‘You look tired’. I am an introvert with slightly downturned features who struggles with chronic anemia, so yes, I know. I really wish perfect strangers would stop mentioning it. You might be well-intentioned, but it always comes off as rude. No, I was not up unusually late last night. No, it’s not really any of your business. This is just how I look. And right now, I can guarantee you, however bad it looks, it feels way worse. I have fallen against the front door or the kitchen counter more than a few times this weekend. But, life must go on, right? Right.
At least, within reason. To make a long story much shorter, the Steampunk World’s Fair imploded shortly before it was supposed to happen this year and, after various twists and turns, what replaced it was a community organized COGS Expo, and a Refugees of Steampunk concert up the road. My original plan for the weekend was both. I knew Friday night was impossible, but I’d planned to check out COGS Saturday and the concert on Sunday.
Honestly, it was a relief when the schedule for the COGS Expo went live and a I realized there wasn’t a lot on it that I wouldn’t be able to see the following day at the concert. Let me rephrase that: there wasn’t a lot on it that I was strongly interested in. So, I decided to take Saturday as a recovery day. I’ve been suffering for a few days and I knew, at the very least, I was in no condition to wander around a festival all day. If the things I wanted to see were close together, it maybe would have made sense to go for an hour or two, but in the end, as much as I would have liked to check it out, there was just no way I had the energy.
Today was better, but not by a lot. I slept a perfectly average amount, and soundly, which basically means I feel like I’m running on about 3 or 4 hours of sleep. But, there was a very long concert, and I really wanted to go. There were a few bands I’d seen before and/or follow, and others that I just kept missing over and over again. Every time I tried to check out Montague Jaques Fromage before today, something happened – the weather mucked up a stage, or he was scheduled opposite something else I absolutely didn’t want to miss. In spite of all efforts to the contrary, this is the first time I’d get to see both halves of the Eternal Frontier in the same place, at the same time.
So, I didn’t really care if I was tired. I was going. I hauled my butt out of bed, got all ready, made a bit of breakfast…and stained my only steampunkish t-shirt in the doing. I absolutely didn’t have energy for costuming, so I knew that crap wasn’t going to happen, but I was like ‘oh! I have a t-shirt with a raygun on it! Perfect!’ …it would have been, but I had to wash it before it stained, so couldn’t wear it and ended up just grabbing whatever was clean instead.
Mercifully, the drive was a little shorter than I expected, so the fact I ended up getting going a little later than planned due to my last minute wardrobe change didn’t really affect me much. But, holy shit, Dunellen, what is wrong with your roads?! There are more potholes than pavement!
The concert was good, though, and it was a relief that I could sit for it, and that they had food that the venue had food that probably wouldn’t kill me. I went with their sort of untraditional nachos. They were tasty, and I was able to casually pick at them all day, but the brisket definitely sat a little heavy on my overly sensitive tummy. Still, probably worth the cost, in the long run – red meat may be a bit heavy, but the anemia’s bad enough that heme iron will do more good than harm as long as I can keep it down.
I’m going to gloss over a lot in this post for two reasons:
I’ve seen a lot of these acts before, so I’ve already talked about them on this blog.
I came in to the tail end of a performer playing tv themes on keyboard. They said her name several times, so I feel bad that as I type I can’t seem to grasp it, but I do remember something about a radio station called ‘In Goth We Trust’, so maybe google that and you’ll get more info. I should be doing the legwork for you on this, but I just can’t right now. Sorry about that.
What a cool looking venue, though! Roxy & Dukes Roadhouse just has the perfect vibe for a steampunk show. The decor is sort of…gothic circus kitsch? I’m not sure if that gives you quite the right mental image, but it’s the best description I’ve got for the moment. Maybe I’ll come up with better adjectives later, when I’m a little less haggard.
After that we had Montague Jaques Fromage, doing a short set of “steampunk funk”. I genuinely had no idea what to expect from this, but it turns out it was sort of a combination of storytelling and what I’m going to loosely define as rap. It was fun – will look him up again later when I’m fully conscious.
