Date: 7-10 June 2019
Review by: Cathrine Wendt
Photography by: Cathrine Wendt
Every year in Leipzig Germany darkness descends upon the small eastern German city on the Whitsun/Pentecost weekend. From 7th June until the 10th the city had thousands of black-clad visitors from numerous alternative subcultures from around the world. The Wave Gotik Treffen started as a small meeting of goths but these days it attracts a variety of guests and offers entertainment from EBM to Black Metal and invites its guests to enjoy classical concerts and opera performances. This year Leipzig fell alongside the Leipzig Stadtfest (City festival) so the city was full of visitors and buzzing with entertainment, food stalls, outdoor stages, and amusement rides.
I will be writing my review mainly based on my experiences as a regular festival goer that lives right in Leipzig. This year was my 5th WGT and 3rd Gothic Pogo Festival. The Gothic Pogo Festival is a separate event that runs alongside WGT and more organized as an underground event which has the more old school goth feel to it. I usually spend a couple of nights there since the parties, music and atmosphere are amazing. For me, WGT starts on Thursday with the Sadgoth meetup. Sadgoth started as an online forum and site for UK and international travellers to discuss WGT, share information, tips and over the years became a website and a large facebook group now with over 2000 members from all around the world. Sadgoth for the past 2 years has had their pre-WGT event held at the Ratskeller restaurant in the historic Neues Rathaus in central Leipzig. It’s a great event open to all. Though the food and drink at the establishment is a bit pricy. After the pre-meet, a good friend and I headed to the Schwarzes Leipzig Tanzt (Black Leipzig dance) pre-party at the Moritzbastei. It’s a good place to meet friends, dance, drink, and chill.
Later on in the night we went to the Absintherie Sixtina and enjoyed some absinthe and chatting with friends. Absintherie Sixtina offers free entertainment and performances even without wristbands and is open 24 hours a day during WGT. One can get absinthe ice cream, slushies and in the morning breakfast is offered. For those who party all night the absinthe breakfast is a good way to start or will finish the day for some.
Friday is the first official day and this is when the Victorian Picnic is held in the Clara Zetkin Park. In the goth scene, there is a love-hate relationship with the Victorian picnic. I have attended it for the past 4 years but I am thinking this will be my last time for some time. It’s grown into something of a monstrosity and while it’s great to go see all the beautiful outfits there’s really no relaxation factor to this picnic.
It’s crowded and hectic. It’s turned into more of a carnival and because there’s no wristband needed to attend, the general public is there to witness the event and that mainly means getting stopped for photos every 5 steps especially if you are dressed up. It also is not so much Victorian anymore. You will see everything from fetish outfits, furries, cosplayers, steampunks, cybergoths, and medieval larpers. I went but spent very little time there and met a few friends. I just feel in the future I will skip this event. There are other picnics hosted in the park as well as a steampunk picnic which I have never attended.
After the picnic, I headed to the Agra Messapark to check out the black market. Sadly the black market was a little underwhelming this year. Likely due to the ever increasing costs to vend there it has over the years slowly shrunk. Though there’s still quite a great selection of gothic finery, clothing, books, music, décor and all sorts of interesting things to look at and buy. I tend to do a bit of shopping especially for accessories but this year due to a limited budget I only bought one thing from one of my favourite designers Videnor.
Once I was done there I headed to the Heidnisches Dorf pagan village to check out what was happening and meet friends, drink mead and watch bands. The pagan village is free for those with a wristband but the general public can pay for a ticket to get in. Space, however, is limited and when bigger bands play the queues get long. One bad thing about the pagan village is that if the weather is bad or rainy it gets muddy and they close it and cancel all concerts when there are storms. This actually happened Sunday night when a large thunderstorm rolled in. I watched Copelius and Argentum Ferrum a little bit but spent most time with friends. The music played at the pagan village is mainly medieval, folk and metal. After drinking much mead until close we all headed to the Sixtina again to drink and revel until sunrise.
Saturday I woke up around 2 pm with only a few hours of sleep and threw on one of my fancy outfits and headed to the Victorian Village at the beautiful Gohlischer Schloss. This event has a strict dress code and wristbands are required. Press is limited as well so it’s a lot more relaxed and one can picnic, buy delicious food and drink, and check out the handmade items for sale. There are live performances and you can expect to see some of the best period and dark romantic outfits. It has been a beautiful event for the past 5 years running except one year. It’s a place for those who do not care for the picnics and want a more relaxed atmosphere. The first years it was held at the Panometer which was a lovely location but not the easiest to find and get to with a bit of walking. Both venues were dependent on nice weather. Thankfully the weather was nice and not too hot.
After leaving the Victorian Village I headed home for an outfit change. That night I planned to party so I put on a nice 80s goth and new romantic outfit. I went to a fetish party called In Goth We Trust, The Whip. My friends would be there with Parma Ham as a guest DJ. The venue was a club tucked into an industrial warehouse area. It took a bit of a walk from public transport and once you find it the outside has some sort of beach theme with sand and beach chairs. Inside it’s quite a nice venue with 2 dance floors and bars. However, fetish party it was not. It was competing with the Obsession Bizarre fetish ball and many other parties.
