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New Dark Age – August 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — doktorjohn July 26, 2017 @ 12:13 pm

Castle Party in Bolkow Poland – A Diary

Castle Party – a festival of dark, independent music – has been held annually for the past twenty years in the well preserved ruins of Bolkow Castle in the Silesian region of Poland. The gothic structure, which sits on a 1200-foot precipice, dates back to 1277 and is still largely intact, boasting an impressive tower and monumental walls.

The adjacent courtyard, where a great outdoor stage is erected for concerts, is 7600 square meters in size, a shade smaller than an American football field.

Access to the castle is easily obtained via a steep street, that then turns up a cobblestone-paved foot path and staircase. Vendors of steampunk, vampiric and related attire and accessories line the town’s road leading up to the castle. A couple of young men in monk’s cassocks man an oven, baking a Polish version of pizza on rye bread. Beer stands and ice vendors are present along the way.

Once you have climbed to the arched entrance, your wristband for entry (270 Polish zloty= around $75 USD for all 4 days) is double-checked and you pass through the arched portal onto the castle grounds. Beer stands are everywhere. Purchase is by way of converting cash into zetony, a medium of exchange similar to poker chips. There you find rows of food stands and vendors within the walls of the castle and an abundance of exceptionally cleanly portable toilets. You can climb a stone staircase up to a higher level to view the field, the stage and an incredible panoramic vista from this altitude. Or you can step out into the field and find a comfortable location to stand or sit for the shows that begin around 4 pm each afternoon.

The town of Bolkow and its 5300 residents turn out with an abundance of hospitality to welcome the 4000+ predominantly black-attired Goths, punks and industrial freaks who attend annually. An abandoned Evangelical church inside the town serves as a second, indoor venue where each afternoon/evening is dedicated to a specific style of music, featuring series of bands who each perform 40-minute sets within the theme of the day. Thus opening night, Thursday July 13 church program was “gothic” bands. Friday July 14 was “metal” day. Saturday, “industrial,” and Sunday, “electro.” The church is surrounded by beer and food trucks, picnic table and music aficionados socializing . Again, there are more than sufficient numbers of clean, sanitary portables, so that the queue to them is mercifully short at all times.

Starting very late each night and into the following morning, the local bar and dance venue, the Hacienda, features four deejays, each with their own signature style and reputation, spinning 2-hour sets from post-punk to Italo, goth, deathrock and coldwave.

The entire town – especially the walkways leading up to the Castle – and the grounds surrounding the Former Evangelical Church – provide a pageant for the eyes as participants promenade in beautiful and bizarre outfits, make-up and costumes as they traipse between venues or stop to eat, drink and socialize. Cosmetic extremes, headdresses, wings, wigs, tattoos and apparel are on display, blending fashions that represent gothic, steampunk, sci-fi and horror as well as punk, heavy metal and New Romantic styles.

Arriving early in a rented car from the nearby major city Wroclaw (believe it or not, pronounced “Fro-swav”) on July 13, we settled into accommodations at a nearby, antiquated “palace” or mansion that was a short 10 minute commute to the town of Bolkow. Street parking within Bolkow was certainly safe and generally fairly easy to find.

Thursday

Once decked out in our everyday all-black attire, we headed to the former evangelical church where the party was opening with the Goth Night selection of bands.
The first band we caught was Lahka Muza a Slovakian quartet consisting of 3 women with big hair, high make up and fetishy, steampunk attire plus a male guitarist. Together they had a big, thunderous sound produced by richly stratified electronics. The songs were generally slow paced, layered and noisy, and featured a mournful female vocalist who spiced it up with operatic yodeling. Another played bass and the third, sexily clad, just gyrated robotically in place. The sound that was issued was something like Kate Bush-from-hell. Or a soundtrack for a horror movie.


Next up was Dividing Lines from Leipzig, an amplified female – led melodious yet intense punk quintet who served up as good a punk sound as anything you’ll hear in the 21st century.

Next was Star Industry, a really excellent old school goth-dance quintet whose original, galloping, minor key melodies were reminiscent of the Sisters of Mercy. To confirm that observation, they performed one respectable cover of the Sisters in their set as well as a cover of MGMT’s “Kids,” along with 45 minutes of their own original stuff.

Sweet Ermengarde from Germany has a Polish percussionist co-founder and followed with their dense, dark, echoic and guitar-based sound, rooted in 80s British goth, but updated electronically. “Gonzo” Vuline of Love Like Blood made a guest appearance to perform a duet as he has done in past performances with Ermengarde’s vocalist.

Live performances the first night at the church closed with USA’s Frank the Baptist who opened with a brief monologue to the effect of “Welcome to church,” by which we understood him to mean some kind of jocular reference to the venue as well as his own snarky moniker. Although there were some eerie elements to his style, by and large, the prominent vocals, the bass and the relentless beat took us back to the earliest days of hard rock. In fact, our suspicions that Frank the Baptist was reviving the Rolling Stones were confirmed when he and his band covered the Stones’ “Black.” Worthy music, but hardly gothic, unless one allows for the possibility that dark elements in the Rolling Stones’ 1960s oeuvre were setting the stage for the later emergence of what was to become Gothrock in the 70s and 80s.

At the close of the set, deejays took over the church and we returned for the night back to the mansion where we were staying. The castle had not opened yet.

Friday

Friday was “Metal” night at the church. Death metal, black metal and mythological occult metal were represented. In Twilight’s Embrace, Shodan, Ulcer and Beheaded each brought their version of death metal to the stage.

The last of these, Beheaded from Malta gave what was described by one astute metal head whom I consulted as “a powerful and convincing performance.” Their long-haired and charismatic vocalist Frank Calleja growled ferociously and with utter sincerity for several songs from this year’s newest release. The drummer mimicked the cadence of repeated machine-gun bursts. Band members swung their long tresses like windmills. The band’s name appeared in classic metal font on the backdrop of the stage as the crowd – at first sparse – came to fill the hall.

DIORAMA at the Castle

Half a dozen acts had already gone on and off stage by the time we showed up at the big outdoor stage of the castle to see Diorama, a German electro-gothic trio, whose unfortunate dependence on technology nearly sabotaged their act. Nobody sounded better than Diorama with their guitar-driven, melodious style but then some kind of audio incompatibility cut short their set, which had started off tantalizingly good with a hypnotic rhythm and dark melody, but collapsed electronically. The band and tech support struggled mightily for nearly half an hour, and when the problem was solved. Diorama came back on stage, and their performance was positively masterful, characterized by delicious melodies, rich, melancholy vocals and mesmerizing rhythms. I would liken them favorably to Covenant with a harder edge.


ARKONA on the big Castle Stage

The night’s program was more than redeemed by the next group up: Arkona, a Russian folk-metal quintet with a statuesque female lead vocalist, clad in leather pants, peasant boots and a blouse redundant with long fringes, who could go from singing to yodeling to roaring like a bear, at times sounding like a man twice her size, electric guitarists, bagpipes and flute. At one amazing point this vocalist sang, full-throated with the delivery of a Russian operatic contralto, acappella accompanied only to the beat of a native drum. The term speed metal comes to mind, blended – then alternated, seamlessly – with Eurasian traditional folk. The sheer power and pathos of Arkona’s performance captured both the melancholy and the defiance of the Russian people whose music expresses their endurance and their survival against the forces of authoritarianism and nature’s elements over the centuries. A semi-punk, semi-folk-dance mosh pit churned energetically throughout their performance.

Diary of Dreams

Topping the night off was German electronic darkwave quartet, Diary of Dreams, whose captivating minor key melodies, angry, morbid lyrics, sung mainly in English were accompanied by a heavy, ominous, musical tsunami including a synthetic chorus. Such is the state of modern music that much of the time, the Instrumentalists seemed to hardly touch their instruments and yet a wall of complex and layered music continued pouring from the speakers. They reminded me of a delightful but more morose, more desperate version of Wolfsheim.

Saturday

Saturday at the church was “industrial” night, and I won’t soon forgive myself for missing the eerie audio-visual works of Czech musician Vladimir Hirsch, of America’s Schloss Tegal and of Rapoon from the U.K. These artists stretched the boundaries of how we define music with non-rhythmic soundscapes of industrial and ambient noise, unconventional and sometimes incomprehensible note sequences issued by electronic instruments, samples of choral chants and indescribable sources. Although none of this fits the definition of what most mean when they say “industrial,” these sets served to enlighten and broaden the musical taste of those with a willing and open mind.