Next was opera singer Nicole Oliva, who I won’t say much about on the grounds that I talked about her last year, and that I still know fuck all about opera. Her voice is pretty, but I really don’t have the knowledge necessary to tell you much beyond ‘soprano’.
Scott Helland was next, and it’s no secret how much I love his stuff, so there’s not really much to say here, either. He’s awesome and you should check him out if you haven’t yet. That is all.
Interspersed throughout the performances, Coveilance Dance Project would come up and do their thing, or fill the time while the stage was changing. I can’t really give you any more info about dance than I can about opera, I’m afraid. I’m sure they’re great, but I don’t care about dance, so it really just looked like well-choreographed jiggly girl bits to me. I have no culture at all, I know.
Next up was the Eternal Frontier. This was another one I seemed to have an ill-fated relationship with until now. Either there was a scheduling conflict, or something happened and one of them had to cancel. So, I’d seen Professor Adam Smasher once before, but I’d never actually seen them in the same place at the same time. They were adorable – which, for the record, coming from me, is the highest form of compliment.
Next was A Halo Called Fred, who I’ve talked about enough that I don’t think there’s a lot new to say. They’re silly and fun and make the world a brighter, happier place to be in, at least for the duration of their set, so you should look them up. Also, they seem entirely incapable of completing a set without calling sidekicks to the stage, which is part of their charm, really.
The day finished off with Victor and the Bully, from the UK. I’d seen them last year, so I already knew they put on a good, high energy show, and they didn’t disappoint. They have a new album out, and while I do usually buy albums at the venue, I’m on pretty tight purse strings until payday; so I decided I would just have to be patient and grab it off Amazon at the end of the week.
By the way, the only reason I haven’t mentioned any of the acts having albums until the end is that I’m already up to date on all the ones I’ve been following except that last one. They all have things, though, and you should look them up.
So, that’s that. I don’t get a recharge weekend until the end of the month, and I want a nap, but it still a good day.
This post is so overdue that it’s not even funny. The event was in May, FFS! I have no excuse. I’m just lazy. But, because I’m lazy, and this post should have happened 2 months ago, it’s going to be an overview of the bands I saw rather than any sort of in depth analysis.
As a preface –we had a fuck ton of rain this spring. In fact, as I write this post, it’s misting. This is relevant because it rained so much that the first day of the festival I was nearly flooded into my development (seriously, I should NOT have driven through water that high. I thought my car was going to turn into a submarine), and the Courtyard Stage was completely defunct because of all the wet, which derailed my original plans a bit. Some of the stuff I planned to see I didn’t get to see. Other things I had to reschedule. Some sets I only got to see part of. SPWF scheduling is always an adventure, but the weather added a level of hell to trying to figure out when and where I could see some of the acts I’d been planning on.
That scheduling is why my first musical performance of the festival was OPERA, of all things.
I am not cultured, guys. I can tell you Nicole Oliva was a soprano and had a pretty voice and that she changed her costume a billion times, but I can’t tell you that her performance won me over to the art form, really. It was neat, but it’s not like I’m going to start researching operas now. Fun fact, though: opera sung in English is no more intelligible than opera sung in foreign languages, it turns out. I still can barely make out a word of it.
I spent the next while at educational things, not because I had a strong desire to do them, but because half of Day 1 was supposed to be spent at the stage that wasn’t working, so I ended up wandering and ending up browsing vendors or in panels because I couldn’t find the things I’d expected to be doing. And so, as I was wandering by Frenchy & the Punk’s stand, I overheard the conversation that Scott Helland’s set had been moved to the lobby of one of the hotels, in a different time slot. I wanted to catch that, because his only other solo set was pretty early in the morning, and I didn’t want to force myself out of bed just for that, when there wasn’t a lot else I wanted to do the following day before late afternoon. So, I got to watch him set up 10,000 pedals with a steampunk dalek. The dalek didn’t help at all. I think he was just there for moral support.
