L.A. Goths Celebrate A Requiem Of Sound At Cloak & Dagger Goth Influenced Dance Music And Rock Culture Rises From The Bowels Of Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES, CA- There is an act in “Interview with a Vampire” where a troupe of vampires led by Antonio Banderas put on a show and devour a woman on stage. The scene is set in an elegant but gloomy gothic playhouse. The Los Angeles Theater had a similar feel, which was the perfect backdrop to the sounds on display at the Cloak & Dagger festival.
As you enter the venue, the crowds are met with chandeliers that line the high vaulted ceilings, with dim lights caressing the Victorian architecture. We are 10 days removed from the Day of the Dead, but like the stylish vampires in all our favorite horror movies, LA goths are dressed in chic black attire to celebrate this requiem of sound.
As if falling into a dark ocean, I make my way through a sea of shadows. An ethereal wave of sounds and colors guide me past the crest of the flood and into the press area of the main stage. Two apparitions dressed in leather, draped in white wigs approach their instruments and bless their surroundings by lighting sage. The smoke from the herbs and pyrotechnics float through the air as 80s synth pads and echo-drenched guitars pulse through the speakers. Drab Majesty’s set was appropriate for the setting; the moody soundscapes were like 2 specters haunting the old building with sullen lullaby’s.
The contrast in sounds between the transitioning bands could be compared by 2 types of horror movie genres: Drab Majesty’s tone was like that of an eerie ghost story, whereas the band Health could be seen as a blood-drenched slasher film. The buzzsaw synths, the heart-pounding beats and screeching distortion pierce the ears like knives through flesh. Amidst the terror of this noise rock band sits a monotone soft narrator saturated in pained reverb, who drones his stories about unrequited love and empathy drained sex from the album Death Magic.
As the next band comes on, I listen to the vocalist and imagine Vincent Price as a gay youth who sang dark pop tracks over dance music. TR/ST is the demonic love child between Robert Alfons and Maya Postepski; Alfons slithering voice layered with Postepskis electro sound makes the beasts howl and keeps the dead dancing. LA goths are known to keep their composure on the dance floor, but it was fun to see many of them lose their cool and spaz out to the raucous morose music.
Dance-punk hero’s the Faint followed shortly thereafter; every trendy art-rock kid going to Hollywood to hang at bars like Cinespace worshipped these guys, their music definitely was the soundtrack to my early 20s. This band wasn’t as doom and gloom as the rest of the acts on the bill, the crowd’s response was wild when bangers from “Wet from Birth” and “Danse Macabre” were unleashed. The Faint just released a new single called “Chameleon Nights,” the new songs that they seemed to be trying out on the crowd seemed to go back to their roots of an edgier formula versus a pop presentation, hopefully, this leads to a new album with more rowdy anthems to dance and shout to.
As midnight struck, the final band would emerge from their coffins and close the house with songs many in the crowd were familiar with. She Wants Revenge has come back with a vengeance as of recently, formed in 2004 with their latest album arriving in 2011, these LA goth rock legends returned in 2016 with a 10-year reunion of their first release. Funny thing was, I was there to cover their show the year they blew up during SXSW 2006 in Austin Texas as they played a secret stage behind a whiskey bar’s alleyway, a decade later they would play at the Fonda to a sold out house to proclaim that the group was back. The crowd seemed to be holding on to every word of Justin Warfield’s diary of depravity, She Wants Revenge self-titled debut will always be a classic as was evident by the crowd singing along to almost every song from the album.
The emergence of LA’s darkwave scene has allowed the rise from the ashes of Warfield’s and Adam Bravin’s band. She Wants Revenge was likely a band ahead of its time, but now they seem to be the spearhead leading the way for other up and coming acts.
Bravin hosts a weekly underground member’s only party in Hollywood. Cloak and Dagger’s weekly darkwave dance of depravity attracts androgynous models, tragically chic Hollywood wannabes and edgy art fucks with a darkness in demeanor and degeneracy in style. Music trends seem to influence aesthetic modes as many underground fashion parties and bondage events such as Lil Death, Sav Noir, Heav3n and Sex Cells have emerged from the dark abyss of goth influenced dance music and rock.
Four of the six main stage bands originated in So Cal (Christian Death, Drab Majesty, Health and She Wants Revenge) while several other similar sounding bands like Cold Cave, Ho99o9 and Soft Moon call Los Angeles home as well. As Seattle was the birth of Grunge and Brooklyn was the foreground for the indie hipster movement, LA has not had a solid rock and roll revolution since the Hair Rock heydays, but maybe it’s time the world starts to recognize the Dark Wave scene coming out of LA led by Adam Bravin’s Cloak and Dagger festival.