24th to 26th August 2018
Prague Gothic Treffen 2018 with Noví Lidé, Ariel Maniki and the Black Halos, Ash Code, Vokoj feat. Espe, The Saint Paul, Das Ich, Phosgene Girls, XIII. Století
Czech gothic festival Prague Gothic Treffen is held for the thirteenth time and in comparison to the previous times when it was a mainly DJ event, in 2017 four bands were invited to a two-day festival. In 2018, the festival was expanded for three days and for a larger number of bands. Original line-up of the festival included the German project WELLE: ERDBALL, but because of the pregnancy of one of the members their performance was replaced by the other German band DAS ICH. The line-up included also exotic band from Costa Rica plus several local Czech projects. The culmination of the whole action at the thirteenth festival was the show Czech Gothic legends XIII. STOLETÍ. Symbolic. Three days, three clubs, gothic picnic, new inventions and a lot of music. The festival was about to start. So let’s rock!
The Clubs & the Audience
This year the event took place in the underground Underdogs’ club on the first day, which I already knew after several performances, and in the other two days the festival moved to the traditional Futurum Music Bar where the last PGT events were held. All this was on the left side of the Vltava River not far from the city centre. A gothic picnic, which became already a tradition at the PGT, was planned on the second day in the park Kinského Zahrada. The audience at the festival was quite different despite the mainly gothic line-up. There were classical Goths by their appearance fans of Deathrock and Batcave, there were also cyber-Goths in classic black-and-coloured garments with luminous elements, there were also usual Rockers/ Metal fans in T-shirts of favourite bands. Geography of the festival also amazed. During those days Russian, Polish, Spanish, Swedish, German, English, Czech and Slovak languages were heard. The festival is gaining momentum, expanding its borders and increasing the audience and international recognition.
Underdogs’ Ballroom Bar
The Underdog’s club is in a dark alley not really in the city centre. Outside the building looked like a warehouse or the back entrance of a shop or restaurant. The entrance to the club was without any sign or name (except the banner of Prague Gothic Treffen) and was just an ordinary door to the entrance. After the doors there was a staircase downstairs and downstairs there was a basement with a bar right in front of the entrance. There was enough space on the dancefloor. It is difficult to say what was in that building before. There is no information on the network, but I can assume that because of the close location of Smichov Railway Station there could actually be a warehouse. Straight ahead of the entrance towered the railway, which periodically was noised with train, and that created a unique atmosphere of the full underground. However the most interesting place in the club was the toilet. Compared to the previous visit, the number of closed booths increased, but the urinals were left to public view, which is a kind of a special feature of this place. According to the posters this club usually hosts concerts of Black Metal, Crust, Hardcore and sometimes experimental electronics as I assume from the same musicians. Underdogs’ is an interesting place with a very interesting and weird atmosphere. The first day was divided between two clubs, so was also the DJ part took place in the Prostor Země club across the road, but I did not show up there giving preference to live performances., so nothing to about the second club.
Futurum Music Bar
Fatal Music Bar is actually a music bar where you can sit quietly during the usual time to listen to music and have a little drink. Previously this place was a haven for the hipster club HT3 and even earlier there performed Prague bands and DJs at the raver parties in the Guru club. The Fatal Music Bar was established at the end of 2013 and now it is a home to a Punk, Hardcore and Indie underground scene. Its location is not in the centre, but the club from the inside very nice and cosy. The layout reminded a very-very small version of the Leipzig’s Moritzbastei. Despite the small space it was easy to get lost in this club. The stage itself is made the centre of the club and is the bottom point. The organizers decorated the interior with cobwebs and other gothic pieces which was very atmospheric and nice. The sound was very good, the bar is also excellent as in most cases in Prague.
Friday, 24th August 2018
Noví Lidé (Czech Republic)
The first performing project of the festival was a duet from the Czech town Hradec Králové NOVÍ LIDÉ. The project was formed in 2013 and in 2017 released its debut album made in a combination of Post-Punk, New Wave and various electronic genres. The members appeared on the stage and atmospheric music of minimalism started. Instrumental tracks were half of the show. Rare aloof vocals leaded the listener to the area of the Coldwave music. I was waiting for the progress during the whole show, but the performance of NOVÍ LIDÉ remained more experimental and rather boring. Perhaps more frequent use of vocals would correct that, but I was convinced once again for myself that the concert performances of the bands under the Post-Punk / New Wave tags are not what I like.