I am going to admit here that this is a band I had no intention of going to see, but the schedule shifting meant there wasn’t a heck of a lot going on at this hour of my Friday night, so I decided ‘what the hell?’ Normally, at SPWF, I prioritize bands from foreign shores, but I admit the description of them turned me off. It was something about electronic dance music and a stuffed bunny mascot. I almost always hate electronica, and I certainly don’t like dance music, so this wasn’t so much a point against the band as it was the fact it just didn’t sound like something that was going to be to my personal preference. But, they were pretty good, guys. I don’t think ‘electronica’ or ‘dance’ are words I would personally use to describe them. They were much closer to my rock music happy place than I expected them to be.
V is for Villains
This is the set I wanted to stay on Friday to see, and the entire reason I lingered in the misty damp around the main stage for Prosspekt. Their Saturday show conflicted with…something…so I wanted to get this out of the way on Friday night to avoid making tough decisions. I was worried though, guys. I really was. As much as I love music, I’m an absolutely terrible audience member. I’m not bouncy. I don’t dance. I clap quietly, and I loathe audience participation. I’m not even kidding. I’m that audience member that stands there, takes a few photos, and mostly just stare. I’m that person who looks like they might not actually be enjoying themselves, even when I’m totally into it. So, when I found myself, right before the show, as literally the only audience member, I was worried for the band. I was crossing my fingers that the bouncy people would come along soon. Very soon. Eventually they did, but it didn’t end up being a very big crowd. Blame the weather. They were worth a little bit of misty rain.
Scott Helland (again)
I ended up catching part of Scott Helland’s set on a proper stage in the morning anyway, as I was waiting to meet up with a friend.
The courtyard stage was open on day 2, which meant I didn’t have to divert my plans very much. I was stationed there for a few hours. I wanted to check out Sarah Donner, knowing almost nothing about her other than that she plays guitar and likes cats. Really enjoyed this set. Also, there were newborn kittens travelling with her, so it was a double win, because music AND kittens.
A Halo Called Fred
I have this ill-fated relationship with Halo shows. Every time I try to go to one, SOMETHING happens. Sometimes, it’s someone’s birthday and I can’t get out of it. Sometimes, the weather is so abysmally bad it’s impossible (this hasn’t always stopped me. I remember one show that I drove through the fury of heaven to get to.), sometimes they – for reasons unknown – close down half the roads in the state, making it almost impossible to get to the event the show is happening at. Sometimes I’m just too damn poor for the festival they’re performing at. And, sometimes, they have to stop their set in the middle because the Cake Boss is filming ten feet away. Fucking Cake Boss. So, I ended up only being able to see half of their set at this year’s SPWF. They have another show this month though, with another band that I miss every darn year at SPWF because the fates of scheduling hate me, and I’m hoping to go to that – if the Universe permits.
Eli August & the Abandoned Buildings
I think Eli has a different number of abandoned buildings every year. Sometimes, the stage is so full they barely have enough room for elbows. Sometimes, it’s just three dudes from an ever-rotating list. It’s always a good show though, so I make sure not to miss it.
Frenchy & The Punk
I see Frenchy & the Punk every year. It’s always a priority on my to-do list, and every year they’re still awesome. Also, they’re one of the few bands both me and my usual SPWF cohort enjoy so, even though it’s later than she normally stays at SPWF, she stuck around with me for the show.
(yes, I know this is a terrible photo. the mic was literally in the middle of his face the entire set from my angle though, so this is actually as good as it gets…)
I wholly admit, that while I enjoy all of Jeff’s songs, really, 90% of the reason I go to his set is just to listen to this one song he has about a steampunk accountant. It brings me such joy. And, if he won’t record the darn thing so I can buy it, seeing it live as often as possible (which is basically once a year) is my only option.
Victor and the Bully
This was my final set of the weekend. I was pretty much burning out by this set, but I was determined. I’d missed them the day before because of my schedule adventures, so the end of Saturday was my only chance.
In the end, in spite of the chaos a closed stage caused my grand plans, and only getting to see partial sets of a few things, I did manage to check out almost everything I wanted to.
