AN UNCERTAIN HISTORY OF WAVE GOTIK TREFFEN
The origins of WGT are a little hazy; much seems to have been forgotten or seems to be clouded by myth and rumour. I have spent some time looking for references and information about the background of the festival the following is what I have cobbled together from various sources (Note: there maybe mistakes or inaccuracies in the text below, if you know anything about the history and have references that are credible feel free to email me with your knowledge, thank you).
The term ‘Wave Gotik Treffen’ comes from ‘Dark Wave’ and ‘Gothic’ two genres of Goth music from the late 80s early 90s and the word
‘Treffen’ that means ‘Meeting’ in German.
The festival has its roots in 1987 in Communist East Germany (the German Democratic Republic, GDR) when a group of people into darker music arranged to meet for a gathering in Potsdam (approximately 17miles south west of central Berlin) at a beautiful Romanesque building called ‘Belvedere on the Pfingstberg’.
At the time western music was heavily censored in the GDR by the state and was far too expensive to buy even if it did make it to a shop.
What we term as a ‘Goth’ today would not be appropriate for those that attended this gathering, post punkish/weirdly dressed with a
common interest in darker interests/music and a common wish to be rid of communist rule would be more appropriate. This first gathering was not advertised officially, however word did get around by word of mouth and people did make it to Potsdam, probably far more than were expected. Laws in East Germany at the time prohibited such a meeting of large crowds and it was broken up by riot police even though only a few hundred people turned up. A few people apparently ended up in prison for short periods of time. (Note: I did hear that there were a few fatalities and that body bags were seen at this first meeting; however this has only come from one unconfirmed source, and maybe part of the urban myth).
This gathering took place over the next few years, still informal with various small local bands playing. Each year the crowd would grow and more happened to entertain the crowd, it was still not really a festival but the seeds had been sown. Mean while the rest of the Eastern block was falling apart, riots and protests were taking place in many towns and cities. The Monday Demonstrations started in Leipzig and were a series of peaceful political protests against the East German government supported by the church. They spread across East Germany with weekly Monday Demonstrations having a quarter of a million attendees including a large contingent of the ever growing gothic black dressed people. In 1989 the Iron Curtain and the Berlin wall finally came down.
The First official ‘Wave Gotik Treffen’ took place in 1992 after the re-unification of Germany, the location was the Eiskeller (ice cellar) club in Leipzig. The club really restricted the amount of people that could attend and although more people turned up the attendees were estimated at being about two thousand. The ‘Eiskeller’ club is located south of Werk II, or approximately half way to the Agra from the centre of Leipzig (address: Koburger Str. 3 04277). I believe it is the same location as ‘Conne Island’ where an ‘Eiskeller’ café exists, and bands still play today. This first WGT was called ‘WGT 1’ and has been used since to designate each WGT.
During the rest of the 90s the festival grew and by the end of the 90s it was very much like you see it today, taking place in various locations around the city with approximately twenty to twenty five thousand attendees.
In 2000 the festival had major problems, the management of WGT had failed to evolve, and the festival had grown far beyond its means. In 1999 one hundred and eleven bands had played, whilst in 2000 three hundred and forty nine bands were scheduled to play. With
approximately the same amount of attendees it was obvious that WGT was going to go bang. The result was that on day two of the
festival the two main organisers of the festival ran off with the money. With twenty seven thousand attendees in the city and no money to pay the bands the festival collapsed. Bands were not paid, security guards and technical staff went home and everything fell apart. However there was light at the end of the tunnel, some bands did agree to play for free with the help of a group of volunteer’s roadies and technical staff. Wolfsheim headlined the night playing an outside venue near ‘The Monument to the Battle of the Nations’ with a backdrop of thunder and lightning and five thousand people watching. Contrary to police expectations, no rioting of any sort occurred. The Major of Leipzig did however agree to use city money to cover the cost of the festivals debts on the agreement that future festivals would be backed by the city and organised professionally.
In 2001 the festival was back but much smaller compared to the year before. There were various issues with bands that had not been paid the year before and various locations that refused to allow the festival to use them as well as many attendees who were afraid that the same thing would happen again. However over the past few years the band listing has steadily increased and the festival is now going from strength to strength. In 2006 the festival expanded again with several new large locations being used including the newly refurbished Volkspalast (last used in 2000). This really is the Premier Gothic Festival anywhere in the world.
NOTE: I think I should say once again that I have no connection with the organisers, much of the info above has come from friends and
acquaintances and from various sites on the Internet. It is not 100% accurate, I don’t think that anybody has the correct history year by year. Feel free to email me with added details or to correct any information that has been passed to me that may be inaccurate. Thank you. sadgoth