ROME

Fortunately, I was astounded and pleased to have arrived in time to witness the intense freakfolk violin plucking and strumming of Sieben from Sweden and the stunning musicianship of neo-folk artist Rome from Luxembourg. This singer-songwriter soloist accompanied himself on guitar, and was joined later in the performance by a couple of other musicians. With his magnificent, Leonard Cohen-esque baritone voice, intense, confident delivery and brilliant arrangements he stood out as perhaps the most talented and accomplished musician – in the traditional sense – at the festival. His album “Hyperion” can be accessed on YouTube and I guarantee you it will prove an unexpected and wondrous delight.

Suicide Commando

Back at the Castle, electro-industrial duo A Split Second set the crowd to frenzied rocking with guitar driven, rapidly cadenced music and accompanying vocals. The show of course was stolen by Belgian group Suicide Commando whose harsh themes, nasty lyrics (“Die, die, die!”) and techno-industrial sound have earned it a prestigious place in every festival of this kind of music.
Neuoberschlesien fireworks

They were followed by Neuoberschlesien, a hard, heavy metal group, clearly influenced by Rammstein both in sound and stage production, who lit up the scene with bursts of flames as part of the act, and who worked in some patriotic Silesian anthems between head-banger tracks. Neuoberschlesian in German means New Upper Silesian, referring to the culturally distinct, historically Prussian province of Poland with its own dialect that to this day harbors ambitions to be autonomous.

The night ended with My Dying Bride, a doom metal band with an ominous, foghorn-like intro, slow paced and plaintive synthetic strings and choir samples issuing mournful chants. But I found their music to be without logic, toon slow for my attention span, with sudden and irrational shifts of tempo and musical notes played in a sequence lacking any recognizable melody.

The Hacienda

This venerable upstairs bar and downstairs dance floor is situated a short walk from the castle and becomes crowded – very crowded – when the shows at the castle and church let out. Castle Party wristbands are required to gain entrance. Smoking – an atavistic vice, still nearly universal in Poland – is only allowed in a small, outdoor pen. While it might have been possible to find your way to the bar, and it might have been possible to gyrate rhythmically in place in the densely packed dance floor downstairs, it proved too crowded for us to take part in either drinking or dancing. All you could do, really, was smoke.

Sunday

Up at the Castle, Polish grunge rockers K-Essence performed such highly perfected Seattle-style nostalgic rock from their album “We Prefer the Night,” that I was surprised that they weren’t wearing flannel. It was done so incredibly well that it happily transported the small audience (I counted 60 spectators) to the golden age of 90s alternative rock. But it wasn’t the kind of music that most at the festival had come to hear, so we headed down to the church where Black Tower from Poland was doing a set that would have made Wumpscut proud, and it had the effect of charging the crowd up to a near frenzy of industrial ecstasy. Next, Frank Croona from Sweden was definitely no crooner, but rather a raspy-voiced aggro-industrialist, delivering his harsh vocals to dance-trance rhythms.

H. EXE at the Former Evangelical Church

The church proved to be the place to be that night, as H. Exe from Poland merged the growling vocal style of black metal with techno-industrial accompaniment, and the audience, set in motion by Black Tower continued to pulsate rhythmically and excitedly. So well received was H. Exe, that the audience demanded them back for several encores after their regular set had concluded. Finally German electro-industrial duo, In Strict Confidence closed out the church show with deep, hoarse vocals layered over a melodious and thunderous cadence while video-projected flames licked the stage and the backdrop.

So it was back to the castle for headliners and concluding act, Tiamat, but before they came on, we had to stare in wonder at the less-than-entertaining French outfit Vive La Fete performing the annoyingly kitschy “Popcorn” theme that dates back to the early days -1969- of the moog synthesizer. The show was not redeemed by a lanky blond cavorting in black tights, whose goofy grimacing and overly sexy posturing served only to highlight their curiously boring music. The question inevitably arises: What is Vive La Fete doing at Castle Party of dark independent music? And what, especially, were they doing on the playbill on closing night, just before the headliners?