I might only have one more year of SPWF in my future, as I understand after next year they plan to move to a new location. While it’s normal for festivals to move to meet growing demand, how far it moves, and to where, will determine if it’s still practical for me to go. But, I don’t have to worry about whether or not one of my annual traditions is going to die (for me, anyway) until after next year, and with any amount of luck, next year I won’t be so lazy as to wait two months to post about it. (Seriously, I’m not usually THIS bad. geez…)
I was at another show last night, so I should (theoretically) write about that in the very near future. And I’m hoping to go to another mid-month, if all goes according to loosely made plan (see: totally have not made a plan at all, but I think I clicked the ‘interested’ button on FB, which kind of almost counts).
On the learning curve, not much to discuss at this moment in time. Still on and off working on barre chords and progress is steady, but not solid enough that I feel like I want to move on to something else just yet.
I do have new songs in the works and/or just waiting for me to get off my lazy butt and record them, so I should, possibly, maybe share some more new stuff with you soon.
So, there’s a fair amount in the works, at least, if not much that I feel strongly compelled is worth a blog post just yet. Stay tuned.
I had such plans today, guys. Okay, so most of those plans involved napping (LOTS of napping), but there were totally other plans. I was supposed to have the house to myself until around 6 pm, on my recovery day before heading back to work tomorrow, but NOOO. Roomie’s had a minor car issue and now I have to listen to his TV all day.
SO, those big plans to work on the poetry album recordings: thwarted again.
Instead, then, I’ll get back to that promise to talk more about this year’s Steampunk World’s Fair. This post is going to be gigantic; it’s the first year I attended all three days, so there’s a lot of data to cover, and some bands I’ll say more about than others. I still missed some of it, but that’s how it goes. I had planned to see some smaller acts Sunday, but it was just too darn cold, so I ended up watching multiple sets of my favorites instead.
The full photo album can be found on facebook: here. I’ll be posting one photo for each band here, but if you want to see all of the photos, use the link.
To give you an idea of what the Steampunk World’s Fair is like, I’ll talk about my breakfast for the 3 days of festival.
Day 1: Eggs & Toast.
Day 2: 12 oz Coffee and an egg salad sandwich (while driving).
Day 3: 16 oz Coffee and Fritos.
By the way, I don’t even like coffee. I only drink it when energy matters are dire. I’m not sure it even helps. Mostly I just pretend it does because it makes me feel like I’ve taken steps to ease my transition from Blanket Monster to Functioning Human Being.
SO, I’m going to try to be not entirely all over the map about this, but by day 3, my brain was clearly turning into a puddle of goo. This is the only reasoning I can use to explain why I thought coffee and fritos counted as a reasonable breakfast choice.
And, here’s the point where I look back at the last 3 days of posts so I can give you something resembling a coherent run-down:
1. JEFF MACH: I have been attending this event since before it was at it’s current location (I think the first year I went it was at the Doubletree?), and I have missed his set every single year, in spite of efforts to the contrary. It was like I was being conspired against. Either it was opposite something I absolutely was no-way-in-hell going to miss, or it ended up cancelled and I missed it for that reason. So, this year, when I looked at the schedule and had to debate between what to see and what to miss, I decided this was the best place to start. Besides, I saw ‘Steam Accountant’ on facebook a while back and it makes me laugh, so I wanted to check it out.
I also thought that the event creator’s set seemed like a really great starting point for the event.
Jeff Mach is also the creator of the steampunk musical, Absinthe Heroes, which I hear is awesome. Go see it if you have the chance, and I’ll live vicariously through you until I can afford both to see the show AND support the vendors at the fair – a position I just wasn’t in this year.
I’m not sure if he has any of his music for sale anywhere. (I would totally buy ‘Steam Accountant’, at the least, if I could. Instead, I will have to settle for watching it 1000x on Youtube). If anyone knows, tell me and I’ll update this post with a link.
2.MANSARA: I missed Mansara last year. I remember wanting to check her out, but vetoing it because it was in the same time slot as something else I wasn’t missing no matter what. It was most likely Frenchy & the Punk. …it’s usually Frenchy & the Punk. lol.
