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Prague Gothic Treffen 2021Futurum Music Club, Prague, The Czech Republic
27th to 28th August 2021
Prague Gothic Treffen 2021 with A Dull Set, Diaf, Je T’aime, Then Comes Silence, Body Of Pain, Bragolin, Rein, Empathy Test

I didn’t know how much I missed this until I started packing my bags and cameras for a trip to Prague again. The excitement of travelling and the prospect of seeing my favourite bands again made my blood run faster. And indeed, the event met all my expectations and even exceeded them in the finest possible way!

I took part in the festival before, and I knew it for its fantastic atmosphere, great people and organization. However, the 2021 edition was exceptional. Not only because of the marvellous line-up, but above all for returning the feeling of normalcy and fine vibe of an unforgettable musical event. Not to mention Prague is a magical city itself and the chance to enjoy the music at night and the city by day was an additional bonus you may consider when planning your trip, e.g. next year.

The event took place on two days - the 27th and 28th of August in Futurum Music Club. The venue is known for its pleasant atmosphere, perfect for a gothic event - it was also decorated in a relevant way for the occasion. One side event - Gothic Picnic - was unfortunately cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, but all the concerts went as planned and left a fantastic impression. A big plus was really efficient responsiveness from the organizers - Friday problems at a bar (surprise, surprise, many thirsty goths in one place!) were quickly resolved the next day by increasing staff. Way to go, Team; bravo for the quick action!


Friday

On entering the club on Friday night, after spending a really rainy day in Prague, I found myself in a totally different world. Dark club, filled with fancily dressed people, dim lights and smoke, made me wish for a map at first, especially that Futurum has a few small rooms. A small stage was planned for DJ sets while the main stage was for concerts, so finding the right one took me a while (after saying a few HIs to friends who decided to visit as well). There were four bands to play each day plus - happening simultaneously - DJ sets in the small stage I mentioned before.


A Dull Set

The festival was opened by the Czech project A DULL SET. It’s a Prague based, New Wave, Post-Punk duo. It was the first time I had contact with A DULL SET music, and I must admit their finest advantage is an excellent combination of soft, almost velvety vocalic lines and pounding vibrating guitars. The mix of fine electronic background and leading melodic motives gave an exciting effect that brought the best punk roots to one’s mind.

Setlist
01. Night Terror
02. Emerge
03. It Follows
04. Running
05. Unturning
06. Dream On
07. Mouthfeel
08. Yawning Calling
09. This Figure

Rating
Music: 8
Performance: 6
Light: 6
Sound: 7
Total: 6.7 / 10

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Diaf

DIAF is a Bavarian one-person project by Niko Biberger with two singles on his account. ‘Liach’ was out on 2020 just as the first album ‘Weida’, whereas the piano version of ‘Berg’ was out in 2021. https://diaf.bandcamp.com.

Music &Performance
What DIAF offered was a compelling and emotional performance. The artist appeared in the flood of red lights, standing alone on an almost empty stage, so the only thing that he had to prove himself with during the concert was himself and his sounds. And he did that very well - without any props or fancy decorations. DIAF music is very energetic and yet emotional; it's a kinda perfect combination to get a firm grip of your heart and make you dance as well. Dynamic, harsh rhythms plus enormous emotional load presented on the stage were captivating and hypnotizing indeed. It was one of the best concerts during the entire festival and made me dance like wild.

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Even though the songs were in German, the artist managed to make the audience chant the songs with him (e.g. during ‘Über Nacht’). He actually established excellent contact with his audience. I especially appreciated how Niko gave himself to the audience during the concert. I could see his bare emotions presented on the stage, a genuine engagement in song interpretation and the general presence on the scene. It was 100% of a person on stage, definitely giving his listeners 100% of his talent. As such, it was both fine music performance and the display of an artist’s soul.

