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Miami's Goth Subculture Is Growing Thanks to Gen Z

There has been an influx of goth-centered events in Miami, appealing to scene veterans and a younger Gen Z audience.
Zoomer Dzhuliana Khalilova has embraced the goth subculture. "When I found the goth community, I felt that I belonged," she shares.
Zoomer Dzhuliana Khalilova has embraced the goth subculture. "When I found the goth community, I felt that I belonged," she shares. Photo by Monica McGivern
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It's Friday night at the Corner downtown, and inside the bar, the air is thick and smells like incense. The lights are dim as usual, but on this night, they are sporting a moody green hue. Pink lights are strung around the DJ booth adorned with votive candles of the Virgin Mary and transparent skeletons. "Cuts You Up" by Peter Murphy starts playing, and the crowd cheers. The space between the bar and the booth slowly morphs into a dance floor. The crowd swaying to the music shows a clear preference for all-black clothing, thick eyeliner, Klaus Nomi-style lipstick, red puffy skirts, and a sprinkling of animal print. And the ages range from late-forties Gen Xers to twentysomething Zoomers.

The event bringing everyone together is Night Shift, a party that Kimberly Andrews — best known in the nightlife scene as DJ Rippin Kittin — hosts once a month. It's a celebration of goth, postpunk, new wave, and "coffin classics," as she likes to call them.

For Andrews, one of the more appealing aspects of the monthly party is being able to spin the kind of music she enjoys to a varied crowd. With Club Space just around the corner, regular patrons dart in and out of the bar, mingling with the more goth-minded attendees.

Miami has always had a taste of the unusual — the city's devotion to the dark and occult is reflected across cultures and heritages. So, it's no coincidence that the goth subculture has always thrived in our subtropical haven, and time has proven that this is not just a phase or a nostalgic yearning — goth is well alive and has found young blood thanks to Gen Z.

In the '90s, South Florida was ground zero for acts like Jack Off Jill and Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids. The latter became an icon for goth kids across the nation after the release of 1996's Antichrist Superstar. At its peak, it wasn't usual to see artists like Manson, Billy Corgan, and Trent Reznor pop up at goth-tinged events across Miami-Dade, particularly David Cordoves' Church club night.

While it can feel like the heyday of South Florida's goth scene is over, Gen Z is injecting life into long-running parties across the city.

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Fast-forward two and half decades, and South Florida's goth contingent — even if they are Gen Xers dressed in the former-goth style of black T-shirt and jeans — still packs venues and arenas to see legends like the Cure and Depeche Mode and newcomers Twin Tribes and Cold Cave perform live. Local bands like Astari Nite, Obsidian, and Donzii are also keeping goth rock and postpunk alive in the scene.

Is it something in the murky swamp water? Dressing in head-to-toe black in a humid, tropical city like Miami requires a prodigious amount of willpower. (It would have earned you a shoutout on the "Goths in Hot Weather" blog in the early aughts, though.)

While it can feel like the heyday of South Florida's goth scene is over — even Churchill's Pub closed — Gen Z, perhaps spurred by the proliferation of "aesthetic" fashion trends on TikTok, has been dabbling in the scene and injecting life into long-running parties across the city.

After the pandemic, there has been an influx of goth-centered events in Miami, such as Malicia at Domicile and Night Shift at the Corner. While the nights appeal to scene veterans, these nights have found a loyal following in Gen Z.
click to enlarge Kimberly Andrews holding a black umbrella next to a pool
Kimberly Andrews, AKA DJ Rippin Kittin, has been a fixture of South Florida's goth scene for decades.
Photo by Monica McGivern

Black Celebration

Goth's resurgence is not exclusive to Miami. There's plenty of evidence that the subculture's renaissance is occurring nationwide. Netflix's Wednesday, starring Jenny Ortega as the titular goth icon, was a runaway success for the streamer. Ortega's fits on the show inspired a new generation of teenage girls and young women.

You only need to peek at the clothing reselling app Depop to see proof of that. According to the Guardian, it reported a 20 percent increase in its users searching for the keywords "goth" and "gothcore" in 2022, with the style tag "whimsygoth" being particularly popular last year.

Then there's the rise of the goth-rock and postpunk Cruel World Festival in Pasadena, California, which hosted its third edition in May. Past lineups have included Siouxsie, Echo & the Bunnymen, Bauhaus, Gary Numan, and the Jesus & Mary Chain, alongside the new wave of goth bands such as Boy Harsher, Leathers, and Zanias, among others. Plenty of journalists who attended the festival noted the presence of younger patrons.

But is Gen Z's embrace of the goth subculture authentic? In a New York Times article published earlier this year, writer Mireille Silcoff surmised, "Subcultures in general — once the poles of style and art and politics and music around which wound so many ribbons of teenage meaning — have largely collapsed. What teenagers today are offered instead is a hyperactive landscape of so-called aesthetics."

"I consider myself goth because of the music that I listen to. But then also, it ties into a lifestyle when you look past the music as well."

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Zoomer Dzhuliana Khalilova, whose Instagram bio reads "real-life vampyre," doesn't feel the same way. "I consider myself goth because of the music that I listen to, mostly gothic rock, gothic metal, new wave, dark wave," she shares in a gentle yet assertive voice. "But then also, it ties into a lifestyle when you look past the music as well. I've always had a fascination with the darker things in life, and when I found the goth community I felt that I belonged, especially since you have shared interest within the community."

Andrews, who has been involved with South Florida's goth scene since 1993 in one way or another, welcomes the younger generation's interest in the subculture.
click to enlarge Day Yera in a black top and red skirt
Night Shift attendee Day Yera. Night Shift is a monthly goth party hosted by Andrews at the Corner.
Photo by Monica McGivern
"I think there is a fashion aspect to it and also a musical aspect to it," she says of the new wave of goths. "DJing at Black Market, it being an alternative party, you have punk, you have goth, you have grunge, you have R&B — so many different artists. Then, as far as performers go, you have burlesque, you have drag. They brought all these different people together under one roof, and it's a party. But I feel that in it all, for some crazy reason, the one fashion aesthetic that sticks out is goth fashion."

Sporting pale skin and a bleached, almost-white bob, the 49-year-old looks at least a decade younger than her actual age. When she talks about the scene, it comes from years of experience.

"You have all these kids with their spiked necklaces and their vinyl clothing, and they are half naked — there is Victorian fashion, too. And as goth goes, I think there is also a lot of fetish fashion in it, too."

South Florida's goth and fetish scenes are close cousins, with a lot of overlap between the two. At a Fetish Factory party, you might see fetish performer Val Vampyre do her legendary blood show while dressed in latex as the DJ spins everything from Type O Negative to Bauhaus.

New Rules

Much like their sexuality, Gen Z is pretty flexible as far as music genres go.

"I think they learned about the classic bands through their parents, but they are not very concerned about genres," says Mario Arango, a local concert promoter and founder of Heroes Live Entertainment. "Now, everything is mixed. There is darkwave, punk, and emo, all combined."

Arango has been producing shows in South Florida for 13 years and has even booked the Godfather of Goth, Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, to perform on three occasions.

"I definitely see a younger crowd," he says of the demographic of his shows. "I noticed, looking at the patches in their jackets or looking at their T-shirts, that they wear metal bands, goth bands, emo bands, alternative bands — they listen to everything."

A great example of this music genre blender is the band Dead on a Sunday, which combines everything from darkwave to emo. Naturally, they gained national recognition after going viral on TikTok because the lead singer's voice resembles that of actor H. Jon Benjamin, who voices the titular characters of Bob's Burgers and Archer.
click to enlarge A black backpack with silver studs next to someone's black platform boots
Gen Z's interest in the goth subculture is evident in apps like TikTok and Depop.
Photo by Monica McGivern
In the digital era, social media plays a crucial part in the spread and survival of the goth subculture. Local party promoter Hexed Miami has carried out the task of championing things goth, industrial, EBM, and new wave through its social channels, with its mission statement reading, "We are the dark music scene and culture in South Florida. Tú no eres más darks que Miami-Dade, Broward, y Palm Beach."

When asked how she first stumbled on the subculture, Khalilova is unsurprising. "Mostly from the internet, but I do remember that my older siblings, who are in their thirties, would show me Evanescence and Linkin Park, and from there, I went into other kinds of genres in music, so I think that's how it got started," she says. "And then having all these sources on the internet available, it helped me to learn more about it."

Much like the goths from the 1980s and '90s, Khalilova doesn't see the subculture as a costume. The gothic vampire aesthetic she's taken on comes from a long-held fascination with the mythical lore.

"I really do like the vampire aesthetic. I also watch so many films with vampires and read so many books," she explains. "The first time I read Dracula at school, I was fascinated with it, and then I reread it and watched the movies. I think it's so cool and shows another side of human relations, if that makes sense, although vampires are technically not human. It shows characteristics of people that are not usually displayed in the media."

Guide to Goth Events in Miami

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