ANYWAY, Mansara is French, with a voice the likes of which will make you forget to breathe for a second when you first hear it. Seriously. Wow. I’d checked her out on youtube ahead of time, and I was still not prepared at all for what an awesome voice she has.
3. THE NATHANIEL JOHNSTONE BAND: I’m going to admit some guilt on this one. When they were announced for SPWF I didn’t really get why everyone was so riled up. I had zero context for why this was a big deal, and checking them out online I just sort of felt indifferent.
Maybe I’d check it out. Maybe I wouldn’t. (an aside to put things into context, I’m not easy to outwardly excite.)
Anyway, all the years bleed together. I’m not quite sure when this was at a glance, and at first wanted to say last year, but that’s absolutely not possible, once I put together what I do remember: the midway stage was under a tent, which it has not been in 2-3 years, and that they were on before, I believe, Eli August and the Abandoned Buildings, who I think had just released ‘For the Weak and the Weary’. That means this had to be about 3 years ago. I happened to catch the tail end of their set, and found myself surprised because I hadn’t been particularly enthusiastic.
Fast forward in time and for…you know, reasons, I still hadn’t caught their set. This year I decided to make sure to do so at some point, which is a lot easier when you have 3 days to make the scheduling work, and am now the owner of my first album (which is, okay, their most recent album. I’ll work my way backwards. That’s the norm for me anyway.).
4. Eli August and the Abandoned Buildings: I’ve talked about these guys before. I think I first discovered them with the ‘to the Weak and the Weary’ album, but I’ve also mentioned the album ‘Let this House Burn Slowly’ is one of the most visually attractive CDs I’ve ever seen. (Seriously, even without talking about the music, it’s super-pretty).
So, of course I was going to have to see at least one Eli August set this weekend, so I saw the set at the courtyard stage, which I think had the least number of people on an Eli August show I’ve ever seen. haha. The first time I ever saw them, the stage was so cramped it was a wonder nobody got elbowed in the face. Actually, I wasn’t going to see this set, because I knew I’d be finishing the weekend off with their set at the midway, which is usually the best one (acoustically speaking), but the Humanwine set at the midway was cancelled due to unforseen circumstances.
Anyway, lo and behold, they ALSO were debuting a new album this weekend, so I grabbed that, as well as a shorter album that wasn’t in my collection yet.
Then, come Sunday, at the midway…omg, guys, it was COLD. I almost decided to skip this set in part due to just…exhaustion, and in part due to the fact that the wind, even in a jacket (that is not as warm as it looks) I could almost feel my teeth chattering. The wind chill dropped the “feels like” temperature under 50. And then it started to rain.
5. Ingimar Oddsson: I always try to prioritize the foreign musicians if I’m in a time slot where there are a few possible things to see. The logic is simple: local musicians, or at least local to this country, are more likely to make the trip back to New Jersey again eventually. And, when it’s a foreign performer against a foreign performer, I’m going to choose the one I haven’t seen before. I have rules to make navigating a busy schedule less overwhelming. That made Ingimar Oddsson, who is from Iceland, a no-brainer to me. That was absolutely the set I was going to check out.
Apparently not everyone feels the same way though, and this poor guy go two of the WORST possible time slots, not even one bad one, and one that sucked. Literally, he had two genuinely horrible time slots to perform in. I’m not entirely sure, because I sat pretty close to the front, but I may have been an audience of one. Two other people sat down for a few minutes, but didn’t stay. I don’t know what was going on towards the back of the room. Either way, when you’re not even sure if there are other people in the audience, it’s pretty easy to say the turnout was horrible.
It’s not his fault. Frankly, I’m choosing to blame This Way to Egress. They were the other band playing at the same time, and they’re so popular among the SPWF crowd, that he stood very little chance against that. And, his only other set was at 10 in the morning. I hope that one worked out better for him, but the fair is usually virtually a ghost town until 11. Only those of us truly dedicated to geekiness and music tend to haul our ass out for a show that starts at 10. And, you know, the insomniacs.
