Near Dark Fest flyer

Attention Bay Area: one of the most diverse festival lineups in the typically white male dominated world of punk rock is coming to Oakland this weekend for Near Dark Fest. Three events will span two days, Saturday, August 4 at The Golden Bull and Sunday, August 5 at Eli's Mile High Club as bands from all over the world make their local debut.

Headlining the festival are two old school heavyweights from the early days of goth as music genre. On Saturday at the Golden Bull, Rikk Agnew (Christian Death, the Adolescents) takes top billing, with Omega Tribe, the newly reunited '80s peace-punk band from the UK making their first ever US Tour and only Bay Area appearance to headline Sunday at Eli's.

The fest kicks off on Saturday at the Golden Bull around 7pm with DJ Dollhead, local post-punk outfit Ötzi, and a pair of darkwave bands from Mexico City. Cruz de Navajas and Espejo Convexo, will be making their way through the Bay Area by way of the Pacific Northwest, culminating their United States touring debut in the following week in San Antonio, Texas for San La Muerte Festival. Sacramento hardcore band Screature and anarcho-goth band Pawns from NYC will also be making their Oakland debut.

On Sunday, things get started in the early afternoon at Eli's Mile High Club. Five-dollar early entry gets you into a uniquely curated and community focused Near Dark Market at 3pm. Music will be provided during the market by 4Q DJ Big Bald Baby. Local vendor booths will include Inciting Incident, Hal Rotter, SOS Zine, Punx Pillows, Metal After Midnight, Crusty Couture, PM Press, Foolish Fetish and several more.

Near Dark Fest is also set up for strength through its diversity. When I first picked up the assignment, I was stoked to research what I assumed to be a heavy metal type of blistering rock and roll, mosh pits and head banging. While there will be no shortage of high-energy acts, I quickly learned from the lead organizer and Ötzi member, Gina Marie.

TBB: For whoever might read [this] and think 'Oh, dark, heavy music, [Your band] must be metal.' But you’re saying 'No, it’s not.' What is it, then?

GM: So we would say more like post-punk. We used to also have a synth, so it was closer along the lines of dark wave, but we don’t anymore. Post punk is the easiest term to describe it, it’s pretty melodic and stuff.

TBB: Gotcha.

GM: So the fest, while we are putting out there that it’s dark punk, what dark punk really includes is actually like a pretty specific genre of a mix between goth and like, anarcho-punk or death rock.

TBB: So is this part of a new scene that is coming together in the last decade or two?

GM: Well the genre has definitely been around, there’s a lot of death rock bands from the '80s, anarcho bands in the late '70s, all that goth stuff happened then, too and then there was a resurgence of those styles. The fest is basically focusin on that genre, a mix between all of those. So there’s 15 different bands playing and they all have a variation on one or more of those styles. Some are straight synth-pop, like electronic music, some are way more punk rock, all of the bands fit together really well.

TBB: Is this a first of its kind opportunity for these bands to really say 'Here we are, this is our fest, this is our scene' or is it more just about the individual shows and building the bridges up between bands and cultures and breaking down stereotypical preconceptions?

GM: There’s definitely been others, but it is mostly just shows here and there. There’s another fest that happened like four or five years ago that kind of incorporated some hardcore bands and some more post punk style, but I wasn’t living here then and I found out about it after we were doing this. Also there are some fests around that are similar, there’s one in Texas that my band played last summer called San La Muerte in San Antonio that is specifically dark punk, but it is mostly a community of shows...There’s a huge scene for this kind of music and the community is really supportive and we were like, 'We should do it here!'

TBB: Awesome! Do you find that the community is supportive inside of this specific genre, or do you find support across the music scene here in general?

GM: Well, I think that the music scene here is really cool and very, very welcoming. The second that we made that band we definitely felt supported. And we’ve played shows with different kinds of bands, you know. We were welcomed into the goth and death rock world really quickly and easily, but we also played with other punk bands and pop-punk bands before that, too.

TBB: So it’s not like you’re saying “We’re in this genre and we only want to play with bands that sound like us”, right?

GM: No, definitely no. There’s a really cool community of people here that make music and we like bands that aren’t in our genre, too. We like to play shows that are different and not all the same.

TBB: Who would you say are some of your contemporary inspirations?

GM: For the band? Like names of people you would know?

TBB: Not even people that I would know, just people making music now that inspires your next move.

GM: Right, well I mean, there’s definitely a lot of bands that we really like and so we’re really excited when we get to play with them like the Bellicose Minds from Portland, or Belgrado from Spain, Rackta from Brazil.