Finally headliners Tiamat, officially from Sweden, took the stage amidst much anticipation. Tiamat takes its unusual name from the Babylonian goddess of the Chaos of Primordial Creation. Lead vocalist Johan Edlund came out wearing an army uniform complete with a Polish army World War II helmet. One could sense that there were going to be predictable denunciations of war as is the stereotypical custom at alternative music events these days. Why do these performers think they are bearers political enlightenment? Do they really think that their audiences need to be preached at regarding the how objectionable is the institution of war? Or do they think that they are the special messengers of this wisdom?

Well in any event, after announcing somewhat pretentiously that they were “from Sweden, from Spain, from Canada, the U.S., whatever,” Edlung scornfully discarded, first, the helmet, then parts of the uniform into the audience to let us know what may have news 50 or 100 years ago, namely that rock musicians don’t like war. I would have counseled him to have more respect for a symbol of Poland’s valiant resistance in World War II. The good thing was that as he removed articles of army uniform he at least picked up a guitar and played along. Song after song seemed to drag at a funeral pace as if each needed time to sink in. The music did pick up energy toward the end of the set, and overall the performance was good. Let’s face it. Theirs is good material. But we were of the opinion that one’s appreciation of Tiamat would have been better served by going to Spotify and listening to any one of their albums from the past.

Thus ended a joyful and unique 4 day experience for those from the gothic, punk and industrial music world. In all respects Castle Party 2017 met and exceeded every expectation of fun, great entertainment, feasting, freedom and, even, enlightenment.

What is there that is special about Castle Party? Virtually everything! Set in a small Eastern European town imbued with history and with Slavic hospitality, it brings together a virtual cornucopia of post-punk music from traditional gothic, punk and industrial to techno, experimental, acoustic and electronic. Some might consider Castle Party to be somewhat indiscriminate, but who can say what the boundaries are between styles and tastes? Castle Party is more about breaking down barriers than establishing them.

In the same sense, it brings together a rich ethnic mix of performers and attendees from both East and West, in an environment that promotes transcontinental friendship and acceptance. Political, nationalistic and historical ideologies dissolve, or rather evaporate in the thin, clean air of the Carpathian Mountains. Music fans and lovers of dark aesthetic and philosophical themes meet in an environment of quintessential camaraderie that scorns the petty issues and jealousies of the mainstream societies from which they have dropped out – some for a few days, others for life.

United by the bonds of post-punk culture and the near universal fluency in English, Castle Party creates an environment that is both universal and intimate. Dressing up and showing off in punk, gothic, or steampunk outfits, head banging the night away, dancing in friendly mosh pits, the participants in Castle Party defy the outside world’s manufactured and irredeemable preoccupations with status, religion and ethnicity while celebrating their shared nonconforming attitudes.

Memento Mori


July 27, 2017

The New Dark Age crew visited Memento Mori, the dance club and socializing event held monthly on Thursdays at Bedlam Bar in Manhattan’s Alphabet City. Greeting us was hospitality hostess, Ana Vice, deejay and queen bee of the dark social scene and one of the originators of this club event. Equally hospitable DJ Bela Lugosi Alex approached us and was eager to hear about and view photos from our recent adventures at music festivals in Eastern Europe.

Up in the deejay booth were Mike Stalagmike, noted impresario of Defcon, and caliginous presence, Valefar Malefic arrayed like a vampirish maestro of deathrock.

The bar area has spectacular décor which includes taxidermy elements, game-trophy heads mounted high on the wall, specimens of god-knows-what in jars, anatomical models and charts, plus a well-stocked bar and an efficient bartender. The dance floor is grotesquely festooned with a dense array of tattered fabrics hung from the ceiling. There’s also a dimly lit lounge in back.

The cast of attendees tends to represent the select population of beautiful creatures from the City’s urban underground. Other notables of the scene included Mark Cage Knight who held court with his companions in the comfortable lounge in the back room behind the dance floor. Comfortably ensconced in booths in the bar area were Joe Hart, similarly surrounded by beautiful creatures of the night; scene regulars, Jennifer Bobbe, keyboardist for Night Gallery and Alain Leriche accompanied by the statuesque Nicole Eres.