I’m gonna be honest, even if the set was horrible, I’d have stayed anchored to my seat as a matter of course. But, he was good, so I made sure to buy his album on site. Festivals are really the only time I opt for physical CDs, for two reasons:
Firstly, so the performers can see that you appreciate what they’re doing. There’s something more immediate about an exchange of currency and product than a random number on the internet that says ‘look, some faceless entity inside the computer bought a thing you did’.
Secondly, for more budgetary reasons: musicians often offer deals at festivals. So if I save a dollar or two on this person’s album, that’s a dollar or two I have to maybe support another artist I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise – maybe if I save $2 at this booth, and another $2 at that booth, then I’ll be able to buy a single, or a download card, or throw a few bucks at one of the buskers. Or…buy a piece of chocolate. You know, whichever. The point is, what money I save of the money I budgeted for the event is money that goes to someone else at the event that I wouldn’t have had to give if I was paying full price. That doesn’t mean there aren’t artists I wait and download at home on, but it does mean I choose who to buy from on site, and that guy who had the saddest turnout you’ve ever seen by fault of having a horrible time slot? Yeah, he’s the one you buy from on site. Every time.
6. The Men that Will Not be Blamed for Nothing: The last time these guys came to SPWF, it was only half the band, due to health issues. They did a comedy/acoustic set, and I bought both of their CDs at some ungodly hour of a Saturday night. So, when I heard they’d be back again this year with the full band, I had two thoughts at just about the same time: ‘YES!’ and ‘I’m buying a t-shirt.’
This is also part budget-consciousness. I’m not sure if I can buy a t-shirt from them online, but I do know quite well what shipping between the US and UK costs, and it’s enough to bring you to tears. Ergo,buying a t-shirt was literally my #1 purchasing priority…besides, I already own all the albums. I was looking really forward to seeing what a set would look like with the full band, and they certainly have a lot of fun with it. I think there were parts of their sets where they spent more energy trying to make each other laugh than worrying much about what the audience was up to, and that’s really fun, even though I didn’t always catch the joke through the laughing.
I wasn’t sure I was going to go to the Sunday set at the Embassy Stage after seeing the Midway set, since there was other stuff that might have been cool to see, too. I mean, I already know The men that Will Not be Blamed for Nothing are awesome. But, I don’t know if that other thing is also awesome. So, I waited until the last minute to decide…but guys, did I mention yesterday was fucking cold? So yeah, I went to both sets. (The Embassy stage is the bane of my photo-taking existence, btw. I have to take like 6 photos for every one that kinda-sorta comes out not a blurry mess, so here’s a mediocre shot from the Midway stage.)
7. Lenino: This is another one of those performers that I miss every year due to scheduling conflicts, and the internet doesn’t provide me with very much information on him, but I can tell you he’s a renaissance man of sorts. He’s a game designer-slash-singer/songwriter, and plays piano. It looks like a first album is in process, but not released. My favorite of this set was a song about a grumpy old witch. I forgot the name of it, though.
8. Frenchy and the Punk: Guys, do you really need me to talk more about this group? You already know how much I like them, right?
But, I’ll combine and say that this year Scott Helland (the Punk) also got some solo sets which are vastly instrumental guitar stuff. Last year, I bought his solo albums ‘Earthbound’ and ‘Brocade’. This year when I walked by their booth I didn’t see anything I didn’t already own (though I know that I don’t own the oldest of Scott’s solo albums, and they exist somewhere in the universe).
Frankly, as someone who can’t wear tshirts to work, until my current F&P tee starts to get haggard, I can’t really justify buying another one, and I buy their albums digitally, so there was actually nothing new and shiny for me to purchase this year. It’s the first year I haven’t bought something from their booth. I feel almost guilty. But, I think since they’re getting my money one way or the other, whether they get it on SPWF weekend or when their albums happen to release is probably pretty irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
9. Sharon Knight & Winter: I basically ran from The Frenchy and the Punk set to this one. It was something new and shiny, happening only once the entire weekend, so I wanted to see what it was. Mostly the set felt more Renaissance than Steampunk, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Steampunk is what you make it, after all. There was definitely a Celtic sort of vibe, though. This set made me realize that I don’t make out lyrics as well at high pitches as I do at low pitches, which I never noticed before. So, I’m going to have to revisit this before I know if I just like it, or like it enough to own it. My ears need to give the tracks another go and get used to the high notes before I have a solid opinion.
