Wave Gotik Treffen takes place over the Whitsun (or Pfingsten) weekend in Leipzig, Germany. It could be said that Wave Gotik Treffen is the biggest and greatest gothic festival anywhere in the World (it certainly trumps any other festival that I have attended).
The dates for Wave Gotik Treffen change from year to year as Whitsun (also known as Pentecost in the Christian calendar) occurs seven weeks (fifty days) after Easter, however, the date will always fall between the 10th May and the 13th June. It is also worth noting that the dates do not always coincide with Whitsun in the United Kingdom or other nations due to the way in which Eastern and Western Christian calendars are calculated. To make it clear, Whitsun is a Christian festival which originated from the pagan celebration (Beltane) of Summer’s Day or the beginning of the Summer half-year in Europe. Apparently Christians commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Disciples.
Unofficially Wave Gotik Treffen usually attracts an average of 20,000 people. Attendees come mostly from Germany. However, there are always many visitors from the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada, South Africa and just about every other European nation which gives the festival a very international flavour. Essentially one hundred sixty to two hundred twenty acts will play at about twenty-four venues across the city. Your task is to travel, drink, party, shop and try to stay awake whilst catching a few bands, there is never enough time, and for sure you will be completely exhausted at the end of the four days.
There are many reasons to go to Wave Gotik Treffen, but most people will be drawn by the huge list of acts that play. All music genres of the goth world will perform at the festival, from Trad to EBM and from Goth Metal to Neo-Folk. You will get the chance to see great headliner acts down at the Agra to small unknown bands in some of the minor venues around the city. It is also worth noting that acts from all corners of the world will play at the festival, however if you do not know any of the bands or if watching bands is not your thing then do not worry you still have the option to shop, go clubbing and do some wonderful sightseeing that should keep you more than occupied.
It is quite hard to describe the feeling of the festival; it has a fabulous laid back atmosphere, and it is not intimate like many of the United Kingdom festivals, although many of the venues are. I guess that is because there are so many ways to experience the festival that everybody will find some way to enjoy themselves. The multinational nature of the festival adds huge amounts of enjoyment to the weekend. Knowing that people have travelled from across the world to be here is very special. No other festival seems to encapsulate this in the same way that Wave Gotik Treffen does. Eating outside the Agra is like eating at the United Nations, the languages and accents are from just about every corner of the planet and If you fail to enjoy yourself here, then you may as well give up and crawl into your coffin.
Of course, the majority of people that you encounter will be German, but not just from Leipzig; like you most will have travelled many miles to get to the festival’s host city. At the railway station (Hauptbahnhof) you will encounter a sea of people dressed in black before the festival begins, making you feel at home and safe from the moment you arrive. Leipzig itself is a wonderful city, just walking around the city is most enjoyable, and most of the people in black are truly friendly. If you cannot find something, just ask, the chances are that they will speak some English (or answer you with a broad American accent). Moreover, just to note that I have yet to see any trouble in the twelve years that I have attended, in any festival location.
As far as the festival goes, I must admit that I am no authority, but you may find that some of the information in this article is out of date as some aspects of the festival change each year, however I have tried to give an honest and realistic explanation of my experiences or from people that I know who may have a greater understanding of certain aspects of the festival.
Many people ask and email me about Wave Gotik Treffen (normally as they have yet to attend) and my one real piece of advice is always to ‘plan well, play fair’ there is so much to do and see, and not that much time. You should plan early too, if you have the chance, from how you get to Leipzig, to what you take and what acts you want to see. If you have never been before, then I suggest that you make a plan, and try to stick to it, especially if you want to see certain bands. Many people find themselves shopping all day and give themselves no time to see the live acts, that or you turn up for an act and find it packed and that you cannot get in (a semi-regular occurrence). You need to set your priorities and plan the rest of the trip around them. You can always bank on public transport being slower than you thought and more packed. For popular acts, you will need to be at the venue at least a band if not two bands before the one you want to see. Getting in to see some acts is always difficult, even in the Agra, the largest festival venue. Get there early and remember Germans do not queue. However do not let me put you off by all this, you will have an excellent time, you will want to come back next year guaranteed.
Wave Gotik Treffen is truly the ‘Mecca’ of the Goth World, and everybody should go at least once although once you have the bug, you will keep on coming back, there is nothing else like it. My thanks to all those people that must spend so much time organising the festival. Keep up the good work, see you all in Leipzig.