Most of the crowd in attendance were more of the Gothic Pogo crowd. It was open to all with wristbands without any dress code. The Obsession Bizarre is well known for long lines and its strict fetish dress code. There was one darkroom though hardly dark and no fetish or BDSM furniture. Some people came dressed for it but really it was more like any goth club night. The music and venue were ok but the party felt lack lustre.
Not really something worth spending much time during WGT. Once Parma’s sets were finished we headed to finish the night at Gothic Pogo. The sky was already getting light but the party was still going. It was not packed but plenty of people were still around since Pogo can go until 7 am sometimes even later if the party is good. I left to meet friends at the Sixtina again where some attendees from OB were. Things got a bit crazy and silliness ensued as they kept their little fetish party going. There was more action at the Sixtina than the whip party.
Sunday was for me and a good friend our planned black metal day at the Felsenkeller. That day most black metal artists were scheduled to play back to back. Thy Antichrist https://www.facebook.com/THYANTICHRIST/, Wolfheart http://wolfheartofficial.com, Carach Angren http://www.carach-angren.nl, Batushka https://batushkaofficial.com and Cradle of Filth www.cradleoffilth.com were lined up to play.
We got there midway through the set of Carach Angren due to a late start. Still with alcohol in our blood and little sleep we slogged our way to Felsenkeller. Though the venue was absolutely terrible. The sound was not great and even with the weather not being too hot the inside was like a sauna. It was miserable, packed and sticky. We mainly wanted to see Batushka and Cradle of Filth. Of course, we knew the controversy and drama surrounding Batushka and that this was the band dubbed “Faketushka”. Sadly it was all theatre and little substance. They played a number of songs from their new album Hospodi.
For us taking photographs in the pit was a nightmare due to the stage props and most band members were obscured in the back by fog and props with large costumes. This Batushka puts too much into the theatrics rather than the music. As impressive as their stage set up is there’s just too much and you can not see much of the performers. It was hard to enjoy and I was surprised none of the band fainted in their heavy costumes. Just wearing basic t shirts and jeans we were pouring sweat. The music was hardly memorable. All one could do was pay attention to the visual spectacle.
After Batushka ended we got out for fresh air and then it began raining. The humidity was thick and the inside of the venue only got more miserable. Cradle of Filth came on and they were playing a great set however midway through the set Dani Filth was struggling with the heat and sound issues and threw the mic across the stage and walked off. We were almost certain that could be the end of the gig. The band closed the song out and went back stage to freshen up and help coax Dani back to complete the show. Which he did and apologize to the crowd and said how much the venue sucked. Everyone could not agree more. Despite all that, they completed the show and it was a great setlist with some of their older material that we all love. Highlights being Nymphetamine (Fix), Saffron’s Curse, Her Ghost in the Fog and From the Cradle to Enslave. After they were finished we quickly made our way out to find some food and headed to the Sixtina but did not stay long. We carried on the drinking and listening to black metal at a friend’s apartment and that was pretty much that day.
Monday the final day I spent at Agra. I really regret it since it was mostly just EBM and Industrial acts. I used to be into this music a lot but not as much these days. I did another round in the Black Market and caught Nachtmar https://www.facebook.com/nachtmahr.band , Velvet Acid Christ http://www.velvetacidchrist.com/ and Agonoize http://www.agonoize.berlin.
I was going to do one more final walk through the Pagan Village but a large storm came and they closed it. The people packed into the Agra and it began getting cramped and hot. This WGT was not my best and many people felt the same. Sadly I missed many bands I wanted due to schedule clashes and the fact some venues were too packed, as not all venues are so centralized and one must travel mainly with public transit or taxi to them it’s truly difficult to fit much in and usually it means picking the main venue where you will watch some bands play and stick around.
I was really wanting to see London After Midnight, Christian Death, The Addicts and several other bands but the schedules were not in my favour. I spent my final party night at Gothic Pogo and even that night was a mixed bag and not the best Pogo experience. I ended up leaving it earlier than usual.
Overall I would say this WGT for me was ok. Some of the parties were good and there was an ok selection of bands playing through some of the venue choices were terrible. I truly hope no bands I really want to see are in Felsenkeller next year. I will opt to avoid the place because I want to enjoy music not to sit in a sauna. The general consensus among several of my friends was the same. Not the best WGT.
Hopefully, next year will be much better and I will manage to catch a lot more bands I like and attend the Hearse show and possibly the Obsession Bizarre. We can all be thankful that the weather was overall ok and not too hot most days as with past years when it fell in June. The main thing about Wave Gotik Treffen though is each individual experience will vary. It’s impossible to see everything and usually for those who attended the first time or 2 it’s pretty life-changing. It’s still in my mind an amazing and unique festival and I recommend everyone who falls in the alternative subcultures whether it’s goth, fetish, metal, EBM, Industrial, punk and medieval to come to experience it. WGT for this American born Grufti will always be the highlight of every year and still my favourite festival because of the variety it offers.