10. Humanwine: Their first set at the main stage was unfortunately cancelled due to them still being stuck in traffic, but I was able to see their second set …even if I chose the worst possible seat for taking photos.
I’m used to seeing Humanwine with guitars, and the latest album set is keys and electronics. While that’s not acoustically bad, I do admit that in terms of just watching the set, I miss the guitars. They just make for a more animated, mobile sort of set than when they’re sort of stuck behind their respective boxes. That doesn’t mean the set was bad; there’s no such thing as a bad Humanwine set, but it was different.
The world we’re living in now is so tech savvy that laptops on stages is becoming pretty normal. It’s not as much fun to look at and take pictures of, though.
11. A Halo Called Fred: I missed most of this set. I got my butt out of bed. I bought a “healthy” breakfast of coffee and fritos as a matter of expedience. I was set to arrive with about 15 minutes to spare. …and then the police, for reasons unknown, shut down, basically half of the town of Piscataway. My GPS kept driving me around in circles. (Note to tech-heads. A GPS app that, after it tells you to make a turn, and you don’t make it, two or three times in a row, that asks if you want an alternate route, would be awesome. Obviously if you’ve told me to make a turn 3 times and I didn’t make it, it’s time for a new fucking plan!) Eventually, my only recourse was to drive in a straight line far enough past where I wanted to be that I would be behind the site in question, and navigate to the Raddison instead of the Embassy, choosing the longest possible route from the menu, to force it to take me in from the other end, I arrived in time to see the last two or three songs. It’s not quite the same as seeing the full set, especially since it was “Barry the Steampunk Monster the Improv Musical” which sounded like it had the potential to be hilarious in the most third grade sort of way possible, but better than missing it entirely, I suppose.
At least Halo is relatively local; which means if they would just stop only having gigs on days I’m stuck at birthday parties that I can’t get out of, I will have other opportunities to catch them. (Seriously, their last two or three sets all fell on someone’s birthday. Clearly, I need less friends, or at least friends who are less important.)
Anyway, I’ve talked about Halo before, so I don’t think I need to say much here. They’re just one of those bands that awakens your inner 12 year old and invites it out to play. It’s a bit like…hm…shall I call them the Peter Pan of Steampunk? They bring some much-needed levity into the world.
They’ve also just released a new album (which you can snag via bandcamp):
12. Psyche Corp: Once again, this is a group that I miss over and over again because they’re always opposite someone else. I’d have missed them this year, too, for the same reason, but I’d seen the other band’s set the day before so decided to give it a shot. I survived half of it. It wasn’t that they were bad. It was that I was freezing, and I knew a band I always enjoy was playing somewhere inside, and theoretically, by virtue of being out of the wind, warmer. I missed several things I’d planned to see Sunday due to the weather being less than thrilling (even with a jacket), but I sat through this set as long as I could. Their costumes were no help to my cold bug. I was in a jacket and hat. They were bare armed and legged. I just kept watching them, thinking ‘they have to be freezing’…this only made me colder. But, I saw enough of them to get an idea of what I’ve been missing every year at least. It’s a bit more tecnhopop (??) to be to my taste, but that doesn’t make it not good, if that’s a genre you enjoy. I would have sat through the full set if I wasn’t so cold, which I think says something from someone who doesn’t particularly care for this genre of music in general.
13. This Way to Egress: Here’s another band that, by sheer chance of scheduling conflicts I’ve never seen in spite of them being on the schedule every year.
(Preface: remember going into these comments that this is Sunday afternoon after 3 days of festival, and that I’m a very tired introvert fueling myself on chips, coffee, and fruit snacks at this point due to being too fricking worn out to even make a normal breakfast…in other words, my reaction on Friday afternoon might have been quite different.)
