Thursday, November 02, 2006

Varieties of the Gothic Experience

Pastor Gavin has brought up some interesting observations and questions concering Goth and urban vs. rural experience of this as well the role of Goth identity in jr. high and high school.
I find this interesting because I did not identify with any "sub-culture" in jr. high and high school. Also, while I know Goths who first identified as Goth in their early teens and continute to do so now in their 20's and 30's and who did so in rural areas a part from a club scene, my own experience of Goth is both urban and cosmopolitan.
Pastor Gavin's remarks have lead me to reflect more deeply upon my encounter and engagement with Gothic sub-culture. It in fact did begin in high school for me, but in a limited fashion, and centered on that I gravitated to such bands as the Cure, Depeche Mode, Social Distortion (not necesarily a goth band, but a band many goths like), the Clash (Dito), Suicidal Tendencies, Soft Cell, and the Smiths. But my parents were fairly influenced by a certain type of evenagelicalism that was anti rock-n-roll and my father wanted his kids to listen to clasical music (sorry Dad, I still don't listen to Clasical music). So the compromise was that we could listen to Christian Rock. [Warning: you are about to enter that rarified enviroment of Christian Contemporary Music (CCM)]. In high school while I would listen the KROQ in LA on the Radio I did not own any "secular" music, but I gravitated to such CCM bands as the Seventy Sevens, Undercover (punk rock), the Rez Band (Heavy Metal of sorts) Striper (also Heavy metal), and the Band Mad at the World (which for a time was a Gothic like band somewhere between the Cure and Depech Mode, but proved to be possers and turned to sounding like Guns and Roses to reach the youth), and Life Savers Underground (LSU) the Goth band of Mike Knott.
It was once I entered Colege and became friends with a Roman Catholic Goth, Alex, that I began to leave behind the CCM scene and listen to and buy music that would certain begin to identify me as a Goth. An intersting aside Alex had also been in the CCM scene in LA but in the harder and more ambiguous edge of the scene, his brother Jamie was bassist for the Christian Punk band Association of the Cross (AOTC) whose only performance at Calveray Chapel essentially ended Calvery Chapels holding concerts of the punk and goth edge of the CCM scene.
In college I began listening to Nine Inch Nails, Echo and the Bunny Men, David Bowie and Alex introduced me to Christian Death, Sisters of Mercy, Lords of Acid. I purchased my first Cure and Depeche Mode albums. Slowly I was introduced into the LA Goth club scene, mainly attending concerts, both Alex and Jamie were in bands that are no long defunct, Delerium Blue and Bombay Babies. However, it was only once in a blue moon that I went to a club during colege. It wasn't until I was finishing up colege that I started going to clubs on a regular basis and that my style could begin to be identified as Goth.
So, for me Goth was something more than musical taste, though musical taste always had something to do with it. And it was more than just hanging with Goths, I did alot of that with Alex and his Goth friends. It was the experience of the Goth Club Helter Skelter and Elctronic Factory that I began to frequent with Alex after Colege that it dawned on me that I was a Goth. Of course by this time I had had extensive education on Goth and its origins in Punk (Alex had been a punk immediately after high school as Goth was emerging as its own thing, due to Alex I continue to see Goth as very Punk, but with a bit of elegance and eclecticism thrown in for good measure).
Given my experience I can't imagine that I would have ever identified as Goth had I remained in rural California. Hard to know, certainly I wouldn't have thought to identify as Goth had I never been to a Goth club and seen the way the escthetic was expressed in style and and movement in the club. the eclectic aspect of the LA Goth scene is one of the things I stil retain, and at times find frustrating about the Chicago Goth scene- which at times is less true to its Punk roots and more electro than is my own taste in music.
A puzzel for me is how someone who encounters goth outside of the Club scene is how they get any sense of what Goth is or can be for them. Howeve, obviously Goth is more than a club and urban phenomenon even though that is how I engage it.

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