It’s that time of year again – my favourite festival of the year, Wave-Gotik-Treffen, is upon us. Every year, on Whitsun weekend, Leipzig is invaded by some 20,000 black-clad fans of dark music, from gothic rock to synthpop, from cold wave to post punk, from industrial to neofolk. What started as a small gathering of like-minded individuals is now the largest festival of its kind.
Whatever you’re into, you’ll find something for you – with almost 200 bands on the lineup, you’ll be hard pressed not to. Here are my personal favourites on this year’s lineup.
This Icelandic trio was formed in 2013, and their music reminds me of the landscape of their country of origin: cold, desolate and heartbreakingly beautiful. Lead singer Sólveig Matthildur’s voice goes from screaming to whispering in the span of seconds. Their music could be described as synth-punk, their latest album, ‘Nótt eftir nótt’, is an absolute masterpiece, and their performances are consistently brilliant.
Someone described this Greek duo as “Lebanon Hanover on steroids”, and I totally agree. Their mix of darkwave, post punk and minimal synth is gloomy yet full of emotions, and their live performances have all the dramatic flair a goth could want. Think theatrical gestures, red roses thrown into the crowd and all that jazz.
If you’re a fan of industrial, you’ve probably heard of these guys. The London-born powerhouse became known for mixing distorted guitars and aggressive techno percussion. After splitting in 2001, they came back with a vengeance in 2016, and have been going from strength to strength, delivering energetic performances full of raw, brutal power.
One of my biggest musical discoveries in the past couple of years, The Soft Moon is a brainchild of producer, singer and songwriter Luis Vasquez. Verging on post-punk, darkwave and minimal wave, his music is something unique, and his voice range is out of this world. There’s something in his performances and his stage presence that touches my soul – and it might touch yours, too.
Listen to ‘Dark Allies’ closely and you probably still won’t guess that this deep, strong voice belongs to a woman. Shannon Funchess is one half of this Brooklyn-based electronic duo, along with Bruno Coviello. They may have just one full album under their belt, but boy, what an album that is! I’ve never seen them live, but somehow I feel it’ll be an experience to remember.
Who is on your must-see list? Do you have one, or do you go with the flow? Regardless of that, I hope to see you in Leipzig!
Some of you may know that I’ve been going through a rough patch lately. I lost my job in January, a job that I really enjoyed and that gave me a huge sense of satisfaction. My confidence took a massive hit, and I started feeling useless and worthless. To top that off, I felt like I was stuck in a creative rut; I couldn’t even focus on reading, let alone writing or singing or making stuff. For a while, it seemed like my life had no purpose. Things were looking bleak.
And I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to.
See, at first glance, my life looks perfect: I have a new and exciting job, I have someone at my side I get along with, I have a place to call home. Who wouldn’t dream of this?
Thing is, I feel like something is missing. And when I was in that dark place, I realised what it was.
It’s the sense of community.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my city, but it’s a pretty lonely place. Even if you have friends, chances are you don’t see them enough due to work commitments, different schedules or just something as simple as living on the opposite sides of London. And being in a relationship, as good as it may be, will never be a substitute for friendship. Enjoying the privacy of having your own place is all well and good, but sometimes even an introvert needs to talk to someone.
An idea sprang to my mind: what if I was to start my own community of like-minded people? A safe haven, if you will, for those who need someone to rely on, but without the burdens of relationship. Imagine: a big house with plenty of shared space for cooking, chilling and letting your imagination spring to life, but with enough room for everyone to have their own private space if they need it. Imagine being surrounded by people who bring out the best in you, who inspire you and who you can feel comfortable around. Imagine always having someone around you to lend an ear when you feel down. Someone to rant to when you’re angry. Or just someone to have a glass of wine with when you’re lonely and in need of company.
Some people would say that living in a shared house is a step back for someone who had their own place. But I don’t see it that way. It’s just a step in a different direction. Who said we’re all meant to find joy and fulfillment in the same things? Who said we all need to aspire to the same kind of life?
So, the idea is there. It’s still just that – an idea – but I hope I can make it real one day.
Yes, it’s still cold here in the UK, but it’s May, and this means my annual trip to Wave-Gotik-Treffen is getting closer. Every year around Whitsuntide, Leipzig, a pretty and picturesque city in Saxony, Germany, turns black for a few days. Approximately 20,000 visitors from all around the world come together to dance, drink and meet like-minded individuals. WGT is more than just a music festival, and it’s undoubtedly my favourite event of the festival year.
