This Was Wave Gotik Treffen 2023
A look at how the iconic gathering celebrated its 30th edition of gothic culture, music, and fashion.
When a festival has been going for as long as Wave Gotik Treffen, it’s difficult to know how to make each year as spectacular as the last. This year’s 30th edition was as jam-packed as ever. As the festival is held throughout Leipzig, there is no single place where the festivities kicked off. Instead, many churches, concert halls, and other venues threw wide their doors to festivalgoers in elaborate Victorian-inspired steampunk costumes, leather, plaid, and much more.
Walking through the city, everything was a site to behold. The sheer variation of the festival shows how gothic culture has continued to influence subsequent generations, ranging from lovers of Victoriana celebrating one of the golden ages of gothic literature, to the Darkwave, Coldwave, and Electronic Body Music bands who spread across Europe alongside Italo Disco in the latter half of the 20th century after the initial birth of Post-Punk.
One of the most exciting things about the festival was the way it celebrated local talent and smaller music scenes. A highlight for us was seeing a stage given over on Saturday to German-specific bands. Many of these artists are acts who have yet to hit the international stage but for whom the festival is a crucial interchange to build new fans. They include acts like Steintor Herrenchor, Temmis or Edwin Rosen, who we have previously covered with our desire to focus on modern, still underground artists.
Our voyage through Leipzig’s collection of Gothic curiosities started with Synth-Religion signed Parisian duo Minuit Machine, as the Friday festivities kicked off in full force. On the following day, two favorites we saw were Italy’s Ash Code and Dutch post-punk outfit Bragolin, both representing the Darkwave niche with cold and atmospheric performances of some of their latest music. Ash Code in particular drew a spectacular crowd, performing to a sea of fans in one of Leipzig’s atmospheric indoor concert halls, which they documented on their personal Ash Code Live Diaries.
The scope of the festival meant it was hard to see a bit of everything, so we chose to focus as well on other artists who have been featured. However what’s great is not only is the gothic and alternative scene relatively compact, it is extremely diverse within this. Similarly, it is very international, with one of the highlight acts Lebanon Hanover performing on Sunday with their modern post-punk offerings. In this way, Wave Gotik Treffen really shows the best of the scene in terms of just how large and varied it is in terms of influences and music.
Indeed, where else would there be space for everything from Metal to Synthpop? One of our Monday highlights, A Place To Bury Strangers, brought their unique, guitar-heavy, alternative Punk-inspired sound to the festival. This was contrasted with Forever Grey, who played an intimate gig that saw their jangly, metallic, and bass-heavy sound fill a small, cave-like venue. Here, they really got the crowd involved with a Sisters Of Mercy-style mix of deep vocals and close-quarters audience interaction.
One of the most special things about the festival is how the mingling of scenes and subcultures allowed fans to have a more intimate experience with the artists they love, never knowing whether they may run into a favorite act. Likewise, the cornucopia of fashion, visuals, literature, art, architecture, and poetry means that many of the bands who attended the festival had no shortage of inspiration. Thus, we are excited to see what new material comes out as a result of the festival.
Overall the fact that WGT is so varied was a great thing but also means that there is so much scope to see more each year. If we could, we would have explored all the different parts. Either way, one of the best things is how the festival’s location in the relatively small and walkable city of Leipzig means it is very accessible and festival-specific transport passes and connections help fans find their way. Yet apart from this, ultimately you can make of the festival as much or as little as you wish. Its free and easy setup and immersive environment mean it is great for all kinds of music fans – and a great way of compiling your dream experience, whatever it may look like.
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Featured Image by ERAKU