Bella Morte and Synthetic Division, The Southern, May 22

How did you spend International Goth Day, which was last Saturday, May 22nd? If you’re a member of the endangered species Gothicus Charlottesvillianius, you were at The Southern seeing local gothic darlings Bella Morte and the synth-pop duo Synthetic Division.

Bella Morte frontman and vocalist Andy Deane worked hard to recreate the magic that made them famous back in 2002. This included much jumping, head-banging and robot dance moves. The intensity might have seemed more sincere had it been done eight years ago.

Is this the end? Bella Morte’s show Saturday night at the Southern was at the tail end of a nationwide tour.

The world has changed much since 2002 but Bella Morte really hasn’t. Deane’s signature mohawk looked tired (he blamed the rain), the songs quickly became repetitive and, by end of their set, one began to understand why such a small crowd turned out for an internationally famous band.
Most impressive Saturday night was their capacity to produce a full, powerful sound. Unfortunately even this proved to be inauthentic. The presence of a synth line, but no synth player, confirmed Bella Morte was playing with a backing track—a previously recorded instrument track played through the PA system in coordination with the live performers. While this is common practice among synth-pop bands, the backing track provided could have been handled live by a decent keyboard player. The technique merely reinforced the ersatz quality of angst on display.

Synthetic Division frontman is Charlottesville local Shawn Decker. Decker contracted HIV through a tainted blood transfusion in the 1980s at age 11. At the time, HIV/AIDS was barely understood much less effectively treated. His dying wish, fulfilled through Make-A-Wish Foundation, was to meet Depeche Mode.

Twenty years later, Decker, based on his performance Saturday, is still very much alive. Decker was inspiringly optimistic and self-confident while singing and charmingly uncomfortable in between songs. It was clear music had inspired his difficult life as he closed his eyes and conducted synth pop in the air.

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