Emanating from the sound system were such delightful rarities as “A Little Death to Laugh” by Cold Cave and “Lion King” by Ghosting. This is music you won’t hear at the average goth-industrial dance club. Getting out on a Thursday night, which is the only night of the week on which Memento Mori is held, is well worth it to those who wish to delve deeper into the New York demimonde and its dark music scene.

Ward 6


Ward 6

The “Depeche Mode Edition” of Ward 6 was held at Windfall Saturday night July 29 and treated as an after party to the Depeche Mode cruise along the Hudson River which ended at around midnight the same night. Reduced admission was granted to those bearing tickets from the cruise.

DJs Jeff Ward and Patrick Cusack took turns at the deejay booth, spinning post-punk with a heavy reliance and frequent returns to the Depeche Mode repertoire.
After being greeted by host Chris Savo, we hit the dance floor to the sound of The Cure’s “Fascination Street.” Wolfsheim, the Eurythmics and even Cabaret Voltaire were part of the mix.
Shortly before 1 a.m. “The Fly in the Windscreen” by Depeche Mode hit the air and what followed was basically an alternating set with Depeche Mode songs between such other appropriate favorites as Kate Bush, et al.

DJ Ash made an appearance following his assigned duties on the cruise. Other notables of the scene were William Welles, DJ Arsenal and Joe Hart, the latter two accompanied by their lovely better halves.

Kaplica Czaszek

While in south western Poland for Castle Party we took a 2-hour car journey to this chapel in Czermna near the Czech border where a famous chapel houses catacomb containing the skeletal remains of around 24,000 deceased, of which about 3,000 are on actual display forming the walls and ceiling of the chapel itself. Between 1776 and 1804, it was furnished by a local priest, influenced by the famous catacombs of Rome, with the skulls and leg bones of victims of the Thirty Years War, various plagues and famines.


Fr. Tomaszek
exhumed and cleaned these skeletal parts from mass graves and arranged them in this once-active church in order to restore their dignity and significance, and put them on display in the tradition of a memento mori, i.e. a reminder of mortality. He placed skulls with curious features such as bullet holes, the effects of syphilis and giantism right on the altar for viewing. Eventually, his own skull was placed there as well. Recently added celebrity skulls are those of persecuted priests martyred by the Nazis during WW II and, later, by the Communist agents of the Soviet Union.

There is a small memorial to the 96 members of the Polish contingent whose plane crashed under suspicious circumstances in Smolensk in 2010. It will be recalled that they were en route to meet with Mr. Putin to commemorate the 1940 mass execution of the 22,000 Polish officer corps by the Soviet NKVD at the Katyn Forest. Because of this fatal plane crash, Mr. Putin was thereby conveniently spared from the embarrassment that such a meeting might have caused.

There are numerous ossuaries around the world where for various cultural and/or religious reasons, the bones of the dead are put on display. Most are maintained below street level, in basements or tunnels as in Rome or Paris, and these are termed catacombs. Kaplica Czaszek is among those few that house the remains in structures above ground. It is now more a tourist attraction than an active church, but midnight mass is celebrated once a year on August 14, the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

Brief tours are chaperoned by nuns and scheduled on a regular, basis through the day. Photography is prohibited.

July 2017 New Dark Age

Filed under: Events,Goth Stuff,live music,New Dark Age Monthly,Uncategorized — doktorjohn July 21, 2017 @ 9:41 pm

Cybertron

Blackthorn 51
Elmhurst, Queens NYC
June 24, 2017

Vampire Freaks, the large entertainment and specialty clothing organization regularly sponsors music events with a dark, futuristic theme, labeling such events Cybertron, connected—as it portrays itself—to the concept of the sci-fi oriented Transformers theme. Release of the motion picture “Transformers—The Last Knight,” served as an inspiration for the latest Cybertron, a night of dance music and live performances by three techno-industrial bands.

Doors opened at 9 p.m. at Blackthorn 51, a bar and performance venue that usually features heavy metal, situated deep in the heart of the borough of Queens. Our crew from New Dark Age was the first to enter, and we took note of the selections being aired by the assigned deejay—mainly electronic, goth and industrial, featuring Aesthetic Perfection, NIN, Manson and IAMX.

