Ear Infection

Headline from last week's Wednesday edition of the Sun-Sentinel: "Suspects described as 'Gothic' outcasts." Excerpt from same article, which was written by a Washington Post writer: "Students at the Colorado school said the two gunmen, whom [sic] police say may have turned their weapons on themselves after killing as many as 25 of their schoolmates, were a constant target of derision for at least four years. 'They're basically outcasts, Gothic people,' said Peter Maher, a junior."

Full disclosure: Some ten years ago, when but a baby Infection barely in his teens, yours truly was a gothic kid. In Colorado. Who wore a trench coat. And listened to KMFDM. Outcast? Maybe, but there were a lot of other outcasts to hang out with, and in those days the scene had little to no element of violence. We didn't like jocks, sure, but neither did anyone else who wasn't one of 'em. Perhaps things have changed for the worse in this subculture -- though by listening to the 15-year-old songs played at South Florida's various goth nights, you'd never know it.

In the wake of the tragedy in Littleton, the Infection thought it would be prudent to investigate the current State of Gothdom in our parts. The Livid Kittens, a gothic rock band that's been around since the early '90s, when SoFla goth institutions like Marilyn Manson and Jack Off Jill were also conceived, threw a CD-release party at rock club Home last Saturday. The Infection headed for the bar (sans trench coat) to give a fly-on-the-wall report on the "outcasts" who attended. What follows is a time line of observations and insights into this subculture, which the aforementioned article said "ranges from benign fantasy to violent reality."

10:15 p.m.: Upon entry to Home, doorman hands out cards labeled "Vampire: The Eternal Struggle." My card says "Strike: destroy equipment." Ominous. Wondering if someone should be protecting bands' gear from amp-bashing vamps. On the lookout for trench coats, alienation, disenfranchisement. There appear to be about 15 people total in the establishment, but few so far would qualify as "goth." A band member on stage setting up equipment fits the bill -- bleached blond hair contrasted with dark facial hair, black shirt with sheer long sleeves, piercings. But he's a band member, so does that count? Elsewhere a pompadoured young man with calf-length, black-vinyl shorts looks the part somewhat, but since when are pompadours gothic? The shorts seem to be an incidental accessory. Other patrons are in jeans and T-shirts and sport decidedly nongothic tattoos. No disenfranchisement to be found.

10:40 p.m.: Sitting at the bar when Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" comes on the jukebox and further dampens the Infection's hopes of witnessing some goth alienation. Also, no sign of Livid Kittens CDs, which are purported to be the cause of this black celebration. The smattering of people here in gothesque gear seem more fashion victims than outcasts, smiling, conversing, drinking beer. Thought hits: Could be that this is too old a crowd (Home is 21 and over for men, 18 and over for women) to truly catch the outcast scene. Depeche Mode's "Shake the Disease" comes on the jukebox, and hopes rise again, albeit briefly. At the bar a big-screen TV is showing the NHL playoffs, Boston Bruins vs. Carolina Hurricanes, score is tied 2-2 in overtime. The Infection finds it curious that a hockey game is showing at a goth show. But it's possible that hockey is the one acceptable sport for goth purveyors because of the mandatory on-ice violence. Hmmm, have to ponder that one. 'Canes win the game. Out of 30 or 40 patrons who've showed up, there are perhaps two bands' worth of folks dressed in gothic gear.

11:30 p.m.: Now the big-screen is playing a Meat Loaf video -- "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." Could be gothic, but very unlikely. Bar is getting crowded and loud, patrons are getting inebriated, but symptoms of depression and "benign fantasy to violent reality" are not evident. Drinking seems to be actually brightening spirits of patrons. Minimal alienation to be found. A few girls with half-shirts reading "LIVID KITTENS LOVE SLAVE" mill about. Wonder if it's a misprint and was supposed to read "HATE SLAVE." Confused. Goth scene gathered here seems quite exuberant. Trench coat count = zero.

Midnight: Probably 70 people in Home now. Still just a fraction sporting goth gear. Still no trench coat or swastika to be found. Not even a Marilyn Manson T-shirt. Livid Kittens take the stage, sounding not-really-that-morbid. They actually kind of rock, in an aggressive, four-chord, Stooges type of way, despite the makeup and batcaver wardrobes. Front woman Paige provides the only near-goth elements, posturing and flailing about the stage while singing in an affected, slightly-morbid-but-not-really way. Audience is rocking out, screaming enthusiastically between songs.

The Infection left the scene halfway into the Kittens set, disappointed at the absolute lack of insidious gothic displays. Conclusion: The goth scene is no more volatile than any other scene that maladjusted youth latch onto. Certainly no more violent than the hardcore or straight-edge scenes that attract so many teenagers. Could it be that the media has overblown the entire issue? A sad thought for this naive and impressionable Infection, but one that seems blatantly obvious. Egad, if other media outlets recognize this, the public may actually have to address the issue of bad parenting. But that probably won't happen, not as long as we have Marilyn Manson and black fingernail polish to blame for our national tragedies.

-- Brendan Kelley

Send music news, gossip, love letters, and witty commentary to Ear Infection at P.O. Box 14128, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302. Or by e-mail: Brendan_Kelley@newtimesbpb.com.

 
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