Anything for a Weird Life

In Praise of Black Celebration

As I stood in the block-long line to get in to the Ottobar, I pondered my wardrobe choices for Black Celebration yet again.

Polling conducted beforehand had suggested black” overwhelmingly (duh), with one sage Goth pointing out that white could be a choice. Wear ska clothes” was the advice of another friend. Fortune does favor the bold, after all. After selecting every black item of clothing I had, barring one piece of flair, I suited up and headed out.

Still, I was anxious. Sure, there has been an alliance between the punk and Goth communities for many years. In my earliest high school days in the underground, the scarcity of participants created fluidity and a robust subcultural exchange. You would trade mixtapes, make note of band names written on backpacks, go back and forth in conversation about the merits of the newest Wax Trax release or the latest Pixies video. It kept the cafeteria table lively, that’s for sure.

My hope was to dress from place of respect for the culture without drawing too much attention to myself. Cultural spaces created should feel safe for those who dwell in them. I am outside of 2024 Goth by a large margin. I meant no harm, I just wanted to hang out and listen and vibe, but there was a degree of tourism” involved.

I soon found out my fears were unfounded, my own war inside my head being the issue. Everyone there understood the assignment, sure, but the space and dancefloor were open and welcoming. It also became clear that this was going to be a busy night, the upstairs of the Ottobar filling up rapidly with all sorts of creatures of the night.

This was, after all, a special occasion. Black Celebration had started a year ago, making it happen month to month in a crowded field. On the Friday night in question, for example, there were several other dance parties I was aware of happening around town, not to mention a packed Emo Nite” leading sing-alongs downstairs. But folks were ready and able to make it out, a sign that the dedicated hard work of getting an event like this off the ground is very much paying off.

There is strength in diversity, and that was often missing in the past in the underground I roamed around. In my many conversations with younger folks for the book that will bear the name of this column, they speak of wanting to create events that are open to many people, things that are not intimidating in terms of getting involved. This is often based following their initial experience of the gatekeeping that many of my generation fostered consciously and unconsciously. Sure, if someone rolled up that evening and challenged me to name five Siouxsie records or whatever, I could have handled that. But it was clear that this was not the vibe. The point was to find a place to be together and be comfortable, not to shut others out of that space.

So, congratulations to Black Celebration on their first year! The new ways forward in the underground deserve all the championing and support us scene elders” can muster. I welcome them as they welcomed me and wish them continued and deserved success pushing past the old barriers to creating community in the underground.

Tim Kabara

IG: @kim_tabara

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