Monday, May 28, 2012

Reviewing the Steampunk Worlds Fair 2012

Even the Fair Patrons Brought Real Ingenuity to the Event This Year!
I have been attempting to put together a full on site report for the Steampunk World's Fair 2012, but realistically, this will have to be a series of articles as it is just too vast an event to cover otherwise.  The event was fun, boisterous, spontaneous, and very interactive, but it was so vast in scope, with so many interesting activities, panels, and performances going on simultaneously that half a dozen people could have gone to this entire event and rarely attended any of the same attractions.  The five stages were going almost non-stop with burlesque, comedy, and a wide assortment of bands and other types of performers.  Panels were going almost non-stop in both hotels on topics ranging from DIY workshops and readings by authors to the truth behind Lovecraftian fiction!

This Steampunk Patron is armed with a Starburner Standard model 42, "Enforcer." created by Kim Hutsell
There was even a family friendly Midway in a large courtyard by day with food, entertainment, and a few games.  At night this turned into a more adult oriented Canivale Obscura dominated by fire spinning and various types of cabaret performers.  Prof. Mark Donnely was out there the whole weekend giving fascinating instruction on many styles of combat ranging from Baritsu and stick fighting to the use of highland Claymores.  There you could get pretty good quality fast food (including veggie burgers!) and sit at tables, or even better, in the cool shade under the trees, while the outdoor entertainment continued around you.  This was one of my favorite spots and was sometimes even quiet enough to conduct interviews in that setting with lovely music in the background.

Hard working "Vamps" at the Biting Booth!!!  (No flash used because... well you know!)
The Goblin Market Friday night had such interesting aspects that I will be writing a separate article about it from an insider's perspective, but I will introduce my readers briefly to this fascinating and unique aspect of the event in this review as well.  The highlights included a “Biting Booth” in which two lovely young “Vamps” offered to bite their customers on the neck as hard or soft as they liked, for a price of course!  They alternatively offered their services wielding a riding crop instead.  Another booth offered spankings, (with hand or paddle) from two lovely young women portraying clockwork dolls!

The Spanking Booth!!!
Many other booths in the Goblin Market offered fortune telling (by someone with surprisingly uncanny ability), strange wares, demonstrations of strange science, and selling things as odd as unicorn horns or even the dreams of madmen for those who cared to partake.  A variety of performers from around the country, such as the Red Fork Emperor and Dr. Grimm, entertained, but really the highlight of the evening, for that crowd at least, was the burlesque show!  Psyche Chimere, of Psyche Corporation even made an appearance dancing beautifully on one of the tables at the back while other entertainments continued on the stage.

Psyche Chimere of Psyche Corporation dancing at the Goblin Market

I also was able to hear, meet, and interview The Clockwork Dolls, Platform One, Strange Artifact, and Frenchy and the Punk, so I am working putting together those interviews as separate articles, but that will link back to the series on the SPWF 2012.   Some of the other bands I was privileged to hear perform included the  Hellblinki Sextet, Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band, This Way to the Egress, The Extraordinary Contraptions, Victor Sierra , Voltaire, Psyche Corporation, Eli August, and Igor’s Egg, but there were many more besides.  There was simply not enough time to see and hear, much less interview them all.  I was also spending some quiet time just talking with my friends in Victor Sierra and Psyche Corporation, so I will share some of that (with their permission of course) at a later date as well.

Strange Artifact's Mary and Yuki with Kraky and Adm. Ramon at the Midway

Other aspects unique to this event included “Vendors Row” where an entire hallway of the hotel was dedicated to vendors selling a great variety of wares and supplies to make steam punk items, directly out of their hotel rooms converted into a long row of boutiques.   There were also  more typical vending areas, but there were so many small to mid sized vending rooms that I had trouble even locating all of them, much less seeing everything they had to offer.   As a writer, the most interesting for me was actually meeting the staff of Steampunk Magazine, who are now accepting submissions again and moving back into full production, but I was also able to meet writers, as well as craftsmen, vendors, and artists, from all walks and genres and spend as much time as I wished truly learning about them and their favorite forms of art.

Not only is Heather Hutsell a Steampunk author, but she makes lovely garments from recycled parachutes!

The highlight of the event was probably the performance by Voltairre Saturday night!  He was funny, dark, twisted, and incredibly entertaining.  In short, I found Voltairre to be all he was reputed to be and incredibly fun!  In fact, the band opening right before him, this way to the Egress, was pretty fun as well.  If you were in a bad mood for any reason on the way in, it was almost impossible to stay that way around so many people having so much fun, simply blowing off steam, stress, and anything other remaining inside them leaving only a sense of pure fun!

The dance after wards was just as great with surprisingly excellent dance music!  Unfortunately where I am from in the Southwest Steampunk is new enough as a full on convention that we are still needing to convince the Djs that Anime Convention dance music (mostly rave style) is simply not what our dancers want.  The dance DJ played a very interesting mix of Darkwave, New Wave Electronica, strange & fun items (like Rocky Horror and Repo), and an assortment of high quality dance items pulled from a variety of bands that are well known, but have only a few such excellent selections for dance.  In other words, we have extraordinary good DJs who really watched the crowd and responded very well to them.  The best DJs are measured by how well they do this by shifting the music to whatever keeps the crowd happy and dancing.  (as opposed to some who are too focused on showing off their latest re-mix tracks regardless of crowd reactions to them)

Aelus Kristof von Stadberg guitarist of the Extraordinary Contraptions
Overall, the event was every bit as friendly and inclusive as advertised!  People were made to feel at ease and accepted regardless of culture, appearance, gender bending, or sexual orientation.  In fact, some people paid special attention to anything unusual, but I saw only positive reactions regardless of how unusual things got even late and after many libations.  I found myself at 3 am sitting with another press rep (from MTV) explaining the Steampunk Culture, convention scene, and genre in general and having a lot of fun doing it.

Hatton Cross Steampunk's David Lee
I think the only flaw I could find (aside from last minute posting of the schedule and the sound equipment not working for one of the shows), was that the event was so vast and had so much excellent talent and fascinating things to see and people to talk to that it would have to continue non-stop for several weeks before I could be satisfied I had truly sampled most of what they had to offer.  I recommend looking at the schedule carefully before going, but not working too hard to follow whatever plan you set as rushing about too much with too rigid a schedule will cause you to miss the finest, but often unexpected flowers along the way.

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