Last night, for our romantic evening out, Paul and I went to the Anti-Valentine’s Day Vampire Ball.
Let me just clarify: I am so over vampires as an individual. I read all the Anne Rice books as a teenager, and I watch True Blood, but I never exactly went around in fangs while drinking red wine, even at my most melodramatic in the late 1990s. ( I do, however, maintain that real vampires don’t sparkle.) But the Vampire Ball is also a major goth culture event, and it is hosted by a lot of local DJs. Paul and I enjoy gothic industrial music played by local DJs, and I also enjoy going out places where everyone is just really dressed up. And, I will admit, there is a very nostalgic element to going to a vampire ball. It’s the sort of thing I would have done when I was in my early twenties, and it has a lot of the cultural elements that lured me into goth in the first place.
So off we went to the Vampire Ball! There were some minor hiccups along the way. The venue was changed three hours before the event, from the DJ to the Greenhouse. This worried me because the yelp reviews said that the Greenhouse was a tiny, tiny club. And when we arrived, the coat check line was ten minutes long, and the club was packed, and I did worry that more people would arrive and make it unbearable. But my husband convinced me we should stay and see how it went.
And we actually had a fantastic time! Paul and I danced together for hours, mostly to music we knew and have danced to together for years. (When Wolfsheim’s “Sparrows and the Nightingales” came on, I realized we have danced to that track countless times at Malediction Society back in LA). The DJs were hitting a lot of classic club tracks, everything from Front 242’s “Headhunter 2.0” to a B-side remix of NIN’s “Sin”. This is really what going out to the clubs is about for us. It’s about being able to dance to music we know, and we love, for hours on end. It’s about our shared love of the genre, and our love of dancing with each other. When an industrial remix of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” came on, I joyfully danced to it.
I also had a great time looking at what everyone else was wearing. Paul and I had not gone to great lengths ourselves. Paul was wearing black pants and a black shirt, although he had put in his contacts and swept back his hair, which is a look I love on him. I had pulled out a jacket I bought in Camden, in London, three years ago, which was covered in ribbon lacings and lace trim, but I hadn’t done much with my hair or makeup. But from the moment we arrived, I couldn’t take my eyes off the costumes. There were ball gowns galore, in all periods and fabrics. I complimented one girl on her black satin, sequin edged, long bustle skirt, and she told me she actually made it. I saw full on cybergoths, with dreadlocks, tubing and lights integrated into their pigtails. I saw a beautiful androgynous character in a frock coat. I saw men in everything from full three piece suits to PVC. And women everywhere had hats, wigs, feather, hairpieces…it was an amazing display.
But, this being the Vampire Ball, there were a lot of inherent clichés. These included, but were not limited to:
1) Something called the “Red Mass”, which apparently involved a lot of references to the “spirits of Gotham” and lifting of chalices of dark red wine.
2) “The Baron”, NYC’s foremost goth musician, performer and entertainer, singing his cover of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, live on stage.
3) The costume contest. Entries included Vlad the Impaler (“because it’s not a vampire ball without someone dressed as Vlad the Impaler!”), a guy with bat wings on his back that he had built to extend and close, Johanna Constantine, and a girl in a spiked bra whom I referred to as “Porcupine Tits”. It came down to Vlad vs. a girl with blue hair in a Victorian outfit. Vlad won.
4) Free absinthe shots for everyone at the bar! I will admit, I was very happily nostalgic while drinking absinthe and dancing with my husband to the Cure’s “Burn” (from the Crow soundtrack)
5) The constant musical reminders of where we were. At some point, the DJ put on the theme from True Blood. He closed his set with a remix of “Cry, Little Sister” from Lost Boys. I think the only music they didn’t hit from a major (acknowledged) vampire franchise was the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”.
6) Everyone was wearing fangs.
So that was the vampire ball, 2014, an anti-valentines with my husband, a love letter to our years haunting (GET IT) the LA goth scene. A night in a club with cliches…but cliches I know by heart.