Aside from the occasional summer afternoon tempest, sudden black sky and lashing rain and all, there’s been little in São Paulo lately to warrant feelings of dread, or provoke irrational fears of supernatural acts. And yet we can feel it: there’s something dark and brooding heading this way. They might be a little softened by the years, and possibly even mellowed, but the goths are coming – the original gothic punks, that is.
The next few months (this feature was published in 2012) see shows in São Paulo by the rock subgenre’s aristocracy: The Sisters of Mercy, The Damned and The Mission, plus arch-goth Morrissey himself, formerly of The Smiths. OK, so The Smiths were never textbook goths – they liked paisley shirts too much; but their dark lyricism belongs in the canon of all good goth record collections.
Dark past, dark future
For those unfamiliar with it, the thirty something genre is a by-product of punk: a black-clad, horror-obsessed subgenre prone to dark-themed lyrics, set to desolate soundscapes of thudding drums and warbly guitars. Dominated by UK bands since its 1980s heyday – all the bands named above are British – and later taken up by its more punk-oriented US counterparts like 45 Grave and Christian Death, the genre found aficionados worldwide, not least here in São Paulo.
SP’s goth movement dates back to the mid- to late-’80s, when clubs like the subcultural vortex, Madame Satã and Ácido Plástico catered to the ‘darks’, as goths were then called. Even the reluctant gothic icon Nick Cave joined the dark party, frequenting the old haunt Espaço Retrô during his three years of living in Vila Madalena in the early 1990s. Between then and now, goth never really went away, although it has branched out and been absorbed into other subgenres like deathrock, EBM and doom metal.
And as evidenced by the return of Madame Satã (as simply Madame), there’s still an audience in São Paulo for nights with dark music leanings. In its new incarnation, ‘Madame’, the Bela Vista club will be holding a Friday night goth-fest by the name of Bats & Robots, starting 2 March 2012; and there’s also always Pós, held on alternating Sunday nights (11, 25 March 2012) at Jardim Paulista’s DJ Club.
Old ways and a metamorphosis
DJ Tonyy Trash, founder of the popular, pop-centric Trash ’80s night currently being held at Clube Caravaggio, was a musician and a publisher of fanzines during São Paulo’s goth infancy. Some things never change, he says: goth nights are still susceptible to the bad old ways, like pushing ‘bad red wine’ at the bar; but on the bright side, ‘We have better tech quality for gigs these days,’ he says, ‘and the rest of the world no longer stigmatises Brazil as being a kind of “Sambaland”.’ For proof of that, he need only point to the parade of world-class music talent now drawn to Brazil on its world tours, and not least to the set of goth nobility about to pass through the city.
Up first, The Sisters of Mercy, brought their heavier-edged, two-guitar-and-three-laptop attack to Via Funchal on 10 March with their usual arsenal of smoke clouds obscuring singer Andrew Eldritch, while the vocal mix hid his voice. The following night, Morrissey, the king of the witty alienation lyric, performed at Espaço das Américas, with a set that highlighted the music of his long solo career and even a few songs from his days with The Smiths. Both artists have played São Paulo in years past.
Long overdue to make their first appearance here, The Damned arrive in April. One of the first UK punk bands to release a record – and which had a long flirtation with goth in the ’80s – take their shadowy punk and gloomy garage sounds to the Clash Club stage.
And then in May, the former Sisters of Mercy guitarist and (you heard it here first) sometime São Paulo resident, Wayne Hussey, brings over the rest of The Mission to play at Cine Joia. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since goth’s heyday. Some of the hair has lost its lustrous blackness, or disappeared altogether. But though most of the bands have tried to distance themselves in some way from the restrictions of the goth genre, there’s no denying it: their presence will draw the city’s dark spirits straight to them.
- The Damned play on 12 April 2012 at Clash Club, Rua Barra Funda 969, Santa Cecília, 3661 1500, clashclub.com.br, R$70-$280. Read more on Clash Club
- The Mission play on 27 May 2012 at Cine Joia, Praça Carlos Gomes 82, Sé, 3231 3705, cinejoia.tv, R$80-$120. Read more on Cine Joia
- Bats & Robots is on Friday nights at Madame, Rua Conselheiro Ramalho 873, Bela Vista, 2592 4474
- Pós is every other Sunday night (11, 25 March) at DJ Club, Alameda Franca 241, Jardim Paulista, 3419 7360, djclubbar.com.br.