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Music Historicity | Musical genres, part 3: The history of Goth
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Music Historicity

Music Historicity | Musical genres, part 3: The history of Goth

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It's not surprising that music, being an art form, is related to culture, which includes social behaviors, dress, literature, dance and more.

Examples you may have seen include festivals like Woodstock, Lollapalooza and Burning Man that attract fans who identify with a certain kind of music and wear hippie or 60s-style clothing.

The same can be said of Goth music, today's installment in our ongoing examination of music genres.

Gothic music is a type of Post-punk sound that emerged around 1980 in the UK, beginning with a band called Bauhaus.

But music journalists already had applied the "Gothic" term in the 1960s to dark-themed U.S. bands like the Velvet Underground, with their songs "Waiting for the Man" and "Heroin"; and The Doors, with "Five to One," "Strange Days," and "Riders on the Storm."

Similarly, Bauhaus, with their tune "Bela Lugosi's Dead," recognized as the first Goth rock song, was a band that musically exemplified Gothic literature themes such as sadness, morbidity, tragedy and existentialism.

Just as hippie music can be described with artists such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and Donovan, Goth music took off with Bauhaus, followed by Fields of the Nephilim, Joy Division, The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Vincent Segretario is an area musician in the Goth-pop duo Wingtips — which has three albums to their credit and a fourth due to be released in September.

"Later on in the 1980s, the Goth style would become more focused as the subculture grew in the underground," Segretario said. "Record labels like 4AD created an outlet for bands like Cocteau Twins, Clan of Xymox and Xmal Deutschland, all of whom harbored the dark and even ethereal tonality of Post-punk continuance."

Being somewhat of an authority on the genre, Segretario spent several years deejaying Goth music in Chicago clubs before returning to Southern Illinois.

"As a musical genre, Goth is an umbrella term that describes a plethora of sub-genres that came out of the Post-punk movement," he said. "The Goth nomenclature serves as an easy grouping for styles like Darkwave, Post-punk and even Industrial at times."

Currently, Segretario hosts Goth Nite, a bimonthly event held at Hangar 9 in Carbondale, where like-minded individuals wearing mostly black clothing can mingle and dance while he spins recorded music from the stage. The next Goth Nite happens to be this evening, Thursday, May 27.

"The event first started in 2016 with something we called 'Oblivion: A Dark Night in Carbondale,'" he said. "Since then, the Hangar 9 venue staff and coordinators have been very supportive ... and I wouldn’t want to do this night anywhere else."

The Goth genre and subculture are significant enough that last Saturday commemorated World Goth Day, promoted to celebrate the Goth scene and make its presence known to the rest of the world.

The genre is significant that it has been skewered by Saturday Night Live, which featured a recurring skit called "Goth Talk," with Chris Kattan and Molly Shannon playing the characters Azrael Abyss and Circe Nightshade. The adult cartoon South Park also has featured several episodes with middle-school Goth kids depicted as cigarette-smoking coffee drinkers.

Segretario's band, Wingtips, will be joining with established Darkwave band Twin Tribes on a tour this fall that will take them to 17 venues throughout Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and Oklahoma.

"At some point we coined the Wingtips genre as 'Electropowerpop,' so as to describe the overall tonal energy of our pop approach to songwriting," he said. "Will it stick? We'll see!"

Whether it's Retro-synth, Darkwave, Synth-pop or something else, music under the umbrella term of Goth has found a place in the world and in Southern Illinois.

"Goth as a genre and subculture is timeless and always changing," Segretario said. "I’m often excited to see its evolution. And while I believe that scenes and communities around the world will come and go, Goth will never die."

More information and song samples can be found on Wingtips' Facebook and Bandcamp web sites.

And Segretario can be found in his element this evening at Hangar 9, according to the promo, spinning "Darkwave, Post-punk, Deathrock, Ethereal, EBM & beyond. No cover, wear black."

Carbondale hip-hop artist Courtlin Jabrae filmed part of his music video for a remix of Kendrick Lamar's 'Alright' at this past Friday's Justice for George Floyd march and rally in Carbondale.

Gary Gibula is an SIU alum, musician, writer, editor and author of the Music Historicity columns.

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