Tomorrows Ghost Festival 2023, Whitby – Review
By Victoria Holdsworth, December 2023
You could not have asked for a more dramatic ambiance for the start of Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival in Whitby, as the latest storm rolled in making the skies blacker than hell. A thick fog was forming over the moors and rolled itself down to the roaring seafront, whilst a torrent of rain lashed everything it possibly could, including all attendees, ss they waited to watch some of the true remaining giants of Goth.
Despite the town being flooded with goths from all over the country, I was struck by the fact that Whitby Pavilion clearly didn’t look sold out. And, as local rockers, Westerna, took to the stage as the opening act, there weren’t that many people who flocked in after them, which was a little disappointing to see.
Blending electronica, with atmospheric-driven guitar lines, they were a solid opener, and the vocals from lead singer Luciferia, were reminiscent of early Siouxsie Sioux. However despite some promising tunes, they just seemed to lack that something special to make them stand out above the rest.
“Driving drum beats”
We didn’t have to wait long for Theatre of Hate to take to the stage. And whilst Kirk Brandon et al are classed as a post-punk band, their lyrics and style lend themselves very well to the ‘Goth’ scene. Kicking off the set with one of the best saxophone intros ever, is ‘Judgement Hymn’. With its wild crescendos and driving drum beats, it certainly got the crowd to actually start taking notice.
‘Original Sin’, released back in 1981 still sounds original and current – and it’s even more hypnotic live. It was quickly followed by the shanty-esque ‘Conquistador’.
We get a Spear of Destiny cover with, ‘Grapes of Wrath’ which has some thumping bass hooks from Stan Stammers and some very intricate guitar work, showing off a complexity of musical accomplishment from all on stage. The tightness with which they play and interact with each other on stage is remarkable.
‘My Own Invention’, with it’s Ska undertones, is a clever commentary on society’s morbid fascination with notorious serial killers and their atrocities, presenting a bleak criticism of fascinations with violence and the sensationalism that can come from it. It has some jagged off kilter drum beats, which set the heart racing and the crowd were loving the more uptempo offerings from the guys.
Some of the stand out tracks tonight were, ‘You Cant Stop What’s Coming’, with its dirty, raw edge guitars, and the epic masterpiece, ‘Do You Believe in the West World’. ‘Incinerator’ really showed off the commanding presence that Kirk Brandon has on stage, with perfectly timed piercing vocals, lending well to the 1981 release, ‘He Who Dares Wins’, a John Peel favourite. Ending the set on, ‘Propaganda’ was the perfect choice. The punk overtones were atonal and with a charging flurry of cascading drums and crashing guitar riffs, it ended the set with a bang.
“A great mix”
Again, the venue is not fit to burst yet, however the majority of people who have come for the festival, just want to see The Mission.
Arriving on stage to the Dam Busters theme, Wayne Hussey and crew waste no time in belting into ‘Beyond The Pale’, taken from their classic album, Children.
Through the set, The Mission played a great mix from their back catalogue, including the bouncy riffs of, ‘Hands Across the Ocean’ and ‘Met-Amor-Phosis’, with the crowd seemingly getting the most enjoyment from ’87 classic, ‘Severina’, flamboyantly waving their hands wildly to every single beat.
A highlight of the set for me was the performance on ‘Butterfly on a Wheel’, from 1990’s album, Carved in Sand. Highlighting their lyrical ability, it tells the tale of a romantic break up. The crowd listened with such an intensity, hanging on Hussey’s every word. The band wrap things up with ‘Swan Song’ and ‘Grotesque’. Both tracks are equally brimming with a dark energy that only The Mission can produce. Brooding vocals against enticing beats, showing that Hussey’s vocal talents seem to get better year upon year.
Ending the set, the crowd, who were still being held captive by the man of the hour, became visibly excited as the opening notes of ‘Deliverance’ rang out in the Pavilion. If any band had a ‘theme tune’ then this would be theirs. Hussey sings this with perfection, and the backing guitar work from Hinkler and Adams is second to none. This is one of the best songs you will ever hear live!
