Smile Politely

Behind the scenes of The Darkness Underground

Two people stand on a stage with their arms in the air holding swords. The person in the front wears a skeleton costume, and the person in the back wears a bikini top, leather harness, and black skirt with slits on each side. They are standing in front of a red checkered tablecloth and a rose bowl tavern sign. in the foreground is a watermelon centerpiece on a table carved to look like a jack o lantern with flowers.
The Darkness Underground Facebook

If you’re looking for a place to wear your darkest clothing and listen to your favorite creepy music, you might want to mark the monthly Bat Factory on your calendar. Held at Urbana’s Rose Bowl Tavern on the last Thursday of every month, The Darkness Underground invites everyone into the goth community for a spectacular night.

I had the pleasure of chatting with one of The Darkness Underground’s team members, Aaron Bennett (also known as J.L. Benét). After being a part of the goth community for decades and having lived in Detroit, Tampa, and Denver, Bennett eventually moved to the C-U area and continues to use his experience to create successful dark-themed events. “As a group, The Darkness Underground are all people who love the goth life and dark aesthetic and who are interested in helping grow the community,” Bennett says.

With the group’s members having various talents, they are able to spread out the tasks needed to make the magic happen. As a group, they decide which big events to do and what they are going to look like. They begin the process months before the event and are always prepared for any unexpected setbacks that may come up… big or small!

I asked what the process of all this looks like behind the scenes. According to Bennett, it couldn’t be done without those who work alongside him.

Alexander Monroe has been DJing for many years. He started the regular Bat Factory night and is very active in the various other aspects of our group. Lauren “Nyx” Laws is our resident belly dancer extraordinaire and has been with the group from the very beginning doing her part to create successful events. We added Kaity Bequette (who patrons might recognize from Carnivale Debauche) and Tiger Torres a couple years ago, who have both been valuable to our creation of great events. Nadja Robot, also from Carnivale Debauche, was recently added to the group and has hit the ground running with valuable insights, energy, and assistance. Evan Ramos, Shannon Donaldson, and Leah Barr-Weber were all important parts of our team for previous events, but have had to step back due to life getting in the way. They deserve a shout-out for their work, despite not being in the current group.

“While not officially a non-profit, we run as a de facto one,” states Bennett. He’s had experience on the executive boards of the Horror Writers Association and Rocky Mountain Rugby, as well as experience organizing other events like rugby tournaments and literary conventions. Because of this, Bennett has the skills to run like groups effectively. “We are lucky to have a group that works cohesively together. On the money side, we run very close to our break-even point. We want to keep ticket prices low, as our main goal is to help grow the community. My best experiences at events in Detroit, Tampa, and Denver were the ones where it was the community coming together to put a fun event together. It’s not about egos or money making. In fact, our early events didn’t even end up in the black.”

Bennett discusses other events that are a huge hit in the community. The Darkness Underground doesn’t just hold Bat Factory; they also hold larger events such as Goth Prom (coming up this Friday), Masquerade d’Vampire, Halloween, and for those with an extra special love for Halloween…Halloween in July. “My idea behind Halloween in July, when I was in Denver, was that you could have the fun of Halloween without having to incorporate a parka into your costume,” says Bennett. “The idea works well here too, and Chambana seems to love it. Halloween is a no-brainer, as we are the people who keep Halloween in our hearts the whole year round.”

The Darkness Underground hopes to have a positive impact that will grow the goth community and bring in more people. ”Many of our bigger events are purposely aimed at a broader audience, most of whom would never consider themselves even adjacent to the goth community,” says Bennett. One thing the team keeps in mind is that appeasing the whole community isn’t always an easy task. Everyone has their own different and unique tastes in style, music, hobbies, and many other areas. All kinds of people come out for these events, so even if the goth life isn’t for you… stop by and check them out… you’ve got nothing to lose!

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