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May 9, 2013

Goths know how to have fun

By Ray Routhier
rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A friendly goth night?

Aren't goths supposed to be dour, gloomy folks who dress in black and rock out to very dour, gloomy industrial rock music?

"There are a lot of people in black, but the core of what we do is the people, and it ends up being a very friendly place," said Amy Black (yes, it's her real name), an organizer of the weekly Plague goth/industrial nights at the Asylum nightclub in Portland.

"At some goth nights, you might find people balled up together not interacting, but that's not the case here," she said.

At Plague events, the folks aren't afraid to be a little colorful and get dressed up. There are often theme nights at these DJ dance parties -- such as the "Heaven vs. Hell" night planned for Friday, where people are invited to dress as a "saint or a sinner" while dancing to alternative music from the past 30 years or so.

"It's usually 50-50, with about half the regulars dressing up in costumes," said Katie Warner, 23, of Biddeford, who has been a regular at Plague ever since she turned 21, the legal age to get in. "I'm going with the hell side; probably in a standard Halloween devil costume, red horns, red lipstick. But my roommate has some black devil horns."

Black, 36, expects to see a lot of halos and devil horns on the dance floor.

The "Heaven vs. Hell" night will feature three DJs, including one from Boston. There'll be a costume contest "of some sort" around midnight, but Black says usually the costume contests are won by the person with the most attitude, not necessarily the best garb.

Because being a goth is about attitude, isn't it?

"There is a stereotype about goths, but they're not always accurate," said Warner, who works in a bank. "For me, I started coming because I wanted (a dance night) that was a little different from most clubs, a place where I can feel comfortable. I've always been attracted to alternative scenes and alternative styles of music."

Goth comes from the term "gothic," of course, but in pop culture, it has come to mean a subculture of people who gravitate to alternative, somewhat darker music and themes.

But just because someone likes goth nights at a club doesn't necessarily make them a dark, dour person, Plague regulars say.

"Goths do tend to enjoy things of a darker nature, who are tuned into a darker aesthetic, but not necessarily the grotesque," said Wally Fenderson, 36, of Portland, who DJs at Plague under the name DJ 8-Bit. "It's people who, if they had to choose a children's book, they'd choose one by Edward Gorey (an illustrator known for dark humor)."

As for the music at a goth night, Fenderson said he and other DJs play a wide range of stuff, from "classic" alt-rock and industrial to emo and new EDM -- everything from Ministry and Nine Inch Nails to The Smiths and Skrillex.

Held in the basement of Asylum on Friday nights, Plague has been running since 2006, and is billed by organizers as "Maine's only goth/industrial" night. People who attend say they know of no other goth nights that run on a regular basis.

But Plague's roots go deep. Many of the organizers have been sharing goth nights together for 10 or 15 years, dating back to the now-closed Zootz nightclub in Portland.

Organizers take turns running Plague nights and working the door while a pool of DJs take turns spinning tunes. Out-of-town DJs are invited to participate as well.

There's no dress code for Plague, not even on theme nights. Some folks will be in all black every week; others will be in jeans and T-shirts (although, Fenderson says, most people who do dress colorfully usually chose the "darker" colors).

To run Plague, Black started a company called Gothic Maine, which also puts on other goth-themed events.

One of the biggest of those is "Goth Fly a Kite," a goth-themed outdoor festival scheduled for June 1 at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. There will be kite flying, picnicking, "gothic kickball" and other activities from noon to 7 p.m. It's a free all-ages event followed by an 18-and-older after-party later that night at the Asylum.

"There's a core group that is just tenacious about keeping these things going, keep it consistent," said Black.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

Twitter: RayRouthier





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