Music News

Some say Denver's goth scene is dead. Dave Vendetta says otherwise.

Goth is dying in Denver, some fans complain.

Charles Russell, aka One Skinny DJ, and Dave Vendetta, two prominent proponents of the scene, don't disagree. But when they say they think goth deserves to be put to rest, they're not talking about the music, which they feel is as relevant today as it was when they first heard it at Rock Island. They're talking about the culture that's been appropriated, commercialized, homogenized and subsequently marginalized. That's what's dying – and frankly, it's time for it to go.

These days, goth can be a caricature that comes complete with a costume. Or it can be a convenient scapegoat, thanks to a certain tragedy perpetuated by disenfranchised kids clad in trenchcoats. Either way, it's a term that's lost its meaning. Think about it: What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "goth"? Black lipstick? Fishnets? People cloaked in black with perpetually dour outlooks?

Okay, you got me there.

Goth kids do seem to have an affinity for black. But beyond that, the stigma is unwarranted, ultimately an albatross for those who want to see the music move forward. "The name 'goth' may be dying," Russell allows, "and the people who have taken up the banner may not be the best representatives of the root goth culture – with their lack of knowledge or interest in its history in poetry, spoken word, novels, movies or art."

This pair admits that the scene has become a bit more insolated since the closure of Rock Island and other clubs that served as a focal point for goth in the formative days. But while club nights aren't as prevalent as they used to be, the darkness hasn't dissipated entirely. "The music," Russell enthuses, "is still, after all these decades, being played in clubs and programmed by artists and people who are still wearing black, especially here in Denver."

Russell and Vendetta are certainly doing their part to help keep the dark arts alive in the Mile High City. With Death Wish, their monthly dark dance night at Tracks, the two strive to channel and revive the spirit of those nights at Rock Island back in the late '80s and early '90s, when a handful of DJs served as trusted tastemakers, emissaries to an unknown underworld. And they're doing okay. The night regularly attracts several hundred people just through word of mouth.

Vendetta also owns Vendetta Music, his record store turned record label, which has developed a sizable European fan base. This weekend, he's hosting Vendetta Festival, the biggest event of its kind in the United States. The fest — which kicks off Friday at the hi-dive, moves to Bar Standard on Saturday and culminates at Exdo Event Center on Sunday – will feature more than thirty artists, including Hocico, Psyclon Nine and Rome, among others.

The impetus for the festival is to showcase all aspects of the music, from the abrasive industrial side to the rhythmic, melodic dance side to the more somber, contemplative folk side, and to show that once you get past the stigma, there's so much more to this music and lifestyle than you'd think. There truly is an art to all this darkness.

Whatever you want to call it.