A Gothic Family Reunion
Tampa, Florida • August 8-10, 2008
What do you think of when someone mentions Goths?
Odds are that you would have been in for a surprise if you wandered into the Convergence 14 convention in Tampa the weekend of August 8th. Sure, there were a lot of people wearing black. In the vendors’ room, there were corsets, books on the occult, horror movie DVDs, t-shirts sporting the likeness of Edgar Allen Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft references. But I wasn’t expecting the Goth coloring book. That coloring book was probably the first tip-off that things weren’t going to fit stereotypes.
Convergence is an annual gathering that grew out of the alt.Goth internet group. People on the group decided it might be fun to actually get together in real life. That led to the first Convergence event in Chicago in 1995. Since then, Convergence has been a movable party, landing in different cities with each event having its own flavor. The 2007 event in Portland, Oregon had the feel of a fan convention with the organizers reaching out to the Goth community. Convergence 14 in Tampa was intentionally kept smaller, more like a family reunion. It attracted about 200 people from all over the world, many of whom have been attending Convergence events for years.
As expected, music is at the heart of Convergence. At the nighttime parties, bands and DJs performed for their peers. Voltaire, who may be best known for his song “Brains” from the Cartoon Network show The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy kicked off the weekend’s proceedings with a Friday night performance. Iris, Faded Sympathy, The Synthetic Dream Foundation and Missile Command performed on succeeding nights.
Looking about 7-feet tall in her platform boots, DJ Spider from North Carolina is hard to miss. The white tutu kind of draws attention too. “We’re here because we’re all misfits to some degree,” she says. “We share a certain aesthetic and like a certain kind of music. Convergence is a chance for people to come together and geek out.”
Part of that geeking-out was making fun of assumptions about being Goth. The central event of this year’s Convergence was “Convergence Jumps the Shark,” a very silly reenactment of the Happy Days episode where the Fonz jumps a shark on his motorcycle. The Convergence version featured a wading pool, a BMX bike, and a plastic shark.
Other events included a Goth Bathing Beauty contest and a Fop Fight for men, excursions to the Dali Museum, Lowry Park Zoo, and Goths on Ice. Ellis, The Goths on Ice organizer, looked a little puzzled by all the press her little unofficial event generated. “It’s really just a bunch of us who get together and go skating. We don’t even get dressed up or anything.”
Unlike other conventions that move from town to town, the next host city wasn’t announced at the close of Convergence 14. Several cities have made bids to host Convergence 15, but we’ll just have to wait to see where the party turns up next.