I discovered really quickly that, like Steam Powered Giraffe, they have really fricking annoying, overly-energetic fans. I get that’s what bands want. I do. Really. But I also don’t want them on top of me being all…bubbly and energetic in my personal space. I’m not claustrophobic, but that is the shit that claustrophobia is made of.
At the end of a Sunday, I just…couldn’t people anymore. And that many of them, that giddy, and that close…it didn’t take me long before my brain snapped ‘fuck these people’ and I got up out of my seat for a strategic retreat. I retreated, at first, to the back of the room. I thought further back, where maybe no one or very few people were sitting, I could stretch out a little, kind of take it all in in a more low intensity sort of way. I just needed some breathing room. Then, I realized they were dancing in some kind of psychotic daisy chain up and down the isles. Argh.
As a result, I really wasn’t able to give the band a fair chance. They seemed good. They did. I want to make that clear. And, I will look them up again from the safety of the internet, or maybe early in the festival, when my tolerance for socialization is higher, but I will not be going to any end-of-fair shows of theirs ever again, because I just don’t have the energy level to keep up with that much happening at once, that close to me, when I’m tired and looking as forward to the shows being over as I am looking forward to the shows themselves.
I did the only thing that made sense. I retreated about halfway into the set for a sandwich and some open air.
…cold as it was, and finished off the festival with the Eli August set at the midway, which was more or less the plan to begin with. Most of my plan for Sunday, once I got there, became ‘where is it warm? That’s where I’m going to be.’
I’m going to give you guys a really, REALLY brief summary of what I saw today at SPWF in Piscataway. I will revisit the subject with some details and photos after the weekend is over, but – mostly for the benefit of my goldfish-like memory, I’m going to just do a quickie of who I saw perform so that by the end of the weekend I’m not so frazzled that I forget anyone.
(Note: songs chosen are basically arbitrary based on whatever the first thing with decent sound quality that comes up from is…well, except for Steam Accountant….because that song brings me joy.)
The Nathaniel Johnstone Band
Eli August & the Abandoned Buildings
The Men that Will Not be Blamed for Nothing
A few of these bands I’ve talked about before, but I’ll talk about it more later. I’ve got to get my batteries all set to charge, set my alarm to go off in 7 hours, and start fresh tomorrow for round two.
Done in Sketchbook on my tablet. Limiting myself to half a dozen layers is pretty tough, but I’m getting used to it. I always feel compelled to not merge layers until the end, just in case, but when you have a maximum number of layers, you definitely have to plan well.
This started out as a drawing of an original character of mine, but it ended up not looking particularly like that character. Whatever. 🙂
Curly hair is stupidly fun to draw, btw.
If you are inclined toward art-related gear, this one can be found on my redbubble: here.
I’m going to use this post to give a really cursory overview of the other performers I caught a glimpse of at this year’s SPWF. The reason I’m not going to go into a huge amount of detail here is that I only caught partial sets of all of these acts, so there’s honestly not a heck of a lot I can say. I didn’t get very good photos, either, since I wasn’t quite close enough to.
I missed all the morning and early afternoon acts, because my cohort for the day also had things she wanted to see, and that was fine, really, because the things I really didn’t want to miss weren’t going to start until the evening.
I wanted to check out the Clockwork Dolls, which, from the description sounded right up my alley, but I knew it was at the main stage outdoors, so I was okay with coming into it midway through the set if need be.
I really debated posting about this band, because I don’t really like speaking badly of musicians. They work hard; they have a really hard job! And, generally, I can always find something good to say. When I can’t, I usually avoid saying anything at all. On the other hand, I said I would write about all the bands I saw this year, so leaving them out would be a little dishonest. I was hoping that by the time I got to this point, something positive would have come to mind. I was genuinely reaching for that. So, know that I cringe when I admit that after 1.5 songs, I knew that there was no way I could endure even half a set. The problem wasn’t with the song composition, but execution. I don’t know if it was that everything was wildly out of tune, that they weren’t in tune with each other, or if they just had equipment that could not handