February 2017 New Dark Age
Friday the 13th of January saw two noteworthy scene events in NYC. Christian Dryden’s recently reorganized band, the Ritualists performed a set of nine or ten original pieces plus a George Michael cover, “Father Figure,” at the Delancey under the Williamsburg Bridge. They opened with pop-sounding “Say Yes” off their EP, then moved into a piece with a Led Zeppelin-meets-Echo & the Bunnymen feel, and a third song which featured Dryden’s spectacular, soaring vocals over a tribal beat.
The set featured a variety of styles to please a variety of musical tastes including psychedelic, Brit-pop and Post-Punk with New Wave and pop hooks thrown in. They introduced a new piece to their repetoire, “She’s the Sun,” a 60s-sounding combination of psychedelic with New Wave , followed by the George Michael tribute, and ending with Dryden’s flagship anthem, “I’m With the Painted people,” a geographically well-situated ode to the Lower East Side’s glam and punk scene.
DJ Eisdriver and DJ Arsenal held the second edition of BodyLab, an industrial/EBM purist’s dance night in the dim backroom of the Parkside Lounge on East Houston where black-clad and boot-shod enthusiasts punished the dancefloor to the sounds of Skinny Puppy, Front 242 and Ministry as well as less-identifiable harsh electronics . Fascinating, yet disturbing music videos from the Cleopatra Records collection flicked silently of a large screen as backdrop visuals to the heavy-duty soundtrack curated by these two rivet-head deejays and late-arriving guest DJ Wendy Blackwidow, late of Philadelphia’s famous Assimilate night. Free giveaways included packaged CDs of techno-electronic music.
Inclement weather and hazardous driving conditions prevented us from attending birthday parties at QXTs for Damien Plague and Krys P. With apologies, New Dark Age extends very belated Happy Birthday greetings to both.
The recurring alternative music party hosted by impresario Xris Smack was held on the eve of MLK Day, Sunday night, Jan. 15 jointly with a NYC-based alternative-lifestyle organization calling itself Fetish Tribe at Manhattan’s Lower East Side club, The Delancey. A Who’s Who of famous deejays from the metropolitan area including Sean Templar, Paradox, Eric Aengel, Michael T, and QXT’s birthday boy Damien Plague enlivened all three floors of this venerable nightclub, where dance spaces were available in the basement and main bar area on the ground floor levels.
For an extra $10, one had access to the third floor indoor garden where Fetish Tribe put on X-rated displays of “suspension” and more on gorgeous and lingerie-clad volunteers, the details of which I will leave to your imagination.
Denizens of NYC’s dark demimonde came in all kinds of transgressive attire and costumes, from old-school punk to bizarre outfits befitting the theme denoted in the event’s subtitle, “Wicked Winter Wasteland.” Notables of the scene, including William Welles, Ashley Bad (in a crème-colored latex body-suit), Athan Maroulis (Spahn Ranch and Noir) and Kai Irina Hahn (The Sedona Effect and Noir) were on hand.
Acclaimed tribute band Disorder packed the basement performance space at around 1 a.m. for a flawless set of Joy Division’s history-making, Post-Punk repertoire. Enthusiasm shown by the mixed audience of goths, punks and plain music-lovers has to be termed “over-the-top,” as lead singer Mike Strollo succeeded in capturing the earnest and anguished vocal style of the tragic Ian Curtis with masterful instrumental accompaniment.
This last Thursday night of the month event continues to flourish under the auspices of deejays Ana Vice, Valefar Malefic, Mike Stalagmike (Defcon) and Bela Lugosi Alex. The creepily gorgeous décor of Bedlam, the bar at which it is held provides a unique and just right environment decorated with antique anatomical models and medical charts and a massive, mounted moose head. Artificial cobwebs are strewn about and hung from the numerous lamp-shaded wall sconces that provide conducive, dim lighting to the venue. Countless and various colored tea-lights everywhere – on the bar, on tables, lined up along baseboards – add a sense of dark glamour. Tatters of shrouds dangle from the ceiling in the he small, but sufficient, strobe-lit dance floor.
The musical selections vary with each of the deejays and can range from such obscurities as Cold Cave to such standards as Sisters of Mercy. Whether it’s Death in June or Ex-VoTo, attendees at Memento Mori are sure to have their taste in dark music not only broadened, but darkened!
This night we found Ana Vice, one of the original founders, opening the night from her statioin at the deejay booth. Charming and gorgeously attired/groomed Bela Lugosi Alex acted as a sort of host, entertaining guests with friendly conversation while both snapping and posing for photos alongside his better half, meta-beautiful Catgirl Morales. The Catgirl was just back from having been to North Dakota where she had visited to support the indigenous people movement, a cause with which she strongly identifies. To everyone’s delight, Catgirl had brought along her bewitching cousin, Sacramento Samantha, fresh from the West Coast, wide-eyed and enthusiastically touring New York and the East for the first time. Fabulously attired, statuesque Valefar Malefic floated about – preened as always like an androgynous vampire, the very epitome of Goth.
Besides bar seating, Bedlam also provides comfortable, upholstered booths where attendees can give their dance feet a rest and engage in intimate conversation. One on such booth we found DJ Mike Stalagmike entertaining some attentive members of the opposite sex early in the evening. Goth celebrity Aurelio Voltaire was observed huddling and snapping selfies with friends in another booth somewhat later in the evening.
Father Jeff Ward and DJ Patrick Cusack hosted the latest edition of this, the longest running Goth dance night in NYC on the last Saturday of January. Doors opened at 11 p.m. and attendees got the warm welcome by Mandana Banshee. Entry to what has become one of the all-time favorite venues for such events, Windfall, was $10 at the door, or $8 with flyer. The night takes its name from the Chekhov short story about an insane asylum, with a play on the main host’s surname.
By all accounts this was the most heavily attended event in this category at Windfall, drawing such scene luminaries as deejays Arsenal and Ash, William Welles, “Bent Nail Studio” artist CharleSilas Garlette and his significant other, Sirma as well as scene regular “Tragic Doll” Shirley Alvarez accompanied by a beautiful entourage of female family members.
Jackie Rivera had a stand set up where she hawked her crafted, morbid jewelry and accessories under the label “Jackie Hates You.” Pencil artist Bill sat in his usual station making candid sketches of those in attendance who danced before him or stood still long enough to be captured on drawing paper. Mixologists Gerard and Julia kept imbibers satisfied despite the seemingly overwhelming demand. The dance floor was crowded like never seen before owing to the draw of the extraordinarily appealing mix issued forth from the booth. Windfall manager Chris Savo took a moment out from his house duties to pose with Father Jeff for a photo.
Bare Boned and Sacred
This latest Peter Murphy release is a compilation of the somewhat variable setlist presented during the recent “Stripped” tour, complete with audience reactions. The feeling of “live” is amplified and rendered unique by the fact that the “Stripped” tour was predominantly in the acoustic mode. Thus the versions heard on this CD come across as loud, clear and up front, similar to the way it was experienced by front-seat attendees at the concert performances themselves.
The first track is the acclaimed “Cascade,” the consistent opening track during this long “Stripped” tour, which begins with an electronic instrumental riff reminiscent of the dots and dashes of Morse code, onto which Murphy speaks in low mystical tones about “twilight.” Then it takes off into off into an irresistible, rhythmic set of arpeggios and a powerful, melodious song.
The second track, “Secret” was less frequently presented during the tour, heard also on “The Secret Bees of Ninth,” a 6 song EP, and is played with Murphy’s self-accompaniment, strumming on an acoustic guitar plus thje backing of a solo piano. “All Night Long” is performed in a style that all fans will find delightfully familiar, but “Marlene Dietrich’s Favourite Poem” gets a novel and innovative treatment as far as the accompaniment, while the vocals are faithful to the original.
Just as he did on the tour, Murphy pays emotion-laden tribute to David Bowie with “Bewlay Brothers” on the next track. Then the acoustic guitar proves especially apt as accompaniment to “A Strange Kind of Love,” because of the measured pauses between widely spaced lyrical lines.
“The Rose” off the “Lion” album gets a fuller instrumental backing on the following track in keeping with Murphy’s fuller, soaring vocals. The high point for Bauhaus fans on this album, as during the live shows, is the “Bauhaus Medley” of minor key masterpieces that begins with “King Volcano,” runs through “Kingdom’s Coming” and ends up with “Silent Hedges.”
“Never Fall Out” was frequently performed during the tour, but we who attended the late night performance in NYC didn’t get to hear it, so the CD provides an opportunity to enjoy this piece off “Ninth” in stripped-down style with mere guitar strumming accompaniment and some subtle male vocal back-ups.
“Gaslit” off of “Ninth” was performed at virtually every stop on the “Stripped” tour and serves well as the setlist draws toward a beautiful climax, just before “Lion” – also missing from both NY City Winery sets – leads to the final entry on this album that was not part of in the “Stripped” tour setlist,, the languid, mystical, Near Eastern hymn, “Your Face” from the 2002 album, “Dust.”
This album is a must for Peter Murphy/Bauhaus fans. Although many of the titles will already be in their collections, they will hear them sung with his voice now thoroughly mature as never before in – as we say – “close up and personal” versions Close listening will reproduce the experience of witnessing it in intimate proximity to the artist, with just enough instrumentals to highlight his rich vocal style.
The Whitney Museum of American Art
The first week of February was the last chance to see the mind-bending and dazzling video/light-show exhibit called Dreamlands at the Whitney in NYC’s Meat Packing district. Large format screens showed everything from actual 1950s Pacific nuclear bomb tests to slo-mo images of glittering, costumed characters, to human puppets and psychedelic patterns. Here there were imaginative flashing neon signs and there, rooms full of competing screens with films, slides and colorful images to hypnotize viewers. A sampling of images are shown in the Aquarian edition.
The Metropolitan Museum
This venerable mother ship of art had two exhibits of interest to the Goth crowd. Upstairs was a retrospective on Max Beckmann, 20th century artist from Leipzig, whose success in his Weimar Germany was short-circuited by the rise of Nazism, forcing him to emigrate to Amsterdam and then later, New York, where he continued his career as an acclaimed Expressionist painter, a label he thoroughly rejected.
When he wasn’t painting introspective self-portraits, he often produced grotesque, sometimes distorted images of his wife Quappi and some seductive women as well as puzzling tableaux of people engaged in casual violence.
Masterworks – Unpacking Fashion
Downstairs in the Anna Wintour Costume Center, the Met put on a display of sixty, chronologically arrayed fashion masterworks, from the 18th Century through the present, with an emphasis of design and materials. What we found fascinating from our particular point of view, was the presence of numerous works with a transgressive, in-you-face attitude. I’d like to see some of these outfits, shown nearby, at the next Goth gala, Endless Night or Dracula’s Ball. Some of the frankly absurd shoe designs reminded me of footwear that might have been featured in fetish mags.