‘The Crystal Ocean’, with its static, driving drum beats is very Banshees and its nostalgic 80s vibe runs through each bar, getting the crowd dancing with approval, before they slow things down with another track from, Carved In Sand. ‘Belief’, provides a melancholy soundscape of brilliance, washing over the audience who are looking spellbound at this point, culminating in the classic ‘Wasteland’, taken from God’s Own Medicine.
The crowd at last is in fine form, singing every word back to the band, however the very last encore sees them go wild for ‘Tower Of Strength’. With its tribal beat crashing out, Hussey gets the crowd to sing out “you are a tower of strength”. As he takes a step back to listen to his devoted followers, almost cracking a smile.
Having seen the band a few times over the years, I can say that the pomposity of Hussey has dwindled over the decades, which has made him a much more likeable frontman, who is still the king of his very dark and gothic tower, and the band has really stood the test of time.
The second night of the festival saw things shaken up more musically, with the likes of Finnish rockers The 69 Eyes. It’s my first time seeing these guys live, and lead singer Jyrki has a sumptuous tone, however, even though they have been established since 1989, they take far too much influence from The Sisters of Mercy and end up soundinh like their tribute band, rather than a group in their own right.
Auger on the other hand have consolidated some cracking darker themes and infused them with a dark pop element. Again, I wouldn’t really consider these guys a gothic band, but they put on a solid performance and really livened up the audience, with sounds reminiscent of Joy Division, and more recently Editors.
‘Before it Began’, is a driven tune, which will make you want to move and rock out. ‘Dark Clouds’ has a deep and thundering undercurrent and swagger, but it’s a track called ‘Oxygen’ which has really pricked my interest with this band and I will definitely be adding it to my playlist. Great band, great set!
“Glorious, powerful talent”
Sadly I didn’t manage to catch the Leeds rock legends that are Salvation, who performed their EPs from 83-86, however it was another Leeds band, The March Violets who stole the entire second night show.
Whilst the band shifted their musical style to pop-oriented sound in the late 80s, this is a band everyone should see live at least once in their lives.
Rosie Garland has a glorious, powerful vocal talent, and rivals many of her contemporaries. Stepping out onto a smoke filled stage, the anticipation was increasing amongst their fans, and with a stark crank from the drum machine, and the strike of a guitar string, they pitch straight in with ‘Crow Baby’.
Transported back to my youth, when the Leeds music scene was at it’s very best, songs such as, ‘Crocodile Teeth’ and ‘Made Glorious’ are so evocative of their time, but still head and shoulders above most of the music being offered today. One of the best songs from their back catalogue is ‘Mortality’, which again sees a shift in tone and style, and has a dark punky edge, grabbing your attention, powering through their set with a thundering bass and heavy synthesised, sometimes dancing drum machine.
The stand-out tunes tonight are ‘Walk Into The Sun’, from the 85 album electric Shades, which is reminiscent of The Psychedelic Furs. Hands punched the air, dark figures shift from side to side in unison and everyone is hooked as Rosie weaves her lyrical poetic themes or life and death throughout the music, all layered and echoed through harmonic and textured riffs.
Some of their newer material fits right in with their plethora of EPs from their past, and this is showcased perfectly with ‘Heading For The Fire’, which is catchy as hell, bringing old and new fans together in their appreciation of this illustrious musical journey.
The encore included ‘Strangehead’, with its relentless snare drum holding it all together in the background, as Rosie shows of her operatic range in the chorus, before ending the night on every fans favourite, ‘Snake Dance’, which sees the biggest upsurge all weekend from the crowd.
‘Snake Dance’ was nothing short of electrifying, and Rosie’s commanding stage presence, and the energy she exuded was palpable, and it was clear that she was completely in her element.
As the final notes faded away, the crowd erupted into deafening cheers and applause as The March Violets took their final bow.
I’m not sure if I would have classed this event as a festival per se, more of a gathering with a great goth market. There were some other worthwhile events happening over the days. However, there was some confusion over separate tickets for said events, which led to some even gloomier-looking faces, when they realised the price of a full weekend ticket did not include those events.
Images: Neil Chapman