Setlist
01. Splitter
02. Erbsündt
03. Weg
04. Ritual
05. Aung
06. Nacht
07. Liacht
08. Berg

Rating
Music: 10
Performance: 8
Light: 7
Sound: 8
Total: 8.3 / 10




Je T’aime

JE T’AIME, formed in Paris, released their debut single ‘The Sound’ in 2018. Next to that there was an album ‘Je T’aime’ out in 2019 and then the recording ‘Live at Gibus’ out in 2021. The new album entitled ‘Passive / Agressive' is to be released in 2021/22. 'Passive' (part 1) end of the year and 'Agressive' (part 2, spring 2022). Their music is Post-Punk Cold Wave mix.  https://www.jetaime-music.com/

Music &Performance
I must stay I’d been waiting for this particular show impatiently. I interviewed the band before, discussing their music and general approach to art and listened to their releases almost nonstop, so as you can imagine,  I was expecting A LOT of them. Luckily enough I was not disappointed; I’ll say more - what rarely happens - the concert exceeded all my expectations. To say it was crazy, wild, intensive, emotional, engaged, sexy, funny, raging, energetic, ass-kicking and colourful could give a somewhat hint of what it was like, but not totally. Post-punk baroque richness and artistic frenzy at its best – that's what it was.

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The band’s dynamics and emotionality presented on stage literally swept me off my feet. They managed to establish contact with the audience from the very first moment, and Daniel Armand's charisma was one of the major factors that kept the level of intensity on the top for the entire show.  I don't believe they slowed down for even a second, and to see such a whirl of lively music and freedom was as inspiring as invigorating. Another plus was the way the band acted out as a whole body on stage - excellent coordination, not even a single slip in notes, it was just that it felt totally natural for them as if the stage was their thing, their natural habitat. They managed to effortlessly rock the stage and take their fans with them.

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All the fast-paced songs set strong in Punk or Post Punk were simply ravishing and boiling with high-low temps - but that's what the particular genre is about, I guess - operating on contrasts. Hot/cold, emotional/distanced, raging/cool, plus the interpretation: fantastic bass and overall soniscape were like a strong kick to the centre of my nervous system; it was simply irresistible. It is no surprise the audience run wild with the artists. At some point, it looked like one big boiling pot of sounds, emotions, body movement and flying endorphins, so we didn’t need to wait long to find Daniel jump from the stage straight to the crowd and go crazy with the fans. A real artistic outburst. I guess the very fact the musicians kept no artificial pose, just raged and let themselves go totally had the effect of the audience responding with an even greater frenzy.



I believe it was precisely what we all needed - to give a vent to the suppressed adrenaline and lust of letting it go during a damn good gig. And this is exactly what the guys FROM JE T’AIME offered. Fantastic gig. What a fine French plaint you braid that night: music, visuals and emotion interwoven for perfect result and quality.

Setlist
01. Satan’s bitch
02. Flying Dutchman
03. A million suns
04. Fuck me
05. Hide & seek
06. Watch out!
07. Another day in hell
08. C++
09. Dirty tricks
10. The sound

Rating
Music: 10
Performance: 10
Light: 8
Sound: 9
Total: 9.3 / 10

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Then Comes Silence

The closing of the first day of the festival belonged to the Swedish band THEN COMES SILENCE. The band was formed in 2012 in Stockholm; so far, they have released numerous singles and four full albums, including the most recent, very well-received ‘Machine’ from 2020. Their latest single ‘When You’re Gone’ (2021) proves their status of one of the finest post-punk acts. https://thencomessilence.eu/

Music &Performance
THEN COMES SILENCE presented a totally different type of scenic representation and artistic expression compared to the previous band. Their forte was precision and perfection in every detail of the show. Much as their music is loaded with emotions, thoughts, impressions, images built through sounds and lyrics, their scenic performance is moderate; one could even say cold. It creates an interesting contrast and enforces focus on the very music itself. And there are a lot of things to pay attention to  - refined guitars and drums, a great combination of energy, melancholia, nostalgia. All elements are organized together in a way to achieve a perfect effect.

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The play of opposites is something I associate TCS music with to a large extent - contrast and multi-layered composition, Chinese-box effect they achieve by means of mixing sounds and composing lyrics and also a veiled, metaphorically expressed note of sadness. Together with energetic, impressive music that reaches its stunning effect thanks to perfectly played bass and drums it makes one run wild as well as think and feel. In Prague, the band showed the best they’ve got, and I believe the audience had nothing to complain about. Full-blooded, perfect concert.