TBB: Do you guys play any international shows?

GM: We have been – well, actually we’re going to Europe next month and that’s our first like, big trip, but we’ve been to Mexico twice.

TBB: How did you land on splitting between two venues and three different things versus securing a park for a single-day-long, two-day-long fest?

GM: Well, both of those venues (Eli’s Mile High and the Golden Bull) are like a second home to us, my band and all our friends have a lot of shows there that we play and go to. So...it was easy to do it there because I’m familiar with the bookers at those places but also it’s really in line with the scene! They are places we really like to go to, they have good sound, etc...as far as an outdoor show in a park or something, that’d be cool but that also means permits, rentals, and a higher degree of planning and coordination and we’re already really familiar with these other spaces.

TBB: Just kind of dipping your foot into the water to start?

GM: Yeah! I book shows already, and we wanted to have an extension of that without going too crazy for the first year. Trust me, we have ideas — we tried to get some bands that we were like 'Oh my gosh, if they say yes can we afford them?' you know? So it’s cool, I think we have the perfect mix for the first year. We’re comfortable with how everything is going to lay out without going too overboard. So next year who knows! We already have some good ideas and we have an extra year to organize and more experience. When we started working pretty hard on this one in January, we realized pretty quickly it should have been something we started a few months earlier. There’s actually another festival happening the same weekend, and we’re kind of sad that they’re both happening the same days.

TBB: Is it the same kind of music?

GM:It’s called The Universe Is Lit, it’s a Black and Brown punk fest. In the same week we both put out the same dates. Theirs is a four-day fest, so we kept ours at two; we’re basically doing three shows across two days, so hopefully some people can do both and won’t have to feel like they have to choose. I mean, they will have to choose, but people can make it to both, I want to go to the other one too.

TBB: You’re not organizing this by yourself, you have help from your friend Brianne. How did you guys meet and decide it was going to be the two of you that were going to put this on?

GM: I met her last summer at the San La Muerte fest in San Antonio, she is a good friend of a mutual friend of ours from Mexico that I met when we were on tour there and we bonded really fast. She was talking about how she was moving back to Oakland and she’s also a drummer, we’re both badass so we became fast friends. So I was like, 'Awesome move back to Oakland, we’ll start a band!

I’ve been thinking about doing the fest for about a year now, so I was maybe six months into it at this point...I just asked Brianne if she wanted to help and she said yes. It’s not a grand story really, just someone I got along with really well and she knows about the bands in this genre too, so we both knew the kind of music we were going to approach having at the fest, and her band is also playing. Her band is based in Texas, but they’re coming to play the Sunday show. Her band is called Kurraka.

TBB: What do you think the future holds for your bands?

GM: The thing that we’re concentrating the most on...is that we were trying to create a really diverse lineupWe were really selective that there were people of color, queer, and women in most of the bands.

TBB: Awesome! That’s very cool.

GM: So it’s going to be really diverse and I’m super excited. I feel like punk has been [so] white men-dominated and we kind of want to hold our place. We heard that Omega Tribe was coming on their first US tour, they’re a band from the '80s that recently reunited, and so we were like 'We should try to get them!' I had been talking about doing a fest for a while, but once we landed them, it was like, 'This is happening, this is what we’re gonna do, this is the start of all of this.'

TBB: It sounds really exciting, and looking into some of the bands earlier there was definitely a lot of contrast, even though they all float around the same scene. They are definitely distinct from every other band on the lineup.

GM: We were very conscious about curating within the genre...going for diversity in not only the music, but the people and origins and everything. I was nervous that people were going to be like, 'Who are those girls putting on this thing?' but no, everyone has been really supportive and stoked on how it’s coming out. The thing I want to make sure I did – like, I’ve played fests before and I’ve definitely felt burned, and so I wanted to make sure there was clear communication between everybody up-front and every step of the way about money and expectations so that there aren’t any surprises and everyone can just come out and have fun....That’s most of it. We just want to put together a good time and promote diversity and that genre of music.

Editor's Note: This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.

Near Dark Fest Day 1: Rikk Agnew, Pawns, Cruz de Navajas, Screature, Espejo Convexo, Ötzi, DJ Dollhead
The Golden Bull
August 5, 2017
7pm, $15 (21+)

Near Dark Fest Day 2: Omega Tribe, Kurraka, Remnants, Terminal A, False Figure, Primary, 4Q DJ Big Bald Baby
Eli's Mile High Club
August 6, 2017
3pm, $15 (21+)

Near Dark Fest 2-Day Pass

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