Wednesday evening marked the beginning of the 25th edition of the Castle Party festival – Eastern Europe’s biggest goth music event during which fans of dark independent music gather at a picturesque 13th-century castle.
The town of Bolków is a small community tucked away in a mountainous region of south-western Poland, clustered around the monumental castle ruins perched at the top of the hill. For a few days during each summer, this rather sleepy town undergoes a radical change as members of Poland’s goth subculture descend upon the castle to dance to the rhythms that oscillate between atmospheric gothic rock riffage and pulsating electro-industrial beats.
Those unfamiliar with the goth subculture, known to the layman mostly for the members’ affection towards eccentric fashion in which black traditionally reigns supreme, may be excused for thinking that the Castle Party festival is a string of heavy metal gigs. However, this mental picture could not be further from the truth, since the goth subculture is in fact known for an incredibly diverse set of inspirations in both music and aesthetics.
The typical Goth playlist usually ranges from guitar-driven classics from the likes of the gothic rock titans Sisters of Mercy, through ethereal electronica to intense industrial anthems laden with distorted vocals and relentless pounding beats.
This year’s festival is no different, with the headliners including the seminal Norwegian synthpop act Apoptygma Berzerk, the electronica-flavored brand of black metal championed by the Swiss band Samael as well as the surprisingly upbeat yet atmospheric medieval folk played by the German ensemble Faun, evoking the forgotten times of pagan rites under the full moon.
Despite the largely uniform color scheme and the obsession with the morbid and the macabre, the goth fashion is in fact just as diverse, with inspirations ranging from the refined elegance of the Victorian era to the neon-streaked futurism of the cybergoth style, with obvious features such as shiny black leather, spikes and wild hairstyles thrown in for good measure.
Since the usual number of fans descending upon the town each year is about the same as the entire local population of about 5,000, goth fashion absolutely rules the streets of Bolków during the event, creating an almost surreal atmosphere.
The first Castle Party festival took place in 1994 at the Grodziec castle, with 1997 marking the permanent change of location to the larger community of Bolków due to the event’s growing popularity. While the original festival was a small gathering of about 300 fans, the modern-day Castle Party attracts thousands of gothic music aficionados from both Poland and many other countries in the region and beyond.
The 2018 Castle Party festival runs from Thursday until Sunday and features more than 40 bands representing different branches of the world’s dark independent music scene.