By Michelle Corns
It was a Saturday evening and a large crowd of people are beating the January blues by wearing black. They are there to attend the Antenna goth music festival at the Old Woollen in Farsley.
For many, it’s a hint of nostalgia – a trip back to the 80s – of Saturday nights at the legendary Phono nightclub, of Thunderbird wine and the heady scent of patchouli oil.
Antenna is hosting some of Yorkshire’s finest bands from that era: Ghost Dance, Rose of Avalanche, The Danse Society and Salvation. It’s a dream line-up for the many fans who have been dying to see Ghost Dance, Salvation and Rose of Avalanche on the same billing since they reformed.
Both Rose of Avalanche and Salvation hail from Leeds and Ghost Dance are from just down the road in Bradford. The Danse Society are veritable southerners – well, further down the M1 at least – in Barnsley.
The bands were all originally formed during the post-punk early 80s, Britain was a time of high unemployment, bands were experimenting with styles and music.
Some, like Soft Cell, would go on to produce electronic, synthesized beats, whilst others, like Ghost Dance and Rose of Avalanche, became darker – borrowing from gothic horror culture, but still influenced by Bowie, Bolan, Velvet Underground and their punk roots of the 70s.
Last year, WLD featured The Parkside music studios in Armley. This studio gave many Leeds bands has space to rehearse, record and collaborate. In fact Rose of Avalanche recorded one of the famous John Peel sessions there.
After a long time apart, all the bands have launched a successful comeback – Salvation in 2007, The Danse Society in 2012, it took a little longer for Ghost Dance and Rose of Avalanche who both reformed in 2019. The re-emergence of such iconic gothic/alternative bands, has been well-received by long-time fans and new ones alike.
The full line-up at Antenna includes Sheffield band, The Black Riders Cult, the psychedelic Deathtrippers who are also from Leeds and
The West Wickhams from the stunning Isle of Sicily.
The Old Woollen is one of Leeds’ best kept secrets. The venue is spacious, with ample seating and a generous 500 capacity. There is a large standing arena for those who want to see the bands up close.
There is, however, still a really great view from the seating area The only thing that lets it down is the outside trip to the privy… albeit a very well-maintained one! Bands had the luxury of backstage facilities (note to self, beg, steal, or borrow backstage pass in future).
Salvation, fronted by Danny Mass, might fall under the umbrella of “goth” but their musical style is bouncy and energetic.
Whether playing “Thunderbird” – and I suspect most of the audience remembers drinking that rocket fuel, ” the Shining” or “Pearl Necklace,” the energy of this band remains consistent.
Their most recent album “We Gave You Diamonds” has been given fantastic reviews. It was a live album, recorded on tour with the Mission, just before the pandemic. Salvation’s penultimate track at Antenna “All and More” is a fast-paced number with a catchy chorus that will be stuck in your head for days. The song goes down a storm on Saturday night. It’s one of their best-known tracks and the crowd knew all the words, joining in, waving their arms out like a collection of goth Oliver Twists.
Finishing with a superb cover version of Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America”, Salvation certainty give us all and more.
Next on the billing are The Danse Society. The Barnsley band were originally fronted by Steve Rawlings and achieved success in the 80’s with “Heaven is waiting” and “2000 lightyears from home”.
They split in 1987 but were reformed in 2012 with a female vocalist Maethelyiah. This was actually the result of a campaign by fans on the ubiquitous Facebook – oh the power of social media.
Maethelyia has taken the band in a new direction adding her incredible vocal range (she’s a trained rained opera singer) to existing The Danse Society tracks.
The dance floor is quieter, many people have taken the opportunity to sit down, grab drinks and chat. Judging by the cheers, though, those who stay on the main floor, are enjoying the show.
Ghost Dance are next – fronted by the charismatic Anne-Marie Hurst, they were one of the most successful goth bands of the 80s. They produced many Dance floor hits including “Down to the wire” – which made it to number 66 in the UK singles charts in 1989 and “River of no return.”
This band’s recent comeback has been relished by many fans – including their own army of dedicated followers aptly nicknamed “the Spook squad.” It’s easy to see why, when you see them give such a phenomenal performance.
The band start with “I will wait,” followed by Phono favourites; “River of no return” and “When I call,” Anne-Marie, her flame-red hair swept back with the breeze from a nearby (electric) fan, is the epitome of rock goddess.
The set is also an opportunity for fans to hear the latest single “Jessamine”, which was released last autumn. There is a minor technical hiccup at the start, but it’s soon sorted. No-one minds – it all adds to the ambience and they know they will receive nothing less than an amazing performance from this band. The band launch into the well-loved “Promised Land” and, for the audience, it’s over too soon.
Headlining the event is Rose of Avalanche. Dreamland, with its extended guitar intro, is an excellent opener. Vocalist Phi Morris sing to an enraptured audience. “Don’t fly to high” and “Too Many Castles” keep the tempo going.
Their gothic rock style gives them wide appeal. They play for a solid hour, slowing down the pace with the haunting “Never Another Sunset” and the luscious “Velveteen” ending with the atmospheric “LA Rain” and “Loose.”
The crowd aren’t willing to let go just yet and the band return for an encore with “Always there” and “Search and destroy.” It was a fantastic end to an amazing event.
When darkness is this good, who needs light?