Setlist
01. Dead Cry For No One
02. I Gave You everything
03. When you are gone
04. We lose the night
05. Good Friday
06. Apocalypse flare
07. The Rest Will follow
08. Animals
09. Strangers
10. Strange kicks
11. She Loves The Night
12. Dark end
13. Warm like blood
14. My bones
15. Slowly Dragging You Down
16. Death Rides (encore)

Rating
Music: 10
Performance: 8
Light: 8
Sound: 9
Total: 8.8 / 10

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Saturday

Saturday in Prague offered a bit of relief from constant rain, so we could actually get some rest in the air before the night concerts started. The second day was similar to the previous one through the diversity of bands in the line-up and the variety of music genres they represented, though, I guess, a more electronic note prevailed.


Body of Pain

BODY OF PAIN is a Prague based duo consisting of Jan Vytiska (music, vocal, synths, drum machine) and Tereza Ovčačíková (responsible for vocals, synths, drum machine). Their most recent album, ‘We No Longer Exist anymore’, was released in 2021 is a fine combination of electronic dynamics and cold vocals. https://bodyofpain.bandcamp.com/

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Music &Performance
BODY OF PAIN show was all about very moderate, minimalistic scenic presentation (just the artists and their gear) and extremely dynamic, dancy and vibrant music. Cold vocalic lines being a combination of scanning and chanting at the same time plus extremely energetic music lines, were a perfect kick off for the second day of the festival.

Setlist
01. We Kill the Pain
02. I will Die
03. Depression
04. I’m Cure For Your Sick Body
05. Operate your Heart
06. Vapride disco
07.Time to Die
08. Snake Skin
09. Slaves
10. Body of Pain
11. Dark Eyes
12. Lives forever

Rating
Music: 10
Performance: 5
Light: 6
Sound: 8
Total: 7.3 / 10

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Bragolin

BRAGOLIN is a Dutch Post-Punk / Dark Wave project by Edwin van der Velde. The music is a fine mixture of 80s, synths and Shoegaze. BRAGOLIN is named after the Italian painter Giovanni Bragolin, famous for his crying boy paintings. https://www.bragolin.nl/

Music &Performance
The first most crucial thing everyone noticed about the BRAGOLIN show was the change in line-up. So the first thing I asked Edwin was about the impressions, and the said change and here is his comment: “We had a great show, meeting great people in the audience as well as from the other bands. It was our first show in 1,5 year. About the new line-up. As you can find in the bio the project is by Edwin van der Velde. And live we now have Edwin Daatselaar on synths. We also play together in the band Zwarte Poëzie. Maria (Karssenberg) was in the line-up for 2 years. She had quit for personal reasons, nothing exciting, we are still friends.”

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The show itself was a masterpiece of melancholic, heart-rendering poetics set in a fine, gossamer-like delicate sonic matter combined with stunning guitar energy. It was a bit like a theatrical spectacle, like a monologue with a musical background, minimal in scenic expression. It let the listeners focus on the exceptional quality of the sounds. It was so until the final song, ‘Into the Woods’ made everyone dance like crazy and run wild. Their music flows in an almost heartbeat rhythm speeding and slowing in a hypnotizing pattern mixing electronics with pounding guitars, leaving a fine impression of a bit dreamy and yet invigorating sonicscape that will make me think of Lynch’s aesthetics a bit. The songs presented were mostly from their album ‘I saw nothing Good so I left’.

Setlist
01. Take Us Down
02. Grotesque Dance
03. No One Ever Speaks In This House
04. The End Dwells In Us All
05. I Saw Nothing Good So I Left
06. Charcoal Teeth And Lies
07. To Hide To Shine To Cross
08. Let Out The Noise Insider
09. I Go With You
10. In Our Field Of Oaks
11. Into Those Woods

Rating
Music: 10
Performance: 9
Light: 8
Sound: 8
Total: 8.8 / 10

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Rein

The Stockholm based artist, producer, singer / songwriter and label owner REIN was kicking off her career in 2016 with her self-titled EP and following through with the ‘Freedoom’ EP in 2017 were she collaborated with the death electro founder (Owl Vision). In 2019 she did a collaboration with Tony Senghore and Joakim Åhlund (TEDDYBEARS) covering the famous 90s hit ‘Electric’ by LEILA K. T.2020 was the year she released her critically acclaimed full-length debut album, ‘Reincarnated’ were she collaborated with co-producer and Grammy winner Carli Löf from OFF THE MEDS. https://www.reinofficial.com/

