Aging Goths seek out fresh blood

June 21, 2002

Toronto Star, [06/21/2002]


Subculture hopes Saturday festival will spark rejuvenation

Goth culture, with its fascination for the “other side,” often flirts with the idea of immortality.

Yet Toronto’s Goth community is facing a slow death as older members of this subculture trade in their leather corsets and PVC pants for jobs, marriage, mortgages and kids.

In order to bring in fresh blood, metaphorically speaking of course, three members of Toronto’s Goth community decided to put together reJUVenator, a two-part festival running tomorrow at the Kathedral and the Reverb, both on Queen St. W.

While most of the daytime activities are all ages, including Kid’s Spooky Corner, where face-painting and activity books will be available for the young ones, and a writer’s corner and a fashion show, the Goth Gala at night, featuring 12 DJs and three live bands, will be restricted to those above 16 years of age after midnight.

“The Goth community has been going somewhat downhill in Toronto and other cities,” says Dem, short for Dementia, one of the three Goths behind the event. “So we thought of reJUVEnator. We wanted to have something where the younger people meet the older people and just get involved.”

Dem, who wouldn’t give her last name, runs one of Toronto’s popular Goth websites,

Co-chair Sinn, a transgender Goth who wouldn’t give his last name, drew inspiration from the Pride Day festivities for a day to celebrate Goth culture.

“Once Goth clubs such as the Sanctuary and the Anarchist’s Cocktail shut down, things were getting a bit slow,” he laughs. “Some of the older members are settling down – not selling out so much, but they’re just toning things down a little. And the Goth community is pretty individualistic. So we thought we would just bring people out of their little corner and celebrate an event as a community.”

Goth culture has often been described as a sub-classification of punk culture, which later evolved into its own subculture.

Goths are thought to commonly dress in black clothing, wear pale makeup and sport body piercings. A fascination with Medieval, Victorian and Edwardian history and a strong tendency for depression are other supposed Goth characteristics.

However, different people have different definitions of what’s Goth, says Sinn.

“The whole idea behind being a Goth is that you’re unique,” he says. “You can’t pigeonhole Goths, which is why Goths are some of the most creative people around.”

Both Dem and Sinn call themselves older Goths, giving their ages as around 30.

“We are pretty vain, you know,” laughs Sinn. “Some of our elders are as old as 60, while the underagers could be anywhere from 16 to 17.”

But while Sinn adopted the Goth lifestyle only three years ago, Dem has been around this scene since she was in high school.

“It’s just something I felt comfortable with,” she says. “There are so many aspects that I liked. The beauty of the dark side, the music and the literature and the club scene.”

Goth clubs are an integral component of the lifestyle and played an important role in the history of Toronto’s Goth culture, Dem explains.

“Some people would say that the Goth culture grew out of England’s punk culture in the late ’70s,” she says. “In Toronto, I would say the Goth culture started in the ’80s – that’s when you had many clubs.

None of them are around now. One of the classics was Sanctuary Vampire Sex Bar (located at 732 Queen St. W.), which everyone knew about. There were a variety of events that would happen … seven days a week.”

While new Goth clubs have opened since, Dem says it’s not quite the same thing.

Fulfilling his promise to build another club, Sanctuary’s owner, Andrew “Lance” Lee, is now running The Vatikan. Another Goth club called Savage Garden recently celebrated its eighth anniversary, making it the longest running Goth club around.

Heather Leson, a corporate Goth – i.e. Goths who works in corporate firms – calls it the evolution of the Goth community.

“There have been a number of club closures since the Sanctuary but many other clubs are still around and they are full,” the 31-year-old Leson says.

“There’s no death of the community. It’s just changing, it’s evolving. There are so many different genres of Goth music, for example. There’s industrial music, cyber Goth, ethereal music, traditional Goth and EBM – electric body movement music. It’s very diverse.”

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