Sunday, August 1, 2004

It's all goth

This week, Riverbend stages music from the genre's old and new incarnations, but the differences are shadowy

By C.E. Hanifin / Enquirer staff writer

In the beginning of goth, there was the Cure.

Christoph Koon of Price Hill poses in a downtown alley in his goth outfit.
(Brandi Stafford/The Enquirer)
Bandleader Robert Smith has always eschewed the term. But, for more than 20 years, fans of the British group's brooding, guitar-driven rock, many of whom adopted Smith's signature vermilion lipstick and crow's-nest hairstyle, have been labeled goths (often by those outside the scene).

Since goth emerged as an offshoot of punk in the '70s, the dark music and its accompanying nonconformist lifestyle has teetered between existence as an underground and an aboveground phenomenon.

Two shows, two schools of goth Evanescence and supporting acts Seether, Breaking Benjamin and Three Days Grace will perform at 7 p.m. Monday. Lawn seats are $26.50; pavilion seats are $36.50.

The Curiosa Festival, featuring the Cure, Interpol, the Rapture, Mogwai, Muse, the Cooper Temple Clause, Auf Der Maur, Cursive, Head Automatica and Thursday playing on two stages, begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Lawn seats are $29.50; pavilion seats are $42.50 and $52.50.

Both shows will be held at Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Ave., Anderson Township(232-6220; For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 562-4949 or go to

In the past few years, a new crop of bands has revivified the melancholy sound, foremost among them Evanescence, an Arkansas group that layers ethereal vocals over metal-derived rock. These contemporary goth heroes have pushed the culture back onto magazine covers and galvanized those for whom black will always be the new black.

Old-school and new-school goth culture collides in Cincinnati this week. Evanescence plays Riverbend Music Center on Monday and the Cure headlines the Curiosa Festival at the same venue on Tuesday.

Christoph Koon, who first delved deep into the local goth scene six years ago, says the local community will be out in full force for the performances by two of its icons. (For the record, Amy Lee of Evanescence sides with Smith in declining to acknowledge the term "goth" as a legitimate description of her band's music).

Although mainstream interest in goth culture has waxed and waned in the last couple of decades, it's long been a part of Cincinnati nightlife, says Koon, 40, who lives in West Price Hill.

Thursday night Darkotica

Until a few months ago, three local clubs each turned over their dance floors to goths one night a week. Now that the Warehouse and Vertigo have closed, the candles are kept aflame each Thursday by the Darkotica night held at the Dock.

Many scenesters in the Cincinnati area travel to Dayton each weekend for the three goth nights held by clubs there. (The Dayton area also lost a goth-friendly venue this spring, the much-mourned 1470 West nightclub).

The goth nights attract a crowd that ranges from high school kids to single twentysomethings to middle-aged married couples. By day, most of these clubgoers wear suits and pumps and uniforms and work in offices, factories and schools. By night, they don capes and fishnets and patent leather vests to dance and hang out.

The DJs at Darkotica and the Freiheit night on Saturdays at Dayton's DNA club spin a mix of goth classics by groups such as Bauhaus and Siouxsie and the Banshees, and newer sounds by Switchblade Symphony, Razed in Black and other contemporary goth bands. EBM (electronic body music), industrial beats and other deeply rhythmic tracks also keep the crowd's black boot-shod feet moving.

Most people would have a tough time differentiating between the goths of the Cure's '80s heyday and the more recently minted scene-sters (some, like Koon, call themselves neo-goths). The outfits, the music and the outsider pride haven't changed a lot in the past few decades.

While attending Mariemont High School in the '80s, Abiyah (known as Angie Rawers when she was a student) wore the same type of elaborate makeup and black-widow weeds favored by many of the Darkotica patrons. She didn't call herself a goth back then - she was more attuned to the punk aesthetic.

Way to be expressive

Abiyah, a 35-year-old musician and performance artist who lives in Clifton, says she just didn't want to look like everyone else at her high school.

"I'd wear clown-like makeup and black lipstick and black eyeliner," she says. "I was happy with how I looked. It was a good way for me to be creative and expressive."

Tina Black, a regular at Darkotica, doesn't consider herself a full-fledged goth, either. When the Norwood woman puts on her ribbed corset and dramatic makeup, though, she's often mistaken for one.

"I just like costumes a lot," says Black, 33, who has been dressing up since she was in high school. "I have a lot of bizarre, different parts to my personality."

The differences between classic goths and neo-goths often are most evident in the realm of spirituality, Koon says. As other modern goths do, he has melded some elements of the culture with tenants of other alternative lifestyles to form a unique, positive approach to life.

"I'm a white-lighter," he says. "I'm a strange cross between a goth, a Christian, a Wiccan and a druid, and I'm a little bit of a hippie."

As the goth scene evolves, its image problem hangs on. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who in 1999 killed 13 people at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., were described in media reports as goths.

When the culture isn't maligned, it's lampooned, as on the Saturday Night Live skit "Goth Talk." Azreal Abyss and Circe Nightshade (played by Chris Kattan and Molly Shannon) pout about the difficulty of being a creature of the night in sunny Florida.

Abiyah says that as a teen, jocks and other mainstreamers lobbed nasty comments at her all the time. When Koon stops at a convenience store, his purple eyeshadow and mesh shirts elicit whispers and stares.

Despite the naysayers, the term "goth," and the culture and music identified with it, has proved resilient. Punching the word into any online search engine generates links to blogs, chat rooms, "Are you a goth?" quizzes and hundreds of other Web sites.

The Cure just released its 13th studio album in June, a month before launching the Curiosa Festival, an event featuring Mogwai, Interpol and other up-and-coming bands handpicked by Smith. Evanescence, which has charted several hits and won two 2003 Grammy awards, will begin work on a new album after its tour ends.

It's not all black

Locally, stores such as Scentiments Rock City in Northside and the mall chain Hot Topic keep customers supplied with lace chokers, spiked bracelets and black nail polish.

And Koon says he and his friends frequently invite new people out to club nights and after-parties. Black attire is not required, he says.

After all, even Smith says, "Seriously, it's Hawaiian shorts and shirts on stage this summer."

And Lee echoes the individualistic spirit of goths - and those who refuse to be labeled goths - when she offers this fashion advice to her fans: "Be yourself. Don't copy me or anybody, just do what feels right. If you think it looks cool, then go for it."


Here's where you can go goth each week in Cincinnati and Dayton:

• Darkotica at the Dock, 603 W. Pete Rose Way, downtown. Starts at 10 p.m. Thursdays. Cover is $3; 19 and older. 241-5623 or

• Helter Skelter at the Foundry, 26 Wyandot St., Dayton. Starts at 10 p.m. Thursdays; 18 and older. $5. (937) 222-8550 or

• Revolution at Parallax, 605 S. Patterson Blvd., Dayton. Starts at 10 p.m. Fridays; 18 and older. $4. (937) 222-8663 or

• Freiheit at DNA, 135 E. Second St., Dayton. Starts at 11 a.m. Saturdays. $3; 18 and older. (937) 331-9096 or

It's all goth
'American Idol' also-rans sing out about life
Conservative patriarch Buckley nears end

Mayer switches up his sets
CD Reviews

Phoenix on serious rise
Peter Krause relishes 'Who am I?' roles

Greater Cincinnati's benefits and bashes
Up next

'Fallen Angels' is Ovation Theatre at its very best
'Mamma Mia!' brings dancer home for a week
Uncensored trio to debut Creative Asylum Friday
St. Ursula troupe takes their 'Heart' to Scotland

Southern fried
Broil vegetables to build summer sandwich
Helpings Q&A

Get to it!