The black scene is ever-present. With all its different subcultures and interferences it has become an overlapping genre occurrence, which sometimes still has to tout for sympathy, but not anymore for members. Consisting of all sorts of styles, primarily Gothic, Electro, Medieval and Metal, it is more than just a misfit movement that unites freaky old and young, instead the scene is part of our daily routine, a precious feeling and way of alternative lifestyle between self-expression, attainment, shocking and natural differentiation. In the end – it’s all about individual orientation towards musical taste. That the music is still the centerpiece of all is granted by the variety of bands, concerts and festivals giving us a platform to act, outlive, enjoy… be. One of the biggest and most popular festivals in black matters is the Wave-Gotik-Treffen (Wave-Gothic-Meeting, shortly WGT) which takes place every year at whit weekend in Leipzig, Germany.
In those four days you get the full scale of concerts, ranging from Gothic Rock, Folk, Industrial, Symphonic Metal, Electro and Classic to New Wave, Avantgarde, Rock and Pop. But that’s just a small part compared to the framework the WGT offers. Readings, exhibitions, medieval markets, special church services, movies, opera, orchestra performances, workshops, picnics and clubs nights (with dress code of course) till the dawn’s wasted. Everything wrapped in a black spirit, which infuses the whole city, always visible and sensible – the scent of “dark” (not only patchouli and opium) stuck like the feeling of timelessness. While the crowds are passing by, rushing from one gig to the next, or just lying in the grass with a bottle of honey wine, dancing to the stompy beats of famous DJs or revently sitting in antique saloons while hearkening to the sounds of gracious violines and contrabasses, shopping for extravagant dresses in lacquer, leather and rubber and the fitting whip at the markets or just getting tattooed in the one too many absinth haze.
Of course the WGT is organized perfectly. As a visitor you can either sleep in one of the several hotels in the city or the huge camping area on the AGRA terrain, the same terrain where also the AGRA hall is located. Plenty of honey buckets are to be found everywhere, for showering you only pay 1,50€ or you perform your morning hygiene at one of the several water ditches. Security is also all around and friendly helps when you’re lost or drunk. The whole WGT package is available for 58€, the so-called Obsorgekarte you need to enter and stay at the camping area costs 21€. It includes the official program book, which is nobly printed and does not only give an overview on the festival with all its dates and venues, but also comes with a CD of selected artists. A perfect memory, so to say. The venues, clubs, bars, readings etc. are spread over the whole city. Your ticket assures you free usage of public transportation and makes sure you arrive at your favourite show in time. Common and popular places are the AGRA area with its AGRA halls, where you can find the headliner shows, known DJs and the Gothic sales fair; the Parkbühne (park stage), Moritzbastei (an old fortification), Kohlrabizirkus and Werk II (concert halls), the pagan village and in-clubs like Darkflower or Sixtina (famous absinth breakfast, fetish parties).
Me and my companions already arrived Thursday night to secure us a nice place on the camping area and to check out the environment. I remember being some kind of amazed by the crowds passing us by, all dressed in black, everyone trying to be a bit more dark, sexy and provocating as their neighbour. While the day was already extremely hot, the night introduced itself by rough coldness, so the nicely temperatured AGRA hall was a must-do while others joined the official WGT opening party at Darkflower, where you could dance from dusk till dawn.
The first festival day began when the sun was shining its ass off already at eight in the morning. Accompanied by the sounds coming of the pagan village, which was placed near the camping ground, everyone made their way to the water channels. Some spruce themselves up, some string their corsets, others paint their already heavily made-up eyes a spark darker, while another one is lying in the bulging midday sun enjoying the compulsive honey wine. The Dutch next to us chatter steadily and in general a busy, active and not-so-colorful moving dominates the day. The tram takes me to the Kohlrabizirkus, an old hall with two ball-shaped figures on the roof, named “20 meters sagging boobs” or “Wonderbra” by true whizkids.
