Sunday, September 28, 2008

Growing Up "Goth"

And I dress this way just to keep them at bay
'Cause Halloween is Everyday.

- Ministry

Alicia and The City Paper, April 1987

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as "goth." It just was and nothing more. The late 1970s and early 1980s brought The New Romatic and New Wave periods where people like Steven Strange and David Sylvian made their marks. It was a time of glam and makeup - and we missed it. Completely.

Kirk's photo for the Bored In The Suburbs From Hell Event poster. He's a nurse now.

What may be known today as the definition of goth was then just part of the scene. Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, The Cure, Joy Division, New Order, Dead Can Dance, The Sisters of Mercy and others were just "alternative" - back when "alternative" really meant alternative. Today, Gwen Stefani's poseur-Japanese pop can be categorized "alternative." Hell, back then, even U2 was considered alternative.

Lis is a high-powered D.C. attorney. Mike is a chef.

Truth be told, I'll let stalwarts and Wikipedia argue and debate just what is and is not "goth." All I know is that our crowd lived it. And we didn't have places like Hot Topix to buy clothes or Nordstrom to by Docs. Back then, you had to make your own clothes and travel to 99X in New York City to buy Doc Martens from the English lady who flew to London twice a year to stock up on the latest footwear trends.

And once you had your Docs, you'd better be prepared to fight for them because, somehow, the skinheads formed the idea that only they should have the God-given right to wear Docs. They wanted to beat you up and take them from you.

Jo is now an artist in Los Angeles.

But those were good times. Simple times. No cell phones. No ATM cards. No credit cards. Just your friends and Friday's at Cignel, the Baltimore club that on Friday night would host the avant-garde scene and its' requisite music. From 11pm to 4am, you could dance your heart out, make out on the risers, drink spiked punch, or find someone to get high with or take home in the morning before the sun rose. It was the best of times.

Dina, David and Jenny

Typically, we'd plan on meeting around 9pm at Louie's The Bookstore Cafe on Charles Street. Louie's was ground zero for all the happened in those days. It was the logical and easiest place to meet while eating light fare, drinking hot tea, reading arts magazines and looking cool. The then Annapolis-based WHFS 99.1FM was in its' heyday, Ronald Reagan was president, the Cold War was still threatening Nuclear Winter and no one knew if we would make it through another year without getting annihilated by the Soviets. It couldn't have been a better time for the death, doom, damnation and angst of youth.

Two French Girls - Chad and I were so in love with them.

Today, all that has changed. They've finally given our thing a name: goth - and found a way to market it. You can go to your local suburban mall and outfit yourself as a "goth." Quaint. I'm no longer in touch with "the scene" and I wonder if it still exists, and if so, in what form? Do they still have a club to go to on weekends? Is there a "scene" like Mount Vernon for them to hang out? Is today's "goth" a vibrant, evolving thing? Or has it been reduced to a level of uniform that doesn't allow it to evolve naturally?

The "goth" scene of our day morphed from the Punk, New Wave and New Romantic scenes before us. I wonder if the morphing continues. Whatever the case may be, those were the formative years of life and we learned more than most of our peers how to get along with people of different strata and styles. It helped us to develop into (what I hope are) rounded and open-minded individuals.

Meanwhile, I'll always harbor a quiet penchant for those stylish goth girls of yesterday and today. So please, keep the great hair and great style coming, because even though I don't look like I would ever fit in with today's scene, I still appreciate the lifestyle.

Yes, I went to Senior Prom - with Alicia.


true said...

That song could be my life.

While you were clubbing it on the east coast, I was deep in the art-punk scene that was split between the midwest and NYC. It was all about the live music for me-- being blown away by James Chance or Defunkt, late nights watching DNA or Lydia Lunch terrorize the "new wave" crowd. A few memorable shows stand out: the first tour by PiL, with wobble on drums and keith levine on guitar. Einsturzende Neubauten at the Metro in Chicago in 84. All of the shows I saw at 688 and the metroplex in Atlanta. An odd rooftop show by Gary Clail and Dub Syndicate. Eugene Chadbourne and Fred Frith warehouse shows.

I have to admit that I'm having a blast programming music at the shop now. My baristas have wide and deep tastes, and I'm going back and creating "secret history" mixes from the 80s to try to show them the amazing influences that came out of the different regional scenes-- and to push back against the revisionist pop cultural memes that all 80s music sucked. One of my new staff is deeply into the goth scene and helps to organize concerts and dances at various clubs around town. We see promoters and bands from the bars around us pretty much every day. Last month we had an art opening with an ambient electronic composer and a 12-piece klezmer band-- on the same night. I'm having too much fun...

onocoffee said...

I think anyone who came through that scene during the 80s can champion Everyday Is Halloween as our de-facto anthem.

Neubauten in Chicago? Hot. Perhaps I'm a bit more pop-y but some of my most memorable shows were backstage during the Depeche Mode Music For The Masses tour and Swans at the 9:30 Club in DC.

true said...

I should add that it is amusing to see how things go full circle. In college, I spent way too much time and money at the original Chicago WaxTrax store. Enough time that I remember when they kick-started the label. I saw Ministry evolve from synth-pop to rape and honey (and I probably still have hearing problems from the 1989 waxtrax new years eve showcase). By 1998 I hadn't been back to chicago in 9 years. I ended up at Reckless Records, on Broadway while killing time before I had to present at an academic conference. Trying to duck out of a spring rain storm, I ended up spending an hour at a new coffee shop called Intelligentsia a few doors north on Broadway... Little did I know how much those CDs from Reckless would eventually cost me.

Chief Sherpa said...

you just brought back so many amazing memories of being called a freak back in the day, and I love it!!! Although I consider us great friends now, I wonder how much trouble we could have gotten into back in the day, had we known each other. Love this post, especially the title! Loves me some ministry!!!!! I just had to bust out my cassette tape cause of this blog. Yeah, we're THAT old.

onocoffee said...

Wax Trax, Ministry, House music and Ferris Bueller - back when Chicago was cool.

Give me more Revolting Cocks any day.

Ate Marie said...

Hey--I recognized Dina Chau in one of your pictures. Smalltimore--my husband Stevie hung out with her and Joe, one of the bartenders at Club Charles back in the day (who ended up marrying Joe later), and Rose deJesus. Was the picture taken at the Club Charles?

Could it be possible my hubby and you hung out in the same places? He still loves Ministry and Front 242.

onocoffee said...

It's always possible we could have all hung out together. Though I did move away in Aug. '88. The picture was actually taken at a party at my old house in the winter of 1988.

jackie said...

Jay, that's me (in the white) with Dina, David and Jenny!
Wow, you must post these pics on our facebook group, Cignel.