As the guests showed up, they presented an array of dark, sexy and elaborately attired fashionistas, predominantly black-clad, sporting leather, vinyl, metal spikes, two-toned stripes and high makeup. This was particularly true of the several dancers who had been engaged to entertain between band acts. Much focus was directed at one tall, statuesque beauty in a red wig who beguiled the crowd from her lofty place on stage. The room stood in awe when the gorgeous Ashley Bad made her grand entrance accompanied by famous impresario, DJ Xris Smack, who was eager to promote upcoming Stimulate events.

Several other celebrity deejays were present to spin dance tracks including Vampire Freaks’ own Jet VF himself, Matt V Christ, Annabelle Evil, and Shadownightz.

Deathmaschine

First up at 10 p.m. was the nasty, punk/industrial trio, DeathMaschine, that put on a powerful performance, with a ruggedly handsome vocalist, hovering over the crowd, naked from the waist up but for wrap-around shades and a leather, suspenders-like harness. He was accompanied by digital rhythm tracks, keyboards and by guitarists, one of whom served to also shower the stage with sparks off a metal grinder. The pounding beats and menacing, defiantly screamed lyrics were not for the faint-of-heart.

Xentrifuge

Next up at 11 p.m. came NJ-based, but internationally acclaimed harsh industrial duo, Xentrifuge, a rivethead-styled couple whose high-tech appearance is in accord with their robust aggro-tech sound. We were familiar with them because they had been selected as Fan Favorite at the recent Darkside of the Con this past spring. Severe and intensely colored lighting glared through an intermittently thick cloud to reveal the stunningly attractive pair. Black leather-clad and sporting shaved sides, Chris Xentrifuge took center stage to issue hissing, nihilistic vocals backed by his gorgeous better half Lisa Helen, who stood behind playing a keyboard and regulating the complex synthetic accompaniment consisting of catchy, mantra-like, repetitive melodies woven into hypnotic, mechanistic rhythms. Their set consisted of seven songs with titles like “Cerebral Ruins” and “Machine Winter,” which go a long way toward characterizing the motif of their style. They are perfectly suited for their next gig which will be to open for Stabbing Westward at the Gramercy this August.

Velvet Acid Christ

Finally, at midnight, headliners, Colorado-based techno-industrial trio, Velvet Acid Christ, came on stage. They performed for at least an hour and a half, touching on most of their popular repertoire of EBM, darkwave and techno while projecting videos on a backdrop screen showing everything from kaleidoscopic, geometric animations to cartoon images with sociopolitical messages. They dedicated one song to Fox News, although it was difficult to parse the lyrics. One can assume it was critical of the Right that Fox represents, since this is the take on politics that has become almost a cliché in the alternative music scene these days. The beautiful female vocalist who remains nameless on the website and VAC’s Facebook page, sang a song in German about “being a loser.”

Although one could detect a certain sameness to much of their signature sound, VAC’s total repertoire is quite large, standing at 10 or so albums under the Metropolis label, and includes a fair enough variety with captivating melodies and cadences to make for a great body of work suited for goth/industrial dance.

Rammstein

Northwell Health At Jones Beach Theater
Wantagh, NY
June 25, 2017

It is indeed a challenge and all-day commitment to trek out to Jones Beach given the unavoidable disaster that is traffic encountered when crossing from NJ to the outer reaches of Queens, NY. The stature of this industrial metal giant, however, compelled us to make the pilgrimage, knowing the band’s reputation for spectacular visuals to accompany their thrilling and spectacular musical performance.

The show commenced when giant numbers were projected onto a dark screen that shrouded the stage. The audience participated in a countdown beginning from “8” and ending with “1” and the Rammstein logo. With that, the recognizable, syncopated beat of “Ramm 4” burst from the suddenly illuminated stage, and at the same moment there was the explosion of multiple Roman candles into the sky over the heads of even those in the loftiest stadium seats at this open-air theater.

Next came the slow paced, guitar-driven “Reise Reise,” “Halleluja” in which the band accompanies with a falsetto chorus, then the rapidly paced “Zerstören (Destroy).” “Keine Lust (No Desire),” another heavily syncopated song, followed. Next was “Feuer Frei,” a galloping piece with lyrics that play on the two meanings of the word “Feuer” (fire) to denote both the heat of fire—of which there was plenty on and around the stage—and the verb “fire” meaning to shoot a gun. Eight more songs followed, including the hugely popular “Du Riechst So Gut (You Smell So Good),” “Links 2-3-4,” “Du Hast” and the uniquely stylized cover of the Depeche Mode classic, “Stripped.”

It was impossible to keep track of the many and mind-blowing visuals which included flames and smoke belching from the stage ceiling and floor, explosions issuing from two tall towers that straddled the ground level audience seating, clouds of sparkles and confetti, instrumentalists lifted aloft by stage devices, guitars and personnel that distributed smoke, flames and mighty explosions, and rockets that flew across the crowd to ignite blazes on the two aforementioned towers.

A brief intermission was held after “Stripped,” and then they returned with “Sonne (The Sun),” then the rather tedious, yet well recognized “Amerika,” and the harsh and cynical “Engel (Angel).” For the second time, the band members took their bows and the sad strains of “Ohne Dich (Without You)” closed the show.

Seated up high in the outer and upper tier of this gargantuan, 15,000-seat theater gave us a great vantage point from which to view the overall spectacle, but deprived us of being able to appreciate the fine details of the various costumes and theatrical personae of the performers on the distant stage. Two large “Jumbotron”-type screens that should have shown video projections of the stage performers sat dark and unused. This failure to accommodate the ten or so thousand spectators in faraway seats of this gargantuan theater was, in my opinion, inexcusable. At all recent outdoor concerts I have attended recently, excellent use of the jumbo screens allowed the entire audience to enjoy the visual details of the stage performance, which was in Rammstein’s case extremely essential to appreciation of the special effects and costumes.

One more pet peeve: Why, in a vast audience of attentive and devoted fans—who have paid good money and suffered through the inconveniences of travel—do a handful of inconsiderate and hyperactive morons find it necessary to remain standing throughout the performance, essentially ruining the experience for those seated directly in back of them?!

The Red Party

Mercury Lounge
Manhattan, NY
July 8, 2017

Saturday, July 8, saw a spectacular recurrence of the iconic dance, social and entertainment event Sean templar’s Red Party. Once again it was held at the Mercury Lounge on East Houston St., itself a kind of monument to the punk music scene in the greater NY/NJ region.

Speaking of punk, the live performance this night was provided by Argyle Goolsby and the Roving Midnight, an energetic and energizing punk group just back from an overwhelmingly successful stint at the worldwide Wave Gotik Treffen festival in Leipzig, Germany. Coming on shortly after midnight, Argyle Goolsby proved their credentials not only in the old school punk category, but suffused the music with an element of horror. Front man Steve Matthews, in white contacts that emphasized the deep, dark circles surrounding his ghastly eyes and sporting a variety of shocking masks, cavorted on stage with a variety of props and an amazing facility for levitating himself to upstage heights.

Argyle Goolsby

Besides terrifying the delighted crowd with such pogo-punk pieces as “The Brides,” “Spiders and Flies” and “The Uninvited,” this guitar-driven sextet showed themselves capable of changing the pace and performing a pleasant, but dark-themed ballad or two.

Queen bee of the social scene, Mandana Banshie, greeted guests as they arrived. At the merch stand was Rusted Autumn hawking one-of-a-kind jewelry and, of course, Argyle Goolsby’s latest CD, shirts, posters and the like. Host and impresario Sean Templar was present in force, spreading hospitality and warm welcome to old friends and newcomers alike. Ana Vice, famous for her role bringing the notorious Memento Mori night to the city for the past year and a half, was first up at the deejay board, providing a mix of irresistible death rock, goth rock and esoteric post-punk that kept the dance floor active. Sean and Jarek later took turns at the turntable.

Eye-candy was provided by a crowd of extravagantly gorgeous creatures of the night as documented in the nearby photos, and included such models of festive gloomy style as DJ Alex (Bela Lugosi) Zamora, Valefar Malefic and Luna Pallida. Special guest Myke Hideous, famous for his ’90s goth-metal project The Empire Hideous, was present accompanied by his beautiful fiancée, Kyly, and both enjoyed renewing acquaintances whom they rarely get to see, having relocated outside the metropolitan area.

