LA is the birthplace of many great cultural movements, and we all know that the arts, fashion, and general fabulousness of Los Angeles are stunning. So it shouldn’t surprise us that Goth culture- which you may think of as the group of depressed kids in your high school wearing t-shirts from Hot Topic- is taken to a whole other level in the Los Angeles scene.
Los Angeles is arguably the birthplace of Goth culture, and it continues to thrive and evolve in the clubs, on the streets, and in exclusive parties.
The Birth of Goth Culture
Late in the 1970s, the general decadence of the disco era was winding down and young people were leaving glittery aesthetics behind to explore anti-establishment, dark, and counterculture expressions.
Punk rock offered one way to do this, but that scene, with its aggression and disdain for fashion, didn’t work for everyone.
As the 1980s dawned, dark forms of expression in fashion and music began showing up in Los Angeles, particularly in the form of a style called “Death rock,” “New romantic” or “Gothic rock.”
These types of music, and the bands that performed them and the fans that went to the shows in early 1980s LA promoted a moody aesthetic and a sinister, theatrical, over-the-top vibe that was expressed in what some call “menacing glamour.”
The early Goth aesthetic included black clothing, dramatic makeup, and fashion that referenced both classic horror imagery and religious iconography.
The debate continues about whether it was kids in London or in Los Angeles who were the first to embrace this look and outlook, but the truth is that Goth culture developed nearly simultaneously in both cities.
Spreading the Dark Angel Scene
Offering an alternative to the “beach-babe” and “surfer dude” stereotype of Los Angeles, the Goth scene of the 1980s flourished with the performances of bands like 45 Grave and Christian Death. The early marketing and promotion of these bands and others is usually credited to the “Godfather” of Goth, Joseph Brooks.
Brooks, a Los Angeles DJ and nightlife legend went to some Goth clubs in Britain, saw Siouxsie Sioux and immediately returned to LA determined to grow the goth culture in California.
With a partner, Brooks opened two nightspots: Veil, and Fetish. Veil and Fetish both became vortexes for goth fanciers. After the success of Veil, Brooks and Peck opened a record store, Vinyl Fetish on Melrose Avenue: another sport that became a hub for vampy, gloomy, glam goths.
Today’s Goth Scene in LA
The Goth movement, under Brook’s guidance, fit seamlessly with the avant-garde sexualities already in play in Los Angeles. As the name “Fetish” suggests, goth clubs and parties were welcoming spaces for gendered play and poly-sexual displays, including gay, queer and trans looks. Makeup, butch-wear, fetish-wear, latex, leather, dangerously high heels, and other fashion elements are still worn today by anyone who wants to.
Much of the contemporary goth scene in LA is a mix of the type of dark style of tattoo artists like Kat Von D (also famous for her celebrated makeup line) and the memento mori theatricality of Latino culture. Indeed, one club, Lash Social (117 Winston St. Los Angeles/Downtown), has regular “Cholo Goth nights DJ’d by Dave Parley.
The goth scene in Los Angeles gets bigger and more vibrant every year. Along with the addition of Latino Day of the Dead Catholic/macabre sensibilities, observers have noted the rise in interest in witchcraft by hipsters, the rising popularity of horror films, and the dark turn in fantasy and science fiction, as funnels into Goth Subculture.
Heck, there’s even Bats Day in the Fun Park: an annual goth gathering at Disneyland.
Want to check out the goth scene today in Los Angeles? Here are some other clubs to check out:
Batcave Nightclub at the Medusa Lounge- 3211 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles/Westlake
Industrial goth/fetish atmosphere and music in a welcoming environment (as one Yelp reviewer says, “Halloween every day minus the goth fetish snob attitudes that some other places have”).
Das Bunker – 4067 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles/Arlington Heights
Industrial goth in a higher-end setting, multiple dance rooms in a “cyberpunk metropolis.” Elaborate (pricey) dark cocktails and elevated dance stages with stripper poles for exhibitionist patrons.
Bar Sinister – 1652 N. Cherokee Ave, Hollywood
This is the “goth club grandaddy of them all.” Industrial goth mixed with bondage and discipline aesthetic. Doubles as club and shop for goth, and BDSM clothing and accessories. This club does have a dress code, and visitors should check the website to make sure they will pass.