Friday, June 12, 2015

Con Report: A-kon 26

I spent last weekend in Dallas attending A-kon 26!  This was a bit of a last minute decision, because I was offered the opportunity to vend at the Friday night Steampunk Ball, so it made going financially possible for me.

Steampunk Social
I was totally excited because this is a con I've wanted to attend again.  The last time I went to A-kon was five years ago, when it was my very first con and very first event as a steampunk!  So this was my five year "Steampunkiversary"!  I love anime cons and prefer them to comic cons, actually.  I feel like they are lots more fan-centric rather than celebrity oriented.  The cosplay tends to be better and in general the vibe is more positive and inclusive.

I didn't get to spend a huge amount of time attending the con itself for reasons having to do with travel, other commitments, and my back condition.  I didn't go to the con Friday before the Ball because I knew I'd have to set-up and tear down our booth and function for the evening, so I rested in anticipation.  We went as attendees Saturday for a few hours, and that was it.  Sunday was spent meeting with a corset client and driving home, plus I was tired by then.

Me at the ball
But let's talk about the Steampunk Ball.  It was held Friday night in one of the hotel's (many!) ballrooms.  It was actually a lovely space, a circular room with a stage and dance floor at one end.  The Steampunk Social started at 7PM and there was free snacks and coffee and tea!  The Durian Grey steampunk troupe presented some Victorian parlour games and there was tea-dueling as well.  I was busy vending during this time so I didn't get to participate or even watch much of these activities.  I think it would have been fun if the tea-dueling was a bigger deal, maybe with multiple tables dueling to involve more of the attendees.

As far as the vendors, I know most of them were recruited last-minute as I was,  There were a couple empty tables which could have been filled to give more variety.  I was the only one selling steampunk apparel and we did very well for only a few hours, so it was totally successful for me.  I bought some awesome buttons from one of my friends' booths and we also got our picture taken by the photographer, Albertex Photography.  I was really glad to see a photo booth at the event.  Too many events lack a reasonable way to get decent pictures.  If there are photographers, they charge a large price for prints.  This time it was only $15 for a 5x7 print with photoshopped background or $5 for an automatic photobooth collage.

The turnout for the event was pretty good: not crowded, but full.  Most were in some kind of steampunk dress but there were a lot of newbies that hadn't been to a steampunk event before and us regulars didn't recognize, which is always great.  And of course some people in anime cosplay and street clothes as well.
My husband showing off the new vest-coat
 I made him and his new hat band.

There were two bands for the actual Ball portion of the evening: This Way to the Egress and Psyche Corporation.  I believe This Way to the Egress played the Ball the year before as well.  Much as we love our Texas steampunk musicians, I heard several people glad there was "something different" for entertainment as too often the line-up at steampunk events is very similar.

This Way to the Egress went on at 9PM and were fantastic.  They won over the crowd and had people dancing all over the place for their whole set.  Their music is a huge mash of styles, with a lot of swing, vaudeville, and a huge number of instruments.  The closest influence I could name is Gogol Bordello, but with a lot more swing. Check them out here.

Psyche Corporation went on later, close to 11PM.  Their sound was a big change from Egress, a lot more down-beat. (Check them out here.) The lead singer has a good voice, but the songs were dreamy and sparse, which may not have been ideal for so late at night after a day of con.  I don't think I was the only one who found myself feeling really tired.  In general they are similar in style to Unwoman, with the soaring voice and cello, but I have to say based on what I've seen Unwoman does it with a lot more energy and success.

The Ball ended fairly quickly as people left to either find beds or wilder parties, I assume.  We were out of there by midnight, though it was scheduled for DJ and dancing to continue until 2AM.
A gentleman with a serious prosthetic.

As far as other steampunk programming for the weekend, I have to confess I attended none of it.  There were the usual panels.  I intended to attend a couple of them on Saturday but I missed both: one due to traffic and parking problems and one because I decided I needed to visit the dealer's room instead once I learned it closed at 6PM.  Several of my friends were at the con promoting the in-progress steampunk film Aether, so you should check it out.

There was a Steampunk Afternoon Tea presented by Durian Grey.  It was actually a murder mystery tea with an additional cost of $35.  I was originally glad to see a tea on the schedule, but couldn't afford to attend.  In the evening was the Goblin Market, a unique role-playing experience presented by some of the steampunks.  It also had a cost for entry of $10.  I wanted to attend, but my back didn't make it till 8PM.

The con as a whole was typically A-kon: big, crowded, intense.  This was my first time at their current venue, and it's a big improvement on their old one.  The Hilton Anatole is a huge complex, so that while it's still crowded and overwhelming, you don't have to physically struggle through crowds.  There were lines everywhere for everything from getting into the dealer's room to getting food (thank god for all the food trucks, though).   I wish the temperature had been a bit cooler through the con, but it was 95 degrees out and it's a big place to air condition, so they can only do so much, I guess.  I still don't know how people in heavy costumes do it, though.  I dressed for comfort and coolness both
My friend, Moira McCrae showing her colors.
days and was still sweaty.

The Artist's Alley was awesome, with very nice stuff and lots of talent on display.  The Dealer's room was a bit of a disappointment, though.  I remember A-kon as having an AMAZING dealer's room, but this time it seemed most of the dealer's were selling the same things and almost all of it was anime or manga related.  While, yes, ok, it's an anime con, I still would have liked to see a broader selection of general geek stuff.  There was only one vendor selling games, for example, and not even much selection of t-shirts.  My only purchases were one "Welcome to Nightvale" sticker for myself and a Star Wars tee for my husband.  And pocky.  We bought a couple small things in Artist Alley for friends as well.

So that was my con, essentially.  This took me so many days to post because I'm having problems with Blogger and it wouldn't upload photos for me.  I'll have another post about some of my recent projects with more maker details.

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