The Lynchburg Gothic League celebrates its one-year anniversary.
Saturday night in the back room of Rivermont Pizza, a DJ blasted synth-heavy dance music while Type Trauma, an electro-industrial band based out of Roanoke, prepared for their set. In one corner of the restaurant, the Addams Family played silently on a boxy, retro television.
The crowd dancing in the back room was diverse: college-aged students, middle-aged singles and couples married for decades. Some simply wore all black, others dressed in black and wore thick, dark eyeliner and piercings, highlighted by their pale faces.
Most of the back-room crowd at Rivermont on Saturday night attend the monthly “Everyday is Halloween” gatherings put on by the Lynchburg Gothic League. Saturday night was the league’s one-year anniversary party.
“It’s (a) kaleidoscope of belief systems like in any other group of people,” said Patrick Hubble, a local funeral director who founded the Lynchburg Gothic League along with other funeral home employees in the area. “There are Christians. There are agnostics and Wiccans. We’re a cross section of humanity, like any other group of people. We’re not all (the same).”
Ever since he was young, Hubble has had an affinity for the dark side of life. He cannot pinpoint the exact catalyst behind his attraction to the macabre, but he guesses it might the Haunted Mansion he frequented at Disneyland. He wears a tattoo of a young woman on a tightrope above an open-jawed alligator– an homage to the attraction.
“I loved (that ride),” Hubble said. “I wanted to work at a haunted mansion when I grew up. That had a strong impact. Maybe it started then. I was tainted.”
The passion came with a cost. A preference for Edgar Allan Poe and classic horror, pierced ears and black clothes labeled him an outcast at both school and home.
But he was not completely alone in his interests. He looked up from afar to a group of older teenagers just like him: the Goths.
They listened to The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees. They haunted the local mall in dark clothing, smoking clove cigarettes and idling outside music stores—one of the more efficient ways, in a pre-internet era, to meet other misfits.
There, Hubble discovered, was where he belonged.
“It bothered (my parents) a little bit,” Hubble said. “They figured it would be a phase, and here I am, 30, 40 years later.”
Hubble entered the Goth world as a “baby bat,” but this phase became a solid lifestyle. Since then, he has played a variety of roles: US Navy dental technician and combat medic, Cypress College student, funeral director; Los Angeles native and Lynchburg newcomer; husband to fellow Goth, Bridget, father to Meagan and grandfather to Nolan. But he has always been a Goth.
Hubble and his wife moved from the West Coast to Lynchburg 20 years ago in search of a slower-paced life. But for the notoriously loud Goth scene, Hill City might have been too quiet.
“It was a little bit of a culture shock,” Hubble said. “For a while there I was on that bandwagon, bashing the ‘burg. But it’s grown on me. And it has come a long way.”
Lynchburg has slowly acclimated to the Goth scene Hubble and his wife brought with them. An alternative rock band station broadcasts out of Sweet Briar College, the Phase 2 nightclub explores more underground music and—in Lynchburg’s biggest leap forward yet—a monthly Goth night, created by Hubble himself.
“Once a month in this little conservative town there’s a Goth night,” Hubble said. “It just warms the inner cockles of my heart to know that it’s happening.”
What started as a small meeting of a dozen Goths one year ago at the 5th St. Grind coffee shop has swelled to a larger group whose range is between 30 and 175 people. The group includes visitors from Charlottesville, Halifax and Liberty University.
The group moved to Fifth and Federal, a restaurant in a renovated Esso gas station, for a bigger space and louder speakers.
Finding a venue to host the Gothic League was a painful task for the group, as many were not comfortable with what he was proposing.
“I think they associate punk rock with, ‘We’re gonna tear the place apart, spray paint the walls, and baby sacrifices,’” Hubble said, adding that other misconceptions of this subculture include satanic activity and homicidal teenage angst.
It is these stigmas about the group that widen the rift between mainstream society and the Goth scene. After the Columbine high school shooting in 1999, Hubble said many wrongfully misconstrued the two teenaged attackers as Goth, tacking negative connotations onto the subculture.
“All the Goth kids I know are pacifists, just about,” Hubble said. “The thought of inflicting injury to anyone is the furthest thing from their mind.”
For a Goth, these monthly meetings are more than just a place to dance to alternative music. It is also a sanctuary from a mainstream culture who often misunderstands and sometimes demonizes the abnormal.
“I see friendships forming and bonds created … a sense of community is created when you have a night and bring them all together,” Hubble said. “They don’t feel like such a weirdo anymore in their local school or workplace, wherever they may be.”
At 12:12 a.m., the smoke alarms went off in Rivermont Pizza. The music did not.
“Play a beat with it,” Mike Glazebrook, Type Trauma’s vocalist and guitarist, said. “We can do that.”
And that is what they did. The crowd clapped, screamed and kept dancing.