World Goth Day: Going Dark

Fifth year of May 22nd celebration of the music and the style

A woman attends the Wave and Goth Festival.
Marco Prosch/Getty Images
A woman attends the Wave and Goth Festival.
By |

World Goth Day is an annual worldwide event that celebrates goth music, fashion and art on May 22nd. It began in 2009 as Goth Day, started by two DJs from the BBC, the superbly named Martin OldGoth and Cruel Britannia. Rather than have it on Halloween they chose May, so goths could stand apart from others just dressing up to be cheeky.

Many think of goth as cartoonish:

But goth music began as bands such as Joy Division, the Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees emerged from the ashes of punk with haunting dance music. While New Wave exploded with color, goth was drenched in darkness: black clothes and heavy eyeliner accented the gloomy, dreary and arresting music of bands like the Birthday Party, Killing Joke, Bauhaus, the Southern Death Cult, Christian Death and the Sisters of Mercy.

Music and fashion collided in goth. It was called many things at the outset (post-punk, positive punk, death rock, gothic rock), but as the scene grew, more bands emerged and the sound evolved. Goth became associated with other forms of music as many fans crossed over into underground sounds that embraced aspects of goth like darkwave, EBM and industrial (often mistaken for goth).

Grunge may have eclipsed goth, but it was befriended by four guys from Brooklyn called Type O Negative, who mixed the classic rock sound of the Doors with velvety layers of doom and gloom. Their breakthrough album, Bloody Kisses, helped establish goth-metal and inspired many bands (notably Italy's Lacuna Coil and H.I.M. from Finland) thanks to the contagious and tongue-in-cheek "Black No. 1," adored by goths and metalheads alike.

In the 2000s, goth moved to American malls through the Hot Topic chain, as the term became a generic catch-all for any band where the guys wore eyeliner, dressed in black or sang about being alone. From emo bands and Evanescence to popular culture, "goth" had gone mainstream. In 2003, while Evanescence was selling millions of albums with "Fallen," CBS debuted NCIS featuring a forensic specialist (played by Pauley Perrette) who would be mistaken for goth.

Goth movie favorite The Crow is rumored to be up for a reboot. "Bats Day in the Fun Park" is an annual event that features a day out at Disneyland. The Whitby Gothic Weekend, a biannual weekend concert in England, has been running since 1994, and many more events take place for goths and friends of goths. The dark culture of goth remains vibrant – you might even say bright.

x