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The weird kids in the basement: A night at Hang the DJ

By Brooklyn Billinghurst, April 22 2024—

Like many of you reading, I am sick of the regular nightlife haunts of Calgary. Being overcharged for entry, not feeling like I was dressed right and feeling physically ill at the thought of having to hear “Last Night” by Morgan Wallen again are just a few of the reasons why I was forced into hermitage. I was ready to hang up my dancing shoes when I heard about Hang the DJ (HTDJ), a semi-regular goth and alternative music night at Dickens Pub.

Hosted by DJ Graycell, HTDJ is a night where enjoyers of retro goth and alternative tunes (the name itself is a reference to “Panic” by The Smiths) can rejoice in hearing the music they actually want to hear. Think moshing to Nine Inch Nails, followed by swaying to Bauhaus and then a group sing-along to “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League. 

With the rise of concert ticket prices, it’s hard for fans to hear the music they like in a communal setting, where we can sing till we lose our voices and dance like freaks until our feet fall off. To combat that, many clubs are offering themed nights based around genres or artists, like Taylor Swift and Abba, to name a few. Compared to a ticket that may be out of budget for many, HTDJ is affordably priced at 5 dollars before 10 p.m. While all the music falls under the general umbrella of alternative, HTDJ will occasionally have in-focus nights that feature a specific artist, like The Cure or Joy Division. 

One may think that a function such as this would be a place for Gen X former punks to hang out, and rejoice the tunes of their youth. Upon arrival, however, it’s clear that the alternative music of the 80s and 90s has trickled (more like flooded) into the playlists of Gen Z club-goers such as myself. It’s really no wonder with apps like TikTok and Instagram where snippets of songs go viral, leading you to check out the rest of the song, then the artist, and before you know it you’re doing your makeup like Souxie Soux and wearing a Meat is Murder shirt. If you’re worried about being the youngest INXS fan in the room, have no fear. Everyone is welcome. I’ve run into local musicians, artists, friends, movers and shakers, and even met my current partner at Hang the DJ.

Perhaps what makes HTDJ so attractive is the congregation of so many creative people in one space. Sure, we see goths on TikTok and everyone and their mom was doing the Wednesday Addams dance last year. It’s another thing entirely to actually see these talented makeup artists and fashion icons in person. 

But that is just one of the ways to express yourself at Hang the DJ. New Wave style outfits reminiscent of Devo, Blondie and Flock of Seagulls are a mainstay. For myself, I prefer to go goth, teasing my hair into a Nick Cave-esque bats nest, carefully drawing large amounts of black eyeliner onto my face, or a Morticia-type slinky dress and a glam goth eye. If nothing in your closet speaks to this, no worries. A subculture as visually identifiable as goth may seem intimidating to break into, but what really connects us all is the music. There’s no pressure to be anything but yourself on the dance floor. 

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