Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival. Whitby. 28th & 29th April.

Everyone’s heard of the  Whitby Goth Weekend that takes place every October but ‘The Spring Gathering’ hasn’t taken place for a few years. Bringing an even bigger influx of tourists, goths, punks and every other conceivable alternative style imagineable, together with a sizeable number of photographers into this already hugely popular seaside town provides not only a visual feast but also (hopefully) a much needed boost to the coffers of small businesses, many of whom have changed window displays and offer an unlimited choice of alternative clothing. Walking the streets you notice immediately the buzz about town. The pubs are full, cafes and chip shops doing great trade. The atmosphere is welcoming and the effort a huge number of people have gone to to dress the part is astonishing. It’s not hard to imagine that for some of those here a walk along the street will have taken hours judging by the number of times they were stopped for impromptu photo shoots. But whilst there’s a huge number of people who clearly dress for the weekend and then, probably, put their outfits away until next year it’s important to remember that for many here an alternative lifestyle is exactly that. A specific outlook on life, a refusal to conform to expected codes of dress or points of view and an avoidance of the sickly mainstream pop that’s pumped out of radios nowadays. Without these people the goth weekends would be just one big fancy dress party. Without these people the bands and the music that have drawn us here would probably not exist.

Eight bands over two nights in Whitby Pavillion. Saturday provides the big draw for most in New Model Army, weekend and Saturday only tickets sold out a while ago but Friday can’t be far off being full judging by the number present.

Siberia open Friday night with a superb set of what might be described as melancholic goth/post punk. Songs full of atmosphere that seem to build and build until they soar. It’s not hard, pummelling goth rock but 40 minutes of post punk atmospheric sounds. Nice to see that for the weekends opening act there’s a decent number in who are clearly big fans and by the time they finish there’s no doubt a bigger number of new fans.

The Rose Of Avalanche, formed in Leeds in 1984 and quickly became favourites not only of those in the burgeoning alternative rock/goth scene Leeds was so well known for but also of legendary DJ John Peel. Following three critically acclaimed albums they split in 1992. 27 years later they were back. Despite often being labelled under the ‘goth’ headline Rose Of Avalanche draw influences and sounds from much more eclectic sources. There’s hints of Lou Reed, The Doors and Bowie. Songs such as Don’t fly Too High and Too Many Castles In The Sky bring the raw, guitar sleaze of Iggy. Goddess is full on in your face garage rock n roll. There’s also a real treat for long term term fans when Stick In The Works is played for the first time in 35 years. L A Rain brings the slow drawl of Lou Reed over a background of superb guitar work. Finishing with a brilliant cover of The Sisters Of Mercy’s ‘Alice’ Rose Of Avalanche have packed the Pavillion out and go down a storm. Little wonder that their return to the live scene was welcomed with open arms.

Despite existing in one form or another for well over 40 years Christian Death still have that unique ability to make an audience stand, mouths almost open with facial expressions that simply say “What the hell is this going to be like?” Christian Death sound quite simply like Christian Death with their version of death rock, goth rock or whatever label people stick on it. New Album ‘Evil Becomes Rule’ dominates their set. Opening with The Alpha and The Omega, silhouetted behind a huge mesh screen depicting hellish visions Christian Death bring an hour of darkness that’s in complete contrast to the sounds heard so far tonight. Whether it’s the ominous sounds of New Messiah or the almost uplifting yet still deeply menacing drive of Beautiful after 40 years it’s clear that Christian Death have lost none of their ability to deliver both music/songs and a live show that push boundaries and leave an audience wondering what they’ve just witnessed.

Cold Cave are worthy headliners closing Friday night with a sublime mix of songs with tempos that lighten the mood and bring superbly danceable beats to a crowd that absolutely laps it up. In the past they’ve produced some distinctly dark, industrial noise that’s not been easily accessible (have a listen to 2014’s Cremations album) but tonight they stick to some real crowd pleasers.

‘Love Comes Close’ has New Order written all over it whilst A Little Death To Laugh could have come from the vaults of very early Depeche Mode or Soft Cell.  Vocals on The Great Pan Is Dead could be straight from Robert Smith. Being influenced by some of the biggest names in electronic dance music is no bad thing so long as you’re not ripping it off. Cold Cave manage to absorb these influences and make them their own. Together with the haunting, often anguished vocals of Wesley Eisold they deliver a set of flawless dance grooves that has the crowd bouncing throughout their set.

Saturday sees Whitby absolutely packed out. With even more costumes, more staring, more posing it’s great to spend the afternoon wandering the streets snapping photos and chilling out with wine and beer.

But we’re here for the music and as soon as we enter the Pavilion the atmosphere is notably different to last night. The place is almost full even before the first band walks on stage, the talk seems louder and the buzz more pronounced. Headliners New Model Army always bring a sense of anticipation to wherever they play and with it a dedicated following of hardcore fans.

Openers The Nosferatu are your archetypal goths. Black crimped hair, back-combed hair, coloured contacts and a sound that takes you right back to the early 80’s and the emergence of Sisters Of Mercy and, later, The Mission. “Dark, vampiric, gothic rock delivered with panache and style” it certainly is. Deep, dark vocals backed by a huge soundscape of guitar driven ethereal beats. The Nosferatu wear their ‘goth’ label with pride. They’ve been doing it for over 30 years and there seems little reason for them to stop now.

Word is spreading about Ist Ist. And rightly so. Latest album Protagonists retains the dark, bass driven sounds of their first two but shows them developing even more of a unique style and a move away from the obvious Joy Division references. Tonight is the final night of their Protagonists tour, a tour which kicked off with a triumphant show at Manchester’s The Ritz. At the time I thought it would be the best gig I saw in 2023 but tonight in Whitby Ist Ist surpass even that. There’s a noticeable core of dedicated followers at the front but what Ist Ist did tonight was win over a huge number of new fans with a set that was perfect from start to finish. ‘Stamp It Out’ roars with it’s massive bassline. ‘Silence’ and ‘Jennifers Lips’ keep up the tempo whilst the brooding sounds of ‘Fat Cats Drown In Milk’ and ‘Watching You Watching Me’ show a more ominous side to Ist ist’s sound. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the dark, heavy, slow beat of ‘A New Love Song’ and ‘Fools Paradise’ or the foot-tapping, singalong drive of ‘Black’, ‘Extreme Greed’ and ‘Emily’ every person in the capacity crowd is completely focused on the stage. ‘You’re Mine’ is simply huge. Ist Ist don’t just deliver songs they create one of those atmospheres where everything just gels together. Tonight saw a band in perfect harmony, a band clearly relishing every moment on stage and a crowd that appreciated every second of their one hour performance. Add in perfect sound and lights a million miles away from the blanket red or blue usually seen when they play smaller venues and it’s hard to imagine you’ll witness an Ist Ist show better than the one seen tonight. Superb.

Lebanon Hanover are duo William Maybelline and Larissa Iceglass. Hypnotic, minimal darkwave sounds that lull you into a dreamscape of false securities. There’s occasional layers of fuzzy guitar but everything is built around the deep electronic basslines and synths. Maybelline and Iceglass aren’t just cool. They’re cold. No emotions shown even when Maybelline lets himself go into spasming dancemoves. Lebanon Hanover are the polar opposite of Ist Ist and New Model Army in terms of sound yet somehow they fit perfectly into tonight’s line-up.

New Model Army never disappoint, and tonight is no exception.  Their fans have travelled, the buzz is building throughout the 20 minutes before they come on. People are dancing and singing to the DJ’s songs, groups are gathering, friends meeting for a good time. There’s a huge roar as they walk on stage and launch into ‘Frightened’. This is a gathering of like-minded people many of whom have followed the band for over 40 years. It’s a career spanning set but songs written decades ago are just as relevant nowadays. ‘Here Comes The War’, ‘The Hunt’, ‘Born Feral’. Regardless of their focus it seems irrelevant whether they were written thirty years ago or just seven or eight because they still ring so true now, in 2023, when things should have moved on, when things should be better but when, unfortunately, events show us that people, especially those in power, never learn. The lyrics, the tribal beats, the underlying aggression yet overall feeling of unity amongst their fans mean that New Model Army will always have a place in today’s messed up world of corruption, discrimination and unequal opportunities. The crowd sings, there’s people standing on the shoulders of others and for an hour and a half everyone is unified. As the lyrics to Vagabonds state “We are old, we are young, we are all in this together”.

Tomorrow’s Ghosts has delivered two days of great music from a diverse range of bands. More importantly than this the whole atmosphere is one of acceptance for who you are. Regardless of dress, gender, sexual orientation, age or race this is a safe place for everyone. Teaming up with The Sophie Lancaster Foundation emphasises the importance of acceptance. A charity committed to stamping out prejudice, hatred and intolerance everywhere the ideals of Tomorrow’s Ghosts and the Sophie Lancaster Foundation are perfectly matched.

Well organised, friendly staff, bar and food prices that don’t need a bank loan. And all set in a beautiful location on the North East Coast. We can’t wait to repeat it all again in October.

Click on the images below to open a gallery of more photos from the day.




Steve White

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