Last year, these were my must-see bands. I managed to see all of them, and they were all excellent, each in a different way. So I decided to make a list for this year, too. I skipped the really big names on purpose, focusing instead on the less-known acts that you might not get to see anywhere else. So, here’s my 5 acts worth checking out at WGT 2018.
I first saw this Italian band in September last year and was instantly hooked. Even though they’re a fairly young band (they were formed in 2014), their energetic mix of dark wave, synthpop and post punk has a distinctly 80s feel. The catchy tunes make you want to sing along and dance to the beat.
OK, they’re not really that obscure – after all they’ve toured with Rammstein and Tool – but they’re not a household name, either. And I totally believe they should be. Their eponymous debut album was the best thing that happened in industrial in years, and their gritty, mechanical sound has become something of a trademark. They’re also incredibly engaging on stage, and the lead singer, Alexis Mincolla, is a force to be reckoned with.
I discovered them by accident, when one of the DJs at Slimelight played “Pain” and I couldn’t get it out of my head. This dark electronic duo consists of Augustus Muller, who is responsible for the beats and synths, and Jae Matthews, whose voice is capable of screaming, whispering and anything in between. There’s something intensely sensual about their music, and I really can’t wait to see them again.
One of my recent discoveries, this experimental collaborative project’s driving force is evolution. Perhaps that’s why it’s so interesting. The musicians mix high tech equipment and low tech instruments to create a unique sound. Definitely worth checking out!
Many of my friends said these guys’ performance was the best thing they’ve seen at this year’s E-tropolis Festival, so I thought I’d look them up. Instead of following the scene’s standard, Spark! mixes catchy pop tunes into the tried and tested EBM formula. I’m not sure what to expect, but I know that this might be the most entertaining show of this year’s WGT.
Who are you planning to see at this year’s Wave-Gotik-Treffen? Any clashes you’re really worried about?
Warning: this is a makeup post. So if you’re one of those people who think wearing and loving makeup is shallow and superficial, please feel free to navigate away from here.
It’s no secret that I love makeup. I probably have more products that I need, yet I can’t resist a new lipstick or a palette of beautiful eye shadows. But recently, I started to wonder what I’d do if all of this was stolen, lost or damaged beyond repair, other than cry crocodile tears, of course.
This is what got me thinking about the top five products I’d replace straight away, no matter the cost. I could live without most of the stuff I own and use, but some of them are just too good not to buy again, and again, and again.
So, here’s my 5 Holy Grail makeup products – and 2 tools I can’t live without.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow brow pomade
Bold brows have been a trend for quite a while now. It seems like every makeup artist and enthusiast has their own way to create Insta-worthy arches, and, of course, so do I. It took me a while to get there and I’ve tried more products than I can count, some better than others, some a complete fail. So far, Dipbrow has been my absolute favourite. I was worried it’ll take me forever to figure out how to apply it, but it’s actually pretty easy to use – all you need is a good slanted brush and a steady(ish) hand. You can go as heavy or as light as you please, which makes Dipbrow extremely versatile and suitable for all sorts of looks, from subtle and understated to ultra dramatic.
Jeffree Star liquid lipsticks
Jeffree Star has a bit of a reputation and I can’t say I love him as a person. But I really can’t help but adore his matte liquid lipsticks. Some colours seem to have a different formula and are not that great (I’m looking at you, Dominatrix), but most are fantastic: long-lasting, lightweight and with hardly any bleed, they slide on effortlessly and stay on all night. The range of shades is fantastic, too: from the tame and work-appropriate (Androgyny, Celebrity Skin) through the dark and decadent (my absolute favourites, Unicorn Blood and Weirdo) to the totally wacky and otherworldly (Drug Lord, Jawbreaker). Also, if you’re looking for a classic red, you can’t go wrong with Redrum.
Kat Von D Tattoo eyeliner
Kat Von D is on the opposite spectrum from Jeffree Star: I think she’s absolutely amazing and a great artist, but sadly, most of her products don’t work for me. The Tattoo Liner is an exception, though, and I really don’t think I’ll ever move on to another eyeliner. Pitch black, long-lasting and so easy to use that I can draw wings even when I’m shaky from hangover, this is definitely my favourite eyeliner ever, and I’ve been wearing eyeliner for over 20 years. I always have a spare one in my drawer, just in case. It’s not cheap, but well worth the money!
Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance palette
I love experimenting with colours on my eyelids, but I also know what shades make my eyes pop. I have blue-green-grey eyes, so my go-to colours are oranges, reds, pinks and peaches. When ABH Modern Renaissance first came out, I just knew it’s right for me, and I’ve been using it 3-4 times a week since. I’m really glad it’s been made part of the permanent collection, because I know for a fact that I will repurchase it when the time comes (and it will come soon, because I’ve already hit pan for some shades, which only goes to show how much I love it.)
Dermacol Make-Up Cover foundation
If you haven’t heard of Dermacol, you’re not alone. This Czech beauty brand is not a household name, but their foundation has made waves in the world of makeup, and after having tried it, I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s very thick, so takes some skill to apply, but it covers every imperfection and gives my skin a flawless, airbrushed finish. I find it too heavy for day wear, but it’s absolutely perfect for a night out and even without setting powder and spray, it doesn’t budge. And it’s dirt cheap – around £9. You can’t go wrong with that.
…and my two favourite beauty tools:
Tangle Teezer brush
My hair is officially a mess. Damaged by countless layers of hair dye, heat damage from drying, and the ultimate hair crime, teasing. I’m trying to grow it now and brushing it has become a bit of an issue, so I decided to invest in a Tangle Teezer brush, but not really hoping for much. Surprisingly, it lives up to the hype! No other brush can handle tangled hair with such gentleness, without ripping it all out at the root. Bonus points for lovely designs and colours. I have the mini one in metallic purple and it’s the perfect size for my handbag.
Real Techniques Miracle Blender
Cheaper than the original Beauty Blender, yet just as good (or, dare I say, better), this little orange blending sponge does wonders when it comes to smooth and flawless application. Just like any other, it should be used slightly moist so it doesn’t absorb the product. I’m on my fourth one – they usually last me 6 months or so – and I know I’ll definitely buy another one when this one dies.
Do you have any Holy Grail products? What would you replace first if you lost all your makeup?
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads: Opens at Nightfall Closes at Dawn
As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears. Le Cirque des Rêves
The Circus of Dreams.
Now the circus is open.
Now you may enter.”
Sometimes, you stumble upon a book that is truly magical. It draws you in from the very first page and you find it nigh on impossible to put it down, as if there was some special power to it. You are torn between devouring the book in one sitting and savouring each and every word. You try to pace yourself, but you’re so immersed in the story that you can barely think of anything else.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of those books.
The circus is a magical place, a place that leaves visitors awestruck and wide-eyed. But the magic goes far beyond the contortionists, the acrobats, the carousels and the candied apples. Because the circus is a venue for a duel between two young, talented magicians, a duel that only one of them will survive.
Long before the circus was born, Celia and Marco were bound to this battle of imagination and will by their mentors. They were meant to be rivals, but, against all odds, they fall in love with each other. Will true love be enough to end the game, or will sacrifices need to be made? The fates of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hang in balance until the duel plays out.
The Night Circus is like an exquisite meal for the reader’s imagination: beautifully written, inventive, witty and heartbreaking at the same time, its layers reveal themselves as you go deeper and deeper into the story. Pay close attention to the timeline, dear reader, because not everything is as obvious and linear as it may seem. As the story unveils and the characters develop, you will be drawn into a truly marvelous world. And, just like me, you might end up wishing Le Cirque des Rêves was real, and would come to your town, unexpectedly and without warning, at some point in the future.
The Night Circus was published in the UK by Vintage Books. It’s Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel and I really look forward to reading more of her work.
When a club turns 30, you know they’re doing something right.
Slimelight, the longest running alternative club in the world and London’s goth mecca, has been operating in its current home in Electrowerkz for 30 years, but its roots go a bit further back in time, to the mid-80s, when it used to be called The Kit Kat Club. The name Slimelight first appeared in 1987 and is a nod to another club, The Limelight, as both were held in disused churches for a period of time.
Slimelight, or Slimes, as regulars affectionately call it, is open every Saturday (the only exception is the Christmas period if it falls on a Saturday) and on New Year’s Eve, from 11 pm until 7:30 am, so if you’re a nocturnal animal, this is the place to go. As London clubs go, it’s ridiculously cheap: entry is £5 for members, £8 for non-members. Initially, it was members-only and to become a member, you had to be nominated by a minimum of two current members. It also had a BYOB policy. This has changed in the 90s, when Electrowerkz became a licensed premises. But drinks are still a bargain when compared to other clubs and live music venues, so unless you drink like a fish, a night at Slimes won’t break the bank.
Pre-Slimelight gigs, as well as club shows during regular opening hours, take place every now and again, and artists who have performed there over the years include VNV Nation, Rotersand, 3 Teeth, Combichrist and Suicide Commando.
Usually consisting of two dance floors (a trad goth/darkwave one and an industrial/EBM/aggrotech/futurepop one), with an extra one or two opening for special occasions (industek/noise/Wax Trax and cheesy 80s), it’s a firm fixture on the London nightlife map. If you’re a goth/alternative person visiting London, you should definitely come and spend the night dancing, chatting to like-minded people, and having the time of your life.
Some say the venue is shabby (spoilers: yes, it is, but it only adds to the flavour), the music never changes (another spoiler: it does – there’s plenty of new stuff being played) and there’s not as many people coming to Slimes as in the past (that’s also true, but I suspect it’s because the scene is ageing and people who used to go out every weekend now only do it every now and then). But the fact is, there’s no place like Slimelight.
I still remember my first time, back in 2005, when I moved to London. I didn’t know anyone, so I went on my own, avoided talking to people, danced the night away and had a blast. Over time, Slimes became my second home, and I’ve met a bunch of wonderful people there, some of whom are now my good friends. The best thing about it is that it’s always there, so when I’m feeling down, I know I can rely on it to lift my mood and make me better again. Whether I feel like dancing, socialising, or just hanging about and people-watching, a night at Slimelight is never a bad idea.
Now, I know a lot of alternative people out there suffer from social anxiety and avoid clubs like the plague. But places like Slimes are usually full of friendly, open-minded people who won’t judge you. So my advice is: bite the bullet, come out. Even if you’re really shy and don’t want to talk to anyone, you might find yourself having more fun than you thought was possible.
And who knows, maybe you’ll find your second home, just like I did.
To get updates on upcoming events, check out the club’s official Facebook page:
Not long to go now – I’m off to my favourite festival, Wave-Gotik-Treffen, on Wednesday. I usually leave packing until the very last minute, which results in frantically searching for that particular black dress in my all-black wardrobe, chucking in all my makeup in a plastic bag, and forgetting to pack something absolutely essential, like my toothbrush or passport. Well, OK, the latter has never happened before, but it wouldn’t be too surprising.
This year, I have a few days off just before the festival, so I thought I’d use this time wisely and get stuff done early. Which is why my suitcase is pretty much packed now. Now, that’s what I call a win.
Apart from stuff like clothes and boots and makeup, there’s a few things I make sure I always pack. This includes, but is not limited to:
Blister plasters. I usually stick these little soothing patches of loveliness on problem areas on my feet just before heading out. Strutting about in New Rocks and Demonias can result in an awful condition called Treffen Foot, and I do everything I can to make sure I don’t miss anything because I’ve lost the ability to walk. On that note, a spare pair of comfy shoes is a must. It is not uncommon to see goths in trainers and sandals on the final day of the festival. Nothing wrong with that; putting yourself through unnecessary suffering just to look fab is just not worth it.
Plug converter. If you live in continental Europe, you’re fine, but if you’re coming from anywhere else, make sure you pack one or two of those. It’s no fun to realise you can’t charge your phone because your plug doesn’t fit the socket.
Painkillers. Because waking up with a headache from too much partying and not enough sleep is inevitable, and looking for a pharmacy when you do is not something you’d want to do.
Hand sanitiser. You’ll be out and about a lot, you’re likely to eat street food without having the opportunity to wash your hands first. I put mine in a cute bat-shaped sanitiser dispenser, which gets me extra goth points.
Power bank. Even if you don’t use your phone abroad as much as you do at home, it’s not great to run out of juice in the middle of the night, just as you were about to call your friends and check where they were.
Earplugs and an eye mask. You won’t get much sleep, and if you’re anything like me, you’re very unlikely to go to bed when it’s dark, so try to make your sleep as good as you can. I’m finding it hard to sleep when it’s light out, and, being a light sleeper, I wake at the slightest sound, so these items are absolutely essential.
And what’s on your list of stuff you always bring with you?