Ariel Maniki and the Black Halos (Costa Rica)
After the opening local band the preparations for the next performance has begun. The next band was about to be the show of geographically the farthest band in the history of PGT. The ARIEL MANIKI AND THE BLACK HALOS was formed in 2010 in San Jose and then was called only MANIKI. In 2013 the musicians released their debut full-length album followed in 2014 by the second work under the same name. In the mid-10s the Costa Ricans changed their name to ARIEL MANIKI AND THE BLACK HALOS. With the name changing the genre transformed from the classic Gothic Rock to a more diverse sound consisting of Post-Punk, Gothic Rock, Darkwave and electronic music. At the moment the discography of the newly named act counts three full-length albums, several EPs and “best of” compilation. Their performance was one of the most waited at the festival. Costa Rican trio right after beginning started with their own peculiar sound with the influence going of the roots of Post-Punk and Gothic Rock.
In addition to ARIEL MANIKI himself there were two more members on stage. One of the girls played the bass guitar, and the second was in charge of the keyboard sound. Harmony between the guitar and electronic components enwrapped the club and audience. The playlist was composed from rhythmic compositions with a wish to dance as well as melancholic songs sending your mind to the dark corners of sub-consciousness. In front of the stage, a satisfied and enjoying audience was dancing and moving with the music. ARIEL MANIKI AND THE BLACK HALOS played old songs and also performed one completely new song, which was one of the best in the playlist and it was very encouraging before the release of the new album. Excellent performance for old-school guitar gothic music lovers was the best on the first day of the festival. At least of the first day have to be said.
Ash Code (Italy)
The headliners of the first day were the Italians ASH CODE, who are frequent guests on the main gothic festivals in Germany. A trio from Naples was formed in 2013. A year later the Italians released their debut full-length album on a young, but already well known Swiss label Swiss Dark Nights. The project combines the sound of Post-Punk, Coldwave, Minimal Synth and New Wave. The audience of Italians usually comes out of the Indie scene, which also enjoys the gothic Post-Punk genre and the old Coldwave. Distracted male vocals, vivid keyboard magic and soft guitar sound created a rather hipster atmosphere, which was more peculiar for of the indie scene than classical guitar gothic music.
Alessandro Belluccio mostly singing also periodically became an additional keyboard player and added electronic cold atmosphere. Also one composition was completely performed by the keyboard player, which brought diversity and in a special way woke up the audience with more rhythmic composition with melancholic female charm. The Italians’ show objectively turned out to be the most qualitative than the previous bands, however their music was more monotonous than music of the Costa Ricans.
So the first day of the festival came to an end. The day turned out to be a gothic underground with its own charm and unique atmosphere, which you cannot feel in the large festivals as M’era Luna, Amphi and even the WGT with its small clubs and unknown performing bands. This was facilitated by an underground cosy small club and performing bands. After all the live acts the number of people was halved. In the club the show proceeded into the DJ after party with classic Post-Punk and Coldwave hits from DJ Cyberpagan from Germany. Outside the crowd was discussing the shows and music in general and was receiving their portion of the underground. Having plunged into this atmosphere and stayed there for a while, we also went home to rest before the electronic second day of the festival.
Saturday, 25th August 2018
The second day began earlier. The schedule said that at 16:00 should be traditional Gothic picnic. The event with noisy audience and music took place in park Kinského Zahrada, when it planned in the beginning so the picnic was moved to the near and more touristic park Kampa. It’s very hard to say if it was good or bad. But the picnic looked really like a kind of meeting of people by interests, than something global like on WGT. One of the lawns was occupied by the Goths, who sat on rugs and bedspreads drinking alcohol, discussing various topics and taking pictures of each other. Everything was quite civil and conservative. The appearance components didn’t differ much from what was the day before at the concerts, so it was not necessary to talk about the uniqueness of the event, although the idea is good and in the future such meetings can become a good advertisement for the gothic scene in Prague and in Czech Republic. We didn’t stay till the end of the picnic, but went to eat before the concerts. It was already crowded in front of the club. The music on the gothic stage was playing, people were already dancing and on the main stage the first band started its preparations.
Vokoj feat. Espe (Czech Republic)
The first performing project was described as a witch house in the line-up, so I was not very interested in this performance, but I never saw a witch house scene, so curiosity prevailed. The VOKOJ project is essentially the product of Michael K. The author himself created music and vocal parts were handled by the singer Espe. The project exists three years, but did not release many official things. In 2017 one track was part the compilation of Czech and Slovak gothic music “Dark Tunes from Czech and Slovak Caves”, which attracted the attention of lovers of the dark scene. This performance of the duo became their very first performance in general, so the visitors should not judge it strictly. Everything began with a classic witch house beats and Michael by itself stayed on stage behind the keys and other devices.
Later on Espe came to the stage and added to the electronic rhythmic experiments a slight atmospheric whispering vocals creating with the music dark mystic atmosphere. Throughout the performance the musical component was almost the same all the time without melody, without changes and if you remove vocals of a girl and add a Rap declamation, then VOKOJ could easily perform at Hip-Hop parties. One of the songs was performed with another female vocalist, however their composition sounded not really holistic, because the vocals was taken separately from the music. Actually only one song on which Espe not only perform declamation, but really sang, was different, but in general the performance of VOKOJ FEAT. ESPE did not become something special and outstanding and for sure will not become a reason to visit more witch house shows.
The Saint Paul (Germany)
Before the start of the festival I said that the performance of the German band THE SAINT PAUL would be the best on PGT. I was twice on their shows and two times it was good, so I expected the same also this time. The German project THE SAINT PAUL was formed in 2010 and the first visible results of their activities were released in 2011 on the compilation of the gothic magazine Orkus and a solo EP after that. The project was noticed by the known dark scene labels, so their full-length albums were released on Danse Macabre and Infacted Recordings. In total the discography of the Germans counts three albums in combination of Synth Pop and Future Pop genres. Also the project performed several times at leading festivals in Germany and as warm-up of the famous colleagues. Drums were prepared on the stage and the opening intro and the fading light signalized the beginning of THE SAINT PAUL’s performance. Key rhythms, powerful beats with live percussion parts and clean vocals at first sounded very cool and harmonious. At first I stood in front of the stage and did not hear melodies, but only beats, drums and vocals with rare mechanical sounds.
However, after coming to the centre of the dancefloor I felt melody and everything around. Apparently it was feature of the club, which I didn’t notice on the previous events here. The first 2-3 songs sounded very good. The vocalist sang with clean vocals with powerful beats and dance tunes, but then he went into screaming and was kind of huge disadvantage of the show. The rest of the performance passed with a combination of pure melodic vocals and shouting/ screaming into the microphone. This fact downgraded the show and the impression of performance was a bit ruined because of the screaming. I hope that this was a one-time issue and will not become a tradition in future performances. Musically the project professionally balanced between the melancholic Synth Pop, danceable Future Pop and modern mechanical EBM sounds. The performance turned to be a little disappointing because of the unusual vocals, but it still became one of the best on the PGT 2018.
Das Ich (Germany)
Last time I saw the show of these popular Germans in 2006 in Israel. Since then the project has released only one album, an expanded single and a compilation. After that DAS ICH went to a long sleep mode both in the studio work and in the concert segment. To represent one of the most famous projects in the genre of Gothic industrial is meaningless. DAS ICH performed at the first WGT festival in 1992, released a lot of hits that still sound on the Gothic dance floors all over the world, Bruno Kramm and Stefan Ackermann also performed in other projects, not to mention the fact that Bruno is the leader of the well-known gothic label Danse Macabre. After a long break the trio returned to perform and it was clear that the musicians missed the energy on the gigs. Bizarre Germans placed moving keyboards, so they had no problem in running around the stage and getting the audience crazy and worming.
Stefan as usual was topless and red painted and was communicating with the audience with his theatrical grimaces and facial expressions, Bruno was commenting and talking about the music and warming up the crowd every time between the tracks. The project, as expected, performed its main hits, leaving the two main compositions ‘Gott Ist Tod’ and ‘Destillat’ for the end after the audience’s ovations. But yet their performance was pretty dry. There was no drive and energy that can cause the wish to dance. Something was missing and it was noticeable, even though the public perceived them perfectly. At the end of the show Bruno thanked the visitors and organizers and said that together we would keep gothic scene alive. Their desire to develop and increase the scene is great, but the performance of DAS ICH still passed by me in emotional sense as in the previous two times, when I saw them.
After performances by tradition the evening continued with DJ sets from DJs of Sanctuary.cz on a large electronic stage and on a small gothic dancefloor. More cyber-looking Goths were detected on the second day of the festival. They were dancing on the DAS ICH show and on the electronic dancefloor on the DJ sets. As always people on the street in front of the club were talking and discussing the past shows and expressing their expectations about the last day. The second day lasted till the late night, but until the morning I did not stay. After the performance of DAS ICH I could only regret that the originally included Germans WELLE: ERDBALL cancelled the show. Their concert would be more interesting than their colleagues on stage. Despite that the second day of the festival was also successful.
Sunday, 26th August 2018
The last day of PGT was only Czech in sense of performing bands. And it supposed to be shorter than the two previous days. No early events were planned, so the visitors came to the club exactly to the doors’ opening. However the doors were opened a little bit later than scheduled. The audience was different, than that on the previous days, because of the performance of the super-known in the Czech Republic XIII. STOLETÍ. New people came and not always from the gothic scene, but also rockers and metal-lovers. At first sight it seemed that the club would not be totally full as I predicted before the festival, but over time and just before the performance of the Czech grandees the dancefloor before the stage was completely full and with every passing minute it was harder to move through the crowd. And then the music began to play and the first group appeared on the stage...
Phosgene Girls (Czech Republic)
The Czech band PHOSGENE GIRLS was formed in the middle of the 00s in the small town Přelouč. The first released were out as a demo in 2008 and in 2012 a debut and at the moment the only full-length album was released. Over the years PHOSGENE GIRLS have performed at local events in Czech Republic. I was present on one of the concerts, where the project made a very positive impression. At the certain point of their musical activities PHOSGENE GIRLS paused the career and returned only now. Previously the project sounded in the style of Gothic Rock with elements of Darkwave and electronic music with clear old-school influences, but not copying the famous popular projects.
Now the musicians are working on the new material with the help John Fryer, who previously worked with NINE INCH NAILS, DEPECHE MODE, DIE KRUPPS, COCTEAU TWINS and other giants of the dark music acts and alternative scene, so it is interesting to hear, what PHOSGENE GIRLS are preparing on a new album with such a famous “helper”. Part of the new material Czechs prepared also for the show. Two guitarists, the vocalist-keyboardist and the female vocalist immediately surprised by the high-quality sound and excellent female vocals. There is no live drummer in the group, so drums were replaced by a drum-machine, which was actually an advantage, because two guitarist players with metal background (behaviour and appearance) were enough.
Music of the PHOSGENE GIRLS show reminded me in certain moments the show of their German colleagues AEON SABLE. A very specific mixture of Gothic Rock, Darkwave and Metal with occult background and dark mysterious atmosphere. The vocalist switched to half-growling vocals from time to time, which although was perfectly harmonized with the gothic part of the music. Some tracks in comparison to AEON SABLE were more electronic with clear sound of post-industrial elements and Coldwave. PHOSGENE GIRLS became a nice surprise for the all the audience and for me also although I saw them once. It will be interesting to listen to their new material in studio version. This band became the main unexpected (not by me) surprise of PGT.
XIII. Století (Czech Republic)
Live shows of the 13th festival of Prague Gothic Treffen were symbolically concluded by legends of the Czech Gothic Rock XIII. STOLETÍ. The oldest Czech gothic band was formed in 1990. Its members used to play Punk Rock with another band, but the new formation was inspired by the Post-Punk legends such as BAUHAUS, SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES and JOY DIVISION. The debut album was released in 1992 and the full discography XIII. STOLETÍ counts more than ten full-length albums, several compilations and live recordings as well. Also the Czechs performed several times in other countries of the world and at the main Gothic festivals in Europe. In the Czech Republic they went far beyond the gothic scene becoming interesting for fans of Rock and Metal and only Goths. I have already been to their performances more than once, so I expected them to have a good show now not in the big club and not in front of their regular audience.
Silently the drummer appeared on stage behind the drums, the guitarist ran after him, the only girl in the group suddenly was near the keyboards and the vocalist and frontman Petr Štěpán caused a loud ovation of the audience by his appearance. At previous concerts XIII. STOLETÍ which I attended the playlist did not change a lot. The beginning did not change much this time also, although there were several changes. Their Gothic Rock is not as classic as their old-school colleagues in the world and Europe. At this concert XIII. STOLETÍ sounded like a mixture of Gothic Rock and Dark Rock with brightly sounding keyboards. But it’s all details. The concert was very good with excellent sound, full energy from the musicians and performance of all of their main hits. The well-known songs were performed also by the audience.
It’s always nice to watch the musicians communicating on stage, and the members of XIII. STOLETÍ reacted to each other’s actions, replied and communicated with each other in other ways and were enjoying each other’s play. Powerful energy, communication with the public, Czech language in Gothic Rock and recognizable melodies made a live show of XIII. STOLETÍ the best on PGT 2018. As it should be and no other option was possible. The numbers rule. After the first encore the audience had an unclosed issue: the band didn’t play their main song ‘Elizabeth’. The lights were already turned on and background after show music started to play. Apparently this issue was not closed also by the band, because the light was off again, the background music was stopped and XIII. STOLETÍ completed their playlist with one of the biggest hits. Great ending of the show and great finale of the festival.
The 13th Prague Gothic Treffen has come to an end. It was one of the largest in its history. The festival included almost all the aspects of the well-planned event: international scene giants (DAS ICH), an exotic project from far-away country (ARIEL MANIKI AND THE BLACK HALOS), local small not known bands, which are always interesting to watch (at least for me) and the powerful show of the main headliners. After the concert of the last Czech band the event continued on the small dancefloor with DJs of Sanctuary.cz and hits of gothic and electronic music. It’s pity that at 2 at night the party was finished. This was the only disadvantage of the whole festival. Many thanks to the organizers, performing bands, DJs and visitors who came from different countries all over the world. I hope that in the future the festival will grow further and become the East European little brother of WGT not by the amount of the bands, but on the quality and the structure of the festival, which is quite possible. See you around in the gothic space. Listen to music!
Pictures by Count_Death