elevated to a must-visit location for fans of power noise, industrial techno and generally evil electronic sounds. 2015 saw a collaboration with Berlin’s Sabbat that brought together powerful modern acts like Monica Hits The Ground, Shaddah Tuum and Phase Fatale with the transgressive synthpunk drag of Petra Flurr. The DIY community vibe of the venue (it was basically built from scratch by punks) combined with their tasty Kirsch Audio soundsystem and labyrinthian floor plan make IfZ the perfect stage for dark debauchery.
GPP is almost as much of a Leipzig institution as WGT at this point, having existed in various forms since 2000. This multi-day mini-festival is loosely based around ‘old-school’ aspects of the scene: deathrock, coldwave, minimal and so forth ooze across the fog-shrouded dance floor as strobes illuminate a sea of backcombed mohawks and painted leather jackets. As much as I enjoy a good Bauhaus bounce on occasion, it’s been some time since these sorts of sounds and styles excited me—but as lovingly as the lineups are curated, that’s not really why GPP is exciting. It’s the queer, OG punk ethos that fuels it, the camaraderie that runs deep in both the attendees and the staff. The sense of danger exists alongside the kind of close-knit community rarely seen in parties, much less festivals. It’s more powerful than anything you’ll dose your body with over the weekend, and it’s what keeps me coming back. No expensive wardrobe required.