If you were unaware of the biggest and longest running dark culture music festival in the world, Wave Gotik Treffen, we are here to keep you up to speed. 

WGT (as it's commonly referred to by returning guests) is an annual 4 day festival of goth, industrial, and everything in between that takes place in the medieval city of Leipzig, Germany. Approximately 120 miles from Berlin, it's located east in Saxony. Ironically the gloomy gathering occurs every year during one of the holiest Christian holidays, the weekend of Pentecost

This massive alternative mega event draws more than 20,000 fans from every corner of the planet (including California) mostly dressed from head to toe in black. Some regular attendees proudly display their intricately designed cloth durable wristbands from previous editions. 

It first had it's origins in the late 80s as an illegal gathering of like minded alternative youth before the GDR collapse. Just in case you were wondering, treffen means “meeting” in German. After surviving some turbulent times, the world famous "gothic meeting" became what most know of it today.  

Somewhere around 200 plus international live acts and DJs officially perform and spin parties (starting with the Thursday pre festival events and concluding on Monday eve until past dawn). 

There are also a hand full of unofficial gatherings which can host notable talent. This year Los Angeles and California dark artists were well represented starting with DJ Dave Bats (Release The Bats) spinning at the yearly When We Were Young goth and deathrock party. For 25 years RTB has been an institution for goth and deathrock institution for Southern California even drawing in tourists to it's now semi-retired home in Long Beach. You can still catch a live stream or occasional special event.  

On the other side of town Los Angeles' Industrial Techno producer and DJ Cervello Elettronico (HANDS / LA Industrial), was part of the yearly noise takeover of Moritzbastei, a popular medieval maze-like student run venue that is the only remaining ancient town fortification of Leipzig and famous for their pasta. Every year WGT Noise Floors hosts some of the harshest established electronic industrial artists and DJs in the world. They never disappoint and usually set up a complimentary visual art display. 

Photo by Ives Zander

Cold Cave, one of LA's most notable dark electronic acts, not only supported Depeche Mode on Friday in Leipzig's arena, but also debuted Wave Gotik Treffen after Front 242 at the Agra, the largest venue of the weekend. Wesley Eisold's solo act has been one of the most successful California darkwave projects in the last few decades and certainly deserved an after "midnight special" time slot at the world's gothiest stage.

2023 was also a breakthrough year for Anna Schmidt and Kevin Czarnik who maintain both Milliken Chamber and Forever Grey. These two acts each helped pioneer the new dark synth and post punk resurgence in Los Angeles.  At Haus Leipzig they shared their familiar but unique sound with a room full of attendees winning a new European audience. 

Photo by Jürgen Jakob

Another artist who had their start in California is Frank the Baptist who began in the late 90s in San Diego. Frontman Frank Vollmann built a loyal following through their atmospheric music and unmistakable, powerful voice in live performances around the southwest US, Chicago and New York. This was definitely the case this year in the Taubchenthal, another mid to large scale venue away from but a reasonable tram ride from the center of town. 

Harsh Symmetry from Sacramento will be supporting Twin Tribes this fall on select dates including Cold Waves XI in Chicago. They have been performing quite often this year, but for Europe and some Americans (like myself) they have been elusive due to the influx of touring bands and post-lockdown saturated return to nightlife. Their set at Haus Leipzig included a cover(which they are infamous for) of Madonna's Open Your Heart. 

Nikolas Schreck is another musician on the official WGT lineup who got his start in LA. Schreck founded the musical magical recording and performance collective Radio Werewolf, which operated from 1984-1994, releasing seven albums. He collaborated musically with Australian percussionist John Murphy, NON, Death in June, and the British actor Christopher Lee, whose first album Schreck conceived and produced. 

Running simultaneously as Wave Gothic Treffen, another festival showcasing goth, punk, wave & minimal was taking place. Werk 2 was officially a venue of WGT at one time, but has since been reserved for Gothic Pogo. GPP has been around since 2000 and declare their party as "establishing a platform for known and unknown artists and DJ*s, supporting and bringing forward the scene". For Mutant Transmission's curation, Los Angeles' own electro post punk act Bite Marx energized the crowd right from the start. Elaborate decorations and set design complimented the animated Colin Ambulance's strut as he shouted into the dance floor and made the experience feel immersive. All the different colors were a brief refreshing break from all the bleak and dark themes of it's counterpart event.