New gothic quarterly night, Emblem, begins in Hamilton

Ryan Clark (A.K.A. Batty Von Bats) / Brendan Albert


Renowned Toronto-based Dark/Alternative DJs Mistress McCutchan and Batty Von Bats held the first night of their new quarterly goth event series. The event was held in Hamilton at The Baltimore House with Toronto goth-rockers, Amy’s Arms and belly dancing by Hamilton’s Raqs Mahasti.

The night went extremely well as both DJs’ sets focused on the origins of dark music in post-punk and goth rock, with added industrial sounds. This is unlike other alternative clubs who tend to focus on electronic and EDM.

Ryan Clark (A.K.A. Batty Von Bats) says that there is a kind of “beautiful dark revival happening” right now in music; the indie bands people are familiar with are heavily inspired by the post-punk and goth-rock bands of yore. One of the central goals of Emblem is to shine a light on new dark-music and bridge the gap with the past.

“You can’t listen to The National and not hear the influence of Peter Murphy,” said Clark, noting that similar influences can be found in bands like She Wants Revenge.

I was able to speak with both Clark and Laura McCutchan (A.K.A. Mistress McCutchan) to find out how the event started and what they hoped to accomplish with it. “The idea behind this event is to introduce people to the darker side of independent music.

“We’re not here to be super Goth; we’re not trying to be super elitist,” said Clark.

“I just wanna have fun,” added McCutchan. “I just like sad music.”

“Ryan and I wanted to DJ together and he’s been a real cheerleader for Hamilton,” said McCutchan on how Emblem came about. “He’s been saying how this has been a really good venue and how the crowd here has been really wonderful, so we decided to do a quarterly party.”

They both stressed that they wanted to bring some extra performance art elements to their events, as well. For McCutchan, including a dance act was an obvious choice due to her history in alternative belly dancing.

Clark said that they hope that the event will be, “introducing people to new music that they may not have heard. It’s deep cuts, it’s retro, it’s live music, it’s other types of performance art to go with it — it’s beyond the ‘let’s all get together and mope’.”

“Eshe [Yildiz] is the woman behind Raqs Mahasti, and she’s based here in Hamilton. I’ve worked with her once before, so I’m really glad that I could invite her,” McCutchan explains. Yildiz said that she was very excited to invite the group to be a part of the event and to see them step even further outside of their past work in fusion belly dancing. Into the “Goth-Realm” as she described it.

Their dancing was utterly fantastic and seeing them perform to The Cure was beautiful beyond words. They made the music their own and stole the room, earning big grins of approval from the crowd.

McCutchan says that Emblem is for “people [who] are interested in a darker style of music, and they’re interested and inspired by older stuff like Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Christian Death, Siouxsie and the Banshees.” She says “I always love DJs who surprise me.”

Clark wants to see Emblem become “sustainable.” He continued, “I want people to feel like there’s a place where they belong and that if they create something, there will be a place where they can be heard, and they can be seen. I want people to feel safe, I want people to feel empowered, I want people to be brave enough to share their creativity.”

I was also able to chat with Karen O’Keeffe and Justin Minister, the vocalist and guitarist  from Amy’s Arms. The band was formed in February 2006 with O’Keeffe and another musician as a duo. The band sounds melancholic, and would probably best be categorized as post-punk or goth-rock although they draw influences from everywhere.

The often morose lyrics are in keeping with their being named “Amy’s Arms” after a poem written by O’Keeffe between three subway stops in Toronto in 2004 about a woman whom “all bad things have happened to — She’s buried her children and her husband was lost at sea … she’s like a ghost” according to O’Keeffe.

The instrumental portions of their songs are all composed by Minister, and all of the lyrics are written by O’Keeffe. When asked if they felt as though they were a part of a movement O’Keeffe explains that “we’re not trying to be a part of a movement, but we definitely pay homage and total respect to people who paved the way.”


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