The first two bands had already played, so Kivimetsän Druidi from Finland set things off. Their Symphonic Folk Metal reminds of collueges Battlelore meets Nightwish and Finntroll. Female vocalist Leena-Maria Hovila’s arias are supported by growls from guitarist Joni Koskinen, but unfortunately the common sound situation in Kohlrabizirkus made it difficult to clearly hear the vocals. They simply didn’t come through. The young band, which just had to face the departure from their former vocalist already toured across Europe with Korpiklaani and just signed a deal with Century Media for the release of their first album, which is due around October.
Diablo Swing Orchestra embodied the first positive surprise. As a mixture of Progressiv and Symphonic Metal, Opera, Western Rock, Jazz, Russian booze hymns and chamber music the ensemble carried musical styles to their extremes. According to the Swedish band they’re just following the roots of an orchestra, which delighted its listeners and had to fear the allmighty corridors of power of the church back in the days in 1501. Annlouice Loegdlund successfully led their minstrels, who presented themselves as a funny, charming and skillfull combo. The animated audience snapped fingers and moved arses to the “Balrog Boogie” of “The Butchers Ballroom”.
The motto was obvious – women had took the reins that night! Trail of Tears from Norway came along rather inactive and German Black Metal act Secrets of the Moon (without a female singer for a change) also dampened the mood. Thanks to Gothic Metal band Elis and the really communicative vocalist Sandra Schleret, who reanimated the lame mood with her vital and zappy aura. The music was heavy, danceable and rocked the house, even though the band was stuck in traffic jam for nine hours. This didn’t harm the show at any point, instead Sandra Schleret moves were a sight for sore eyes. Elis former singer Sabine Düner tragically died shortly after finishing the album “Griefshire”, but the band didn’t miss to preserve her memory, which somehow was still present during the entire show.
The Kohlrabizirkus got filled when Tristania from Norway entered the stage. They also had to show off a new member after Vibeke Stene left the mic last year. At the end of 2007 Mariangela “Mary” Demurtas from Sardinia made the band complete again and turned things from Scandinavian subcoolness to oriental and hot mysteriousness. Male singer Østen Bergøy came on stage at last and visibly enjoyed being in the center of attention, before he enchanted the audience alongside with the slighty cocky-acting Mary Demurtas to songs like “World Of Glass” or “Tender Trip On Earth” from the 2001 release “World Of Glass” and other classics. Unfortunately a Vibeke Stene is more than hard to replace.
The most awaited woman of the night was undoubtly Tarja Turunen. The former Nightwish star recently released her first full-lenght album “My Winter Storm” as a solo artist to interface old success. The hall was filled to its corners, but if the people just had come to stop and star or really were fanatic about Tarja’s Symphonic Rock is out of my judgemental scope. Of course the classically trained Finn is one of the best female vocalists of our time, but the media-efficient disput with Nightwish has left its traces on the image of this all so perfect smug superwoman. After a far too long sound and lightcheck the starlet entered the stage with “Lost Northern Star”, accompanied by a female keyboard player, drummer, bassist, guitarist and cellist. Dressed in black leather skirt, black corset, black heels and of course -how could it be any different- black leather gloves. After sound problems at the beginning the show was dominated by songs from the debut “My Winter Storm”, but she also performed the Nightwish classics “Passion and the Opera” and “The Phantom of the Opera”. Mightily friendly and overwhelmed Tarja waved her hand like a true Highness and didn’t act less lofty and reserved. The crowd hailed frenetically and waited for the hitsingle “I Walk Alone” before Tarja and her band left the stage and her fans went home with happy and pleased faces. An interesting, emotionally charged performance with songs below her voice’s class and a Tarja Turunen, whose strenght I personally don’t buy anymore.
Back in the AGRA hall Paradise Lost welcomed the packed audience to their midnight special. Reportedly namegiver John Milton sold the rights of his poem for only 10 pounds, Paradise Lost are now releasing their already fourth DVD “The Anatomy Of Melancholy” after twenty years of band history. It seemed that many had just come to take a look at this famous Dark Rock band, who used to play Death Metal back in the days and had a huge impact on the scene alongside with Anathema and My Dying Bride. Paradise Lost made a tired impression though, only exception was guitarist Aaron Aedy, who really kicked the shit out of his strings. Frontman Nick Holmes hardly left the back area of the stage and his singing sounded quite strange as well. The performance was ok, but nothing spectacular for being the midnight special.