Darkness Rises

Hundreds of trends have materialized and vanished since the birth of the gothic subculture. So why does goth remain in the black well over two decades after its birth? William Tompkins, spokesman for Sunday's Colorado Dark Arts Festival, which celebrates the scene, has some ideas.

"Subcultures usually begin as youth movements that people grow out of when [the trends] start to seem dated," Tompkins says. "Goth, on the other hand, talks about very general notions of beauty and darkness that can be applied to any time, which is why people are sticking around well into their thirties and beyond. There's this image of goth as something populated with morose, motivationless people who sit around and listen to gloomy music, but a lot of them aren't particularly rebellious and have real jobs. They love goth because it's evolved with them."

Indeed, the style has branched out in so many different directions that the festival, now in its second year, has expanded from two venues to three: Cafe Netherworld, Club Onyx and Rock Island. (A bus will be available to transport attendees from place to place.) Music, appropriately, is an important part of the event. Eighteen bands, ranging from the Frail to Razor Sharp Ribbons, appear on the bill alongside a dozen DJs, including Crash, Coldwire and the nickname-challenged Rob Hatch. Also scheduled are a series of goth- friendly fashion shows; screenings of films such as Hannah's House and Ignomoney; art exhibitions spotlighting the likes of Lon Elliott, Susan Atchley and the appropriately monikered Grim; and a performance by the Crispy Family Carnival Spectacular, whose members put on what Tompkins describes as "a modern freak show."

In contrast, the Colorado Dark Arts Collective, the group behind the festival, seems downright traditional. It's a non-profit arts organization governed by a board of directors who are charged with making sure that all profits are poured back into the CDAC. Goth today overflows with such contradictions -- but in Tompkins's view, that's why it will be around long after other fads have faded. "It's one of the longest continually running subcultures ever," he says, "and it's still going strong."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts