Walk into the Full Moon Club above Zinnie's East restaurant on a Wednesday night, and you'll find yourself in a world of darkness where the smoke from clove cigarettes fills the air and guys and girls dressed in leather, spikes, and chains dance to the sounds of Bauhaus and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult.
It's Industrial Goth Night, and as soon as you reach the top of the stairs, you're greeted by a friendly doorman wearing a fishnet shirt and a dog collar. A crowd of black-clothed patrons are hovering near the bar, and a couple of spiky-haired guys in heavy eyeliner and trenchcoats are shooting pool.
Around the corner on the dance floor, a woman with Elvira-style hair is being pulled by her chained collar by a slim guy in a tight-fitting black sportscoat. Next to them, an older man, who bears a striking resemblance to Riff-Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, dances with a younger man whose slick black hair is shaped into two hornlike spikes. Up in the curtained DJ booth, Dev "Sameal" Deval is spinning Depeche Mode.
It's Memphis Industrial Goth Project's first night at the Full Moon Club after the crowd outgrew the Liquid Lounge on Highland. The only goth/industrial-themed night in the city, an average Wednesday night at Liquid Lounge drew about 150. It began in December, and before long the club became so crowded that many patrons were left with nowhere to sit.
The popularity of the Wednesday nights showed that Memphis has a decent-sized goth scene that up until recently had no place to call home.
"I came to Memphis about six months ago [from Detroit], and I noticed there wasn't any type of industrial goth night or club anywhere in the city, so I put some feelers out to see who might be interested," says Sameal, founder of the entertainment collective called MIG Project.
Sameal recruited a team of four others to form the MIG Project: DJs Brad "Totenkopf" Allison, Jonas "The Plastic Citizen" Stoltz, and a guy who simply goes by St. Faust. Faust, doubling as a photographer, walks around shooting patrons and then posts the pictures on the group's Web site, MIGProject.com. The doorman, the nice guy in the dog collar, is Levi.
Totenkopf, a longtime fixture in the Memphis goth scene, put on a few goth parties at Red Square, a defunct downtown dance club, back in 1997 and then again at the Spot in 2002, but he says the MIG Project is the largest revival of goth in Memphis that he's seen.
The group is striving to create a safe place for the goth crowd to gather -- a place to be entertained without having to worry about being gawked at. That's why they've enacted a dress code requiring an excess of black clothing. Bondage, fetish, Renaissance, punk, and metal attire are also acceptable.
"When somebody comes in dressed in mainstream attire, they're immediately gawking," says Sameal. "This is a very nonviolent, nonconfrontational crowd, and they have no desire to be harassed for wearing makeup and leather pants."
So, what is goth?
"There's a huge misunderstanding in the mainstream community," says Sameal. "They tend to think the black clothing and the dark music is all about death and morbidity.
"But like the hippie movement, the goth movement is actually about life and freedom. Yet the goth still wants a constant reminder that life isn't always pretty and perfect. Even in the most sorrowful, horrible things in life, beauty can still be found." n
Industrial Goth Night at the Full Moon Club (1718 Madison) runs from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. every Wednesday. For more information, go to the Web site MIGProject.com.