Greg Sheaf thinks he must have run about 400 weekly nights for goth music-lovers throughout the noughties.
When the venue for the club night Dominion changed, though, he decided it was time to call it a day. A few years later, the new organisers did the same.
“I think the organisers were certainly getting older, started to feel the burn at 3 o’clock on a Saturday,” said Sheaf on a recent Saturday evening, sat with friends at a round table in the quiet brick-walled basement of Fibber Magees on Parnell Street.
“It left a big gap of, ‘Wow, what do I do with my weekends?'” said Seb Dooris, a tall guy with flicky dark hair. But after a lull of a few months, some goths banded together to set up a new night called Revolution.
Since then, there have been a wave of regular, niche nights around the city, catering to different branches of Dublin’s goth family. The most recent is Phantasmagoria, a traditional goth night — organised by Dooris, Sheaf and others at the table.
“We’re aiming for once a month. I guess I see this as an experiment, bringing people together from the scene and seeing how it works,” said Dooris.
Filling the Niches
For the most part, the crowd behind Phantasmagoria are old-timers who can remember when music had to be ordered in from the US or the UK, and fans pored over the Nightbreed catalogue and tried to imagine what each band might sound like.
“This is the second time I’ve DJed with a laptop. Before, you’d walk in with a rucksack full of burnt CDs,” said Shears, on Saturday night ahead of a second event.
The hope is that the night will help goths come together.
“On the first night, 50 percent of them were people we’d recognise, but the other 50 percent were people we’ve never seen before,” said Dooris. “They were curious.”
“They were goth curious,” says Shears.
As well as the music, Phantasmagoria will try to bring in other parts of goth culture: some black-and-white films, German expressionism, cobwebs.
“Sit around and have a drink and watch a movie,” said Paul Fitzpatrick Fitzgerald, who is also a DJ and organiser.
Zia Addei said she got involved in the Dublin goth scene after she went to a German festival and decided it was time to stop being a “mopey goth”.
“Mopey goth is a style of goth, by the way,” says Sheaf. “Like mopey goth would be the one that stands in the corner. As opposed to a perky goth.”
The taxonomy-of-goths box has been opened. When it comes to sub-sub-cultures, there’s also trad goth, cyber goth, and steampunk, he says.
“What makes them all goths? What unites them? It’s not just black!” says Sheaf, who’s wearing a white shirt and a black waistcoat. “It’s a shared love of the music,” he says.
“I would say an attraction to elements which are macabre,” says Ivan Blanco, who has long dark hair swept to one side.
Whatever it is, the scene is safe and inclusive and if you come along, you have to be respectful, says Dooris.
A Big Family
The tricky question that they’ll soon find the answer to is whether or not there are enough goths out there to support the growing number of nights.
Addei and Ivan Blanco started to run Exquisite Corpse, which offers goth rock and dark wave among other genres, in October 2015. “I think because it’s a small scene, generally nights often try to cater for a lot of different niches, and we were really missing out on what we wanted to hear,” said Addei.
Add to that Revolution which is more industrial EBM, Total War which is neo-folk — not the young people knitting sort — and Interzone, where you can hear post-punk, and you’ve got a healthy little scene for a city that some say doesn’t have much of a night life.
The friendship spreads to outside the clubs, said Sheaf, to events like the Freak Picnic on St Stephen’s Green. (Which you can go along to on Saturday 9 July.)
“If there’s a wedding on, we’re dragged into the photos,” said Sheaf. “Not necessarily to the groom’s delight.”
[CORRECTION: This article was updated on Friday 8 July at 18.40. Apologies to Paul Fitzpatrick, not Fitzgerald, for getting his name wrong.]