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introVarious Locations, Prague, Czech Republic
25th to 26th August 2017
Prague Gothic Treffen 2017 with Black Nail Cabaret, Sweet Ermengarde, Veil Of Light, Formalin and many DJs

Previous parts of Prague Gothic Treffen festival were DJ only parties where famous musicians came to play their vision of a dark scene music. Among those who were presenting here earlier were Daniel Mayer (Haujobb, Architect), Bruno Kramm (Das Ich), Volker Zacharias (Girls Under Glass) and others. The festival exists already for 11 years, but only twice there were real bands and not DJ sets. And in 2017 the format has changed. Now the main guests of the program are the bands, but the organizers did not forget about the famous musicians with their DJing. The event was held in two days in three different places. A good opportunity to see the groups I've tried to catch in Germany for a long time, and to visit new places in Prague.


The Clubs & the Audience

The festival was almost the most important gothic event in Czech Republic this year, although there were concerts of the Czech famous gothic rock band XIII. STOLETÍ and performances by others much more famous bands. However, it was the PGT that became the cherry of the Czech gothic scene. Not only local people came. Gothic music fans from Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria came also. All the neighbouring countries took part in this action. Also the various genres of performing bands cause people to come. And not only classic Goths, but also cyber-Goths, EBM fans and others. However, on the first day the festival was held in two clubs, divided by format: in the first one band were playing more gothic music and in the second one DJs were played EBM and dark electro. So people were split into two groups even though the clubs were in walking distance five minutes from each other. On the second day both scenes were in the same club, so the audience was much more diverse.


Fatal Music Bar

Fatal Music Bar is actually a music bar where you can sit quietly during the midweek time to listen to the music and have a drink. Previously this place was a haven for the hipsters called HT3 and earlier there were Prague bands and DJs at the raver parties in the club called Guru. The Fatal Music Bar appeared at the end of 2013 and is now home to a punk, Hardcore and indie oriented underground scene. Its location, of course, is not in the centre, but the club from the inside is very nice and atmospheric. The layout reminded a very-very reduced version of the Leipzig Moritzbastei, namely its part with catacombs and the cellars. Even despite the small space you could easily get lost in the club, what I successfully did in the beginning. The stage itself is located in the centre of the club and is actually the bottom point of the club. Plus the organizers decorated the interior with cobwebs and other gothic decoration. The sound was very good, the bar is also excellent as in most cases in Prague. Only towards the end it was already problematic to buy alcohol fast because of the number of people and only one bar and one bartender there. So in general the club made a very positive impression.

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Incognito Music Bar

Fans of post-industrial dance music found their temporary home five minutes away from the Fatal Music Bar. The electronic part of the first day of the festival was held there. Incognito Music Bar is a small local place near the centre of Prague with DJ decks, a small dancefloor, simple decorations, and small bar and of course it’s in the cellar. The place is very small, so even 30 people there would make the sold-out impression. And there were more than 30, so on the dancefloor people were rotation between those who stood at the bar, sitting on a single sofa and smoking on the street. DJs played rhythmic noise, EBM, dark electro and other tough post-industrial electronics. There is no information about the history of this place on the web, and I do not think that there is something extraordinary worth attention. The bar was not impressing, but small and underground, which I like. And no draft beer in the bar, which I don’t like.

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Futurum Music Bar

The whole program of the second day of the festival was held in a club called Futurum Music Bar... Well, almost whole. In general the second day started with a gothic picnic similar to Victorian picnic on Wave Gotik Treffen. A picnic was held in the park near the club, but I did not go there, so I cannot say what was there. Returning to the club Futurum Music Bar. The club exists since 1968. Rock bands of Czech underground played there that time. For 30 years the club, which is located near the Schwandle Theater in the Smichov area, did not betray itself and remained the club of underground rock music. And that was their feature, when all other clubs changed their focus to more pop oriented music. In 1998 the club was reconstructed and expanded and slightly changed the format. The club hosted punk-rock and heavy metal bands along with disco with music from the 80s and 90s. It was strange then, but now I can see it everywhere in the world, how metal bands play covers of 90s pop and their members organize similar themed DJ parties.

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In 2016 the club became the home for hipster parties of minimal synth and indie music along with other underground electronics. Metal and punk were not there already although it still happened from time to time. The sound was good, the scene is not so high above the listeners, so the feeling of presence on the stage makes the dancefloor close to the audience. In front of the entrance to the concert hall there are tables where you can rest from the noise and calmly drink and rest. The club made a pleasant impression, although it did not seem to be anything "wow".


Friday, 25th August 2017

Black Nail Cabaret (Hungary)

The Hungarian duo BLACK NAIL CABARET appeared on the dark scene in 2008 and was created by Emese Illes-Arvai and Sophie Tarr. The Hungarians were looking for their sound for a long time and released the first release only in 2011 and the full-length album only a year later. And the album was gorgeous. Soft electronics with simple melodies, memorable peculiar synths and magnificent female vocals attracted not only fans of synthetic electronic music, but also fans of Gothic scene. And the use of the elements of the Darkwave later on made this group the favourites of the Gothic public first of all. By that time Sophie was replaced by Krisztian Arvai, but that change did not affect music in any way. The Hungarians’ show started with a small delay, which is not entirely typical for concerts in the Czech Republic. To the keyboard came Krisztian, and started with a short introduction consisting of synths and ambient.

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Emke in a black mask from the noir-aesthetics with a gothic bias joined him later. Her vocals with melancholic synths, emotionality, movements on stage and the unique atmosphere of a small dark club made the evening special. During the performance of BLACK NAIL CABARET the spirit of the festival was flying in the air. Small WGT reminder. The Hungarians currently have three full-length albums and they performed their songs from all albums. Emke was speaking about some and some just performing. Emotionally. Living every note, every synth, and every sound. The repertoire of the band includes both rhythmic dance compositions and slow ballads. And all of this was present at the concert. And it was excellent. No wonder I have long wanted to see the performance of these Hungarians. An excellent concert of great musicians. If there is an opportunity to visit them again, I will definitely do it.

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Sweet Ermengarde (Germany)

The short story ‘Sweet Ermengarde’ was written by Howard Lovecraft in the beginning of 19th century. In 2011 in Bochum bass guitarist Lars Kappeler decided to create his project in the style of gothic rock after wandering around the not so beloved metal genre in the STILL IT CRIES band and later in another gothic rock project NEON DREAM, whose sound he didn’t like also. Mike York worked with THE GARDEN OF DELIGHT, Danny Elevator and Kuba Achtelik joined him later to create gothic rock music. Later the vocalist of CUBA was replaced by Daniel Schweigler and the band’s line-up was completed till now. The music of the Germans is created under the sheer influence of the classic gothic rock of the 80s although the metal influence became visible on the last album possibly due to the change of the vocalist. The band released two full-length albums till now and both sound differently. The band clearly gravitates to the gothic-rock sound on the first record in fact imitating the grandees and looking for their sound, which sometimes appears, so on the second album they have already started using their own sound and features. And the new singer, of course, took part in this.

sweetermengarde1

The first band member made his way through the drums. After him, guitar players and a bass player came out and began to play the opening last year's album song. They were joined by Daniel, and then the metal music past became noticeable. Gothic-rock structure sounded like a ductile slow doom metal from the early 90s. And it was not bad. Emotional vocals and dense guitar sound made Gothic rock volumetric not because of keyboard parts as it usually happens, but because of guitars. The metal music past of Lars appeared for the second, but with every new track it was going down and gothic rock turned to be pure gothic rock without any associations with metal. The deaf dense sound of the guitars was replaced by more post-punk and the compositions from the last album were replaced by compositions from the debut album. It was heard that these were not Daniel's songs, that he did not take part of creating them. In the performance of those songs he worked. And when he performed new songs that were written with his help, he was more liberated and more floating. In any case this concert was excellent. The Germans created an excellent atmosphere and made an excellent performance with magic music.

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Conclusion

In one day I caught two groups in Prague, which I had long been hunting in Germany. This is luck. And not only. Both Hungarians and Germans made the evening unforgettable and made the festival excellent and memorable even without any connection to how the second day would look like. Honestly saying the second day of the festival I was not really attractive. But still it was necessary to visit it and maybe to give the chance to the bands. So after wandering between the electronic club and the gothic club I was ready for a trip home to rest and sleep before the second day.


Saturday, 26th August 2017

As I already wrote above that the second day of the festival started with a gothic picnic, to which I did not go. It started too early, and I was too lazy. I came to the beginning of the shows and the club already was full of people. More precisely not in the club, but next to the entrance. We had half an hour before the first performance, so people drank beer, smoked and just enjoyed the atmosphere on the street and in the club. And only a small amount of audience moved to the DJ sets. The number of people was not too high although gothic and electro visitors were this day together in the same club and not divided into two different places. But maybe not everyone wanted to go on the second day or it was still too early. Anyway the show started…


Veil of Light (Switzerland)

Relatively young Swiss project VEIL OF LIGHT appeared in the Swiss German-speaking capital Zurich in 2013. Two musicians inspired by the Gothic music, indie performers and synthetic electronic music created a duo, in which they combined all their influences together. At the moment, the Swiss released three full-length albums and several more EPs and singles. Their music is a combination of minimalistic EBM close to the techno sound of the old-school, new wave and more electronic version of post-punk. And even with the mix of all those genres together I would not call them innovators on a dark scene. Their music sounds quite monotonous on the albums, which was confirmed on the stage.

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Some of the songs were encouraging, but only for a moment, and then the music went into the usual dry sound with monotonous post-punky male vocals in English. Both members played music (one worked on keyboard and guitar, the other on keyboards and on a microphone), which was actually a plus for them and could make them an excellent band with good music. But they decided to play like this. Some people will like this, of course, but hardly to Gothic or post-industrial lovers. I think, that with the time the Swiss guys will realize this and will move completely into the indie sound adding to this the minimal synth or synth wave. For an indie scene they will become interesting, but unfortunately they don’t belong to the dark scene although musically they are somehow part of it.

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Formalin (Germany)

The German project FORMALIN already performed in Prague once. I was present there, but it was not such a memorable show. It was not remembered this time either unfortunately. FORMALIN was created in 2008, although the year of foundation on Facebook is 2010, but it is understandable why. It was in 2010 that the duo of Thomas Liebchen and Gabor Posz signed a contract with the major label Out of Line, on which they released three albums. One debut work of the Berliners was released in 2008 on their own and only then they became popular. The project also has several official videos on their YouTube channel. In fact they were the most popular band from all the performers on PGT. Musically they play the danceable modern sounding electro-industrial with dark electro similar to the FADERHEAD sound. FORMALIN has several hits, but not too powerful to be everywhere on the dance floors. The hit tracks are quiet danceable, but can be forgotten in a second after. Professionally done, but strictly according to the instructions without any improvisations and peculiar features.

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This pattern is already used by many musicians in "how to make industrial pop music". And this pattern is already boring. It seems that everything is done neatly and juicy with good vocals and various melodies, but everything was boring, without a spark, without an explosion, without a soul. The German machine is working. But I still can take a couple of positive aspects from their show. There was an ideal sound in comparison to their previous concert here. It’s the format of the performance "vocalist-keyboardist", which is now quite rare in the "popular post-industrial" bands, which are adding guitars at any opportunity. But I’m not sure, that FORMALIN will not add a guitar in the future, because one track with the guitar already was played on this show. In any case the performance is not noticeable and is intended for teenagers beginning to get acquainted with cyber-gothic aesthetics and popular rhythmic electro genre.

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DJs

Since the event was originally for DJs only, many DJs from well-known projects were invited this time also. I did not get to all of them, but I will write about some. On the first day, when BLACK NAIL CABARET was on stage, the Russian Lamia Vox was playing on the electronic stage in a near club. She played rhythmic noise according to the information on the festival website. I did not go for her set unfortunately, but I wanted to. In general I would argue with the organizers about the rhythmic-noise set at 9 pm. But in any case I did not hear the set of Lamia Vox, so I cannot say anything and not the reaction of the audience. But I was on the set of an Austrian DJ Terrorismo, who played a dance massacre from the dark electro and all its derivatives. Sometimes it's quite good, sometimes just fine. Fans were pleased and dancing on the full dancefloor, so the set was successful. Also several local DJs were playing their sets on the electronic stage and on the gothic stage. I did not really watch what happens on the gothic stage, so I cannot say anything about local DJs.

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On the second day, the DJ program was already more intense. I missed again some of the DJs, because of the band's shows. During FORMALIN's performance on the gothic stage the main star of the gothic DJing part of the festival was Ashley Dayour from WHISPERS IN THE SHADOWS and THE DEVIL & THE UNIVERSE. Gothic DJs from Slovakia also played on the Gothic stage this evening, but I missed it as well. And after the shows the main guest of the electronic DJing part of the festival Boris May from the project KLANGSTABIL came to show how it should be done. I didn’t dance on the DJ sets for a loooong time already. I can move and even do something like a dance, but it has not worked out for a long time. Not the same atmosphere, not the same mood, too tired or because of other reasons. But I would never have thought that it would happen during the KLANGSTABIL’s member DJ set. He did not play rhythmic noise and electro-industrial surprisingly. He played various electronic music of a dark scene. Gothic electro, EBM, dark electro, new bit, synth pop, future pop and many more. And it was really amazing. German Markus Müller arrived at the DJ deck after Boris, and I realized, I already heard his set almost 10 years ago in Israel. So he did not surprise me. Played well, but played not so exploding things, among which occasionally jumped hits and rhythmic danceable thriller, but not too often. In general the DJs section was quite good, although I still cannot make a complete picture.


Conclusion

So the twelfth Prague Gothic Treffen festival came to an end. And it was very good. I hope that the organizers will keep the same format of the festival for next year and not make it again purely DJed. Good music, great bands, nice audience and very unique atmosphere. Thanks and see around the festivals. Listen to music!

Pictures by Count_Death

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