Events

Tales From the Dark Side: The Arizona Goth Festival Makes Its Debut in Mesa

Arizona Goth Society's founder Ruben Garcia.
Arizona Goth Society's founder Ruben Garcia. Jonny Stalnaker
According to Bauhaus’ iconic goth anthem, “Bela Lugosi’s dead.”

Yep, that’s true. The actor who gave a legendary performance of Dracula back in the 1930s has long been deceased. Ruben Garcia Jr., however, is alive and ready to host the first-ever Arizona Goth Festival on Saturday, February 5 at The Nile in Mesa.

This gloriously gloomy celebration kicks off at 5 p.m., and it’s a day that offers goth goers plenty to do, from watching bands and DJs to perusing art and merch by numerous vendors.

The Arizona Goth Festival is hosted by Garcia’s organization, The Arizona Goth Society. Lone(ly) goths take note: This group is for you to meet and connect with goth peeps. Garcia created it in response to the pandemic.

“For as long as I can remember,” he tells Phoenix New Times, “I’ve loved the dark and macabre. Even as a child, it was the villains in Disney movies – and their aesthetics – that I was drawn to. In high school, I got into (band) The Misfits and horror punk and became a casual goth.”

A penchant for bringing people together, along with the isolation caused by COVID-19, inspired him to invite people to congregate online.

“It was October of 2020, and I was feeling isolated and alone. I missed interacting with friends about our passions. Social media was overrun with negativity and hopelessness. Facebook was my spot for quenching my social thirst but so much arguing was going on about the virus and politics, so to change it up, I used the platform to create the group as a safe digital haven for people – it was born of necessity.”

Now, two years later, a live event is what Garcia sees as a natural evolution.

Vendors will take over the Nile’s basement, according to Garcia. “They will be selling a variety of things – candles, taxidermies, soap, clothing, and original artwork. Deadpale Art, Eternal Noir, Porcelain Wick, and Shadow Path Parlour are among the businesses you’ll find below ground.

Eternal Noir Jewelry – owned and operated by Michelle Sasonov, aka Mello Jello – is one of the vendors on hand for the night. “I’ll be bringing my collection of unique sterling silver rings (sizes 4 to 14), handmade gothic chokers, earrings, inverted cross rosaries, and other goods.”

Sasonov shares Garcia’s enthusiasm about this premiere. “I’m most excited because it’s the first-ever goth music festival – that’s always special. The team of DJs involved is local, so they are part of the community, and I’m proud of them. Selling alongside friends like Copper Crescent Botanicals and Echoes of Natura with their amazing wares is another great part about this event."

“The Nile is a great choice for the venue,” she adds. “Downtown Mesa is becoming one of my favorite places to shop, enjoy art, and be a part of the local markets.”

Upstairs is all about the music, per Garcia. “We’ve got local legends, The Limit Club, who mix psychobilly, punk rock, and darkwave, as well as newcomers PyG, who do a dark-punk-metal-synth fusion.”

DJs will do the entertaining in between bands. “The main hall in the Nile will be switched from concert atmosphere to a dance hall, and we’ll have sets from a handful of local DJs – Apollynon, Mijito, Zander Buel, and Hexmachine – they are the blood of the local goth dance scene.”

Garcia assures that the music will be diverse. “Whether you’re a horror fanatic, into psychobilly, like dark-punk-metal, love to dance to darkwave, or are a pastel goth, we aim to have something for everyone to enjoy.”

A presenting organization born in the middle of a global pandemic certainly has safety at heart.

“We want this to be as safe as possible. We require proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test for entry,” says Garcia. “Every attendee is required to wear a mask covering both nose and mouth, and we’ve made it clear that anyone observed not following the rules will be asked to leave and will not get a refund,” he adds. QR codes to scan for tickets and sanitizer on every table are also part of the safety plan.

If you want to give some money to a great cause, grab some raffle tickets that could get you prizes, including two tickets to see Ghost, Volbeat, and Twin Temple in March, gift cards, or items from some local businesses.

The Goth Festival’s raffle benefits The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that has spent over two decades focusing on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ+ youth.

Garcia’s main goal with this action-packed night of goth fun is really to thread good vibes through all the attendees and participants.

“I hope this event brings people together for a night of common passions in uncertain times. With everything society has had to deal with in the past two years, it has become easy to lose faith in one another. An event like this, a gathering of outcasts and misfits celebrating things that unify us is more important than ever.”

Garcia’s throwing his whole heart into this first annual event.

“I know it’s just a little local festival, but I hope people can take away love, fun, and a feeling of being a part of something bigger. Knowing that they belong to an amazing community of unique individuals, including themselves, and that no one is ever alone."

The Arizona Goth Festival. 5 p.m. Saturday, February 5. The Nile, 105 West Main Street, in Mesa. Tickets are $20 to $25.
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Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young