Mummies
The Museum Of Natural History

The most fascinating exhibition at New York’s Museum of Natural History is on mummies. Although mummification has been practiced in many and diverse parts of the world, and although mummification sometimes takes place naturally because of climate conditions, the focus here is on the highly developed methods of mummification involved in burial rites by two distinct civilizations: the Egyptian and the Peruvian.

It goes without saying that man has struggled mightily and pretty much in vain in his effort to deny the finality of death. In the case of these two cultures, whole technologies developed to create the illusion that the human form could be pretty much preserved and supplied with provisions after death. The Egypt and Peruvian practices of mummification were somewhat different, but both date back many thousands of years. Peruvian mummies dating back 7,000 years have been discovered, and the Egyptian practice began over 5,000 years ago.

Using today’s technology, particularly CAT scanning, scientists have been able to uncover much of the condition of the deceased, without disturbing the fragile and delicate condition of the bodies within adhesive, resin-caked linen wrappings. In many cases, the state of health, diet, lifestyle and family social structure has been pieced together by visually stripping away layer by layer with CAT scans, from the artistically painted wooden coffins, down through the layers of wrapping, then the skin, the bones and the remaining internal organs.

We learned that the brain and visceral organs were removed as part of the mummification process; the latter being preserved in sculpted ceramic jars. The brain was discarded as insignificant in the afterlife. Arthritis, tuberculosis, childbirth and childhood mortality were common. Bone and dental health were often poor. The teeth of Egyptians appeared to have been worn away by the sandy grit left over from grindstones that were used to mill flour into their bread.

Despite these sobering observations, what most stands out is their knowledge of anatomy, their refined dissection and chemical preservation methods, their masterful artistry in the handling and decoration of the bodies and coffins as well as the magnificent stone sarcophaguses in which the coffins were encased.

The Chinchorro of Peru and Chile started mummification thousands of years before the Egyptians. They painted their mummies and encased the head in clay, fashioning clay masks representing the dead person in an acceptable appearance. Few of these fragile masks are intact, but reproductions are on display at the museum. Some people kept mummies of deceased family members in their homes and brought them to festivals.

The Cult Of Victorian Mourning

Green-Wood Cemetery
Brooklyn, NY
June 10, 2017

The much acclaimed and sorely missed, now-defunct Morbid Anatomy Museum, lives on in spirit if not in its real life, brick-and-mortar existence. Leading figures from the former museum, including curator-author Joanna Ebenstein, antiquarian scholar and museum co-founder Evan Michelson, art historian and former museum librarian Laetitia Barbier and lecturer-teachers Stanley Burns M.D. and Karen Bachmann joined with others of like interests to present a program on the topic of rituals surrounding mourning in the Victorian era under the auspices of Green-Wood Cemetery’s events program. The program echoed the very first exhibition, “The Art of Mourning,” held in 2014 at the opening of at the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

Dating back to 1838 and designated a National Historic Landmark, Green-Wood is a treasure trove of magnificent monuments, mausoleums, markers and graves of the famous in a rural setting of surpassing beauty of landscape and architecture. It welcomes visitors and offers self-guided walking tours.

Laetitia Barbier giving opening remarks


The Chapel at Green-Wood

The symposium was held in the Chapel, a magnificent example of flamboyant Gothic style. Opening remarks were by art historian and author Laetitia Barbier, Harry Weil, Manager of Programs at Green-Wood and creative director of the museum, Joanna Ebenstein who welcomed the sold-out audience and set the tone for what was to follow. Evan Michelson and Karen Bachman, Professor in Jewelry Design at Fashion Institute, exhibited and spoke on the peculiar practice of weaving commemorative jewelry from samples of hair of the deceased.

Jessica Glassock of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented the historic and highly specific attire worn during a widow’s period of mourning in the era from 1815-1915 in a slide show.

There was a casual interview with author and archivist Stanley Burns M.D., who talked about his lifetime of collecting historic photographs, including post-mortem photos and other topics from his 46 books and 1,100 articles written on related medical, military and cultural topics.

The most moving part was the aloud reading of letters of condolence from the Victorian era, and included poignant and eloquent examples from Abe Lincoln, Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens and others.

Readers with interests in gothic and morbid preoccupations are advised to visit Green-Wood Cemetery and to follow the Morbid Anatomy blogspot for future events.