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Music &Performance
Oh, definitely, the appearance of REIN on stage gave some people a shock. Futuristic look, strong voice and fantastic dance skills plus a fair dose of dancy, electronic music - it was a strong kick indeed. The songs chosen for the concert in Prague were set so as not to give the audience a moment to catch a breath. It was one continuous flow of fast-paced, energetic pieces. The vocalist ruled the stage for the entire show keeping her audience following her. Compelling, modern and dynamic performance.

Setlist
01. Reincarnate
02. Release Me
03. Puppetmaster
04. Closer To Reality
05. Reactivity
06. Bodyhammer
07. Dystopia
08. Accelerate
09. Off The Grid
10. Limitless
11. Metropolis
12. The Power And The Passion
13. There’s No Tomorrow
14. 45
15. C.A.P.I.T.A.L.I.S.M

Rating
Music: 8
Performance: 9
Light: 6
Sound: 7
Total: 7.5 / 10

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Empathy Test

EMPATHY TEST is an independent London (UK) based electronic pop band formed in January 2013 by childhood friends Isaac Howlett (vocals, song writing) and Adam Relf (composition, production). Having numerous releases on their account now, they win audiences all over Europe with their beautiful, melodious music and charismatic performances. https://www.empathytest.com/

Music &Performance
Pandemic months have been challenging for EMPATHY TEST, who started speeding up their career when the Covid-19 struck. Being in isolation, deprived of the possibility to play and promote their music during live shows, they really had it hard. Especially that they - especially the frontman Isaac Howlett - are real stage animals and the stage seems like their element, their natural habitat. The show in Prague was one of the firsts to see the band playing live again, and I am happy to inform they are in excellent scenic, vocalic and, I daresay, general shape.

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From the first minute the band appeared on stage, it was visible that they missed playing live - Isaac was like a sparkling ball of energy: dancing, singing, and chatting with his audience. It was uplifting, positive and very invigorating at the same time. EMPATHY TEST’s music is a combination of melodic, heart-rendering vocals and fine music. Their performance is always a vivid display of energy, complete engagement and professionalism. It was amazing to see how Isaac delves into the world of the scene and music totally. As if the world stopped and we were caught in a moment, hypnotized by pure sounds and emotions for a while. Like a vacuum where only melody and lyrics reach and mesmerise the listener. EMPATHY TEST offered a strong kick for starters with ‘Monsters’ from their most recent album and carried us through their greatest songs right to the well-deserved encore.



The audience reacted in a highly positive way: apparently, the world of an emotional EMPATHY TEST build of the multi-layered, melancholic, nostalgic compositions reaches straight to the listeners’ hearts. The world of delicate, fragile sounds offer a bit of relief and wraps the listener in a comfy cocoon of beauty and lyricism. Good to have you back on stage, EMPATHY TEST!

Setlist
01. Monsters
02. Empty Handed
03. Making Worlds
04. Skin
05. Bare My Soul
06. Stop
07. Holy Rivers
08. Incubation Song
09. Fear of Disappearing
10. Doubts
11. Love Moves
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12. Vampire Town
13. Seeing Stars
14. Demons
15. Losing Touch
16. Here is the Place

Rating
Music: 10
Performance: 9
Light: 8
Sound: 8
Total: 8.8 / 10

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If I were to sum up the festival somehow, it would be with two words: diversity and charisma. Even though all the bands represent a dark wave wing of music, each is interpreted in its own way. Every band offered a different tone, emotionality, dynamism and scenic representation of a fine musical genre. The sonic rollercoaster, intensity, and musical richness presented during the two days in Prague were as satisfying and enriching as overwhelming. Bravo to the Artists for recharging us and filling a big gap created by pandemic concert dessert. And here should go big thank you and congratulations to the Sanctuary.cz team who once again proved there are no things impossible and invites us to the event great in terms of organization, general ambience and line-up. It was great to be there and have fun with you, see you next year!

All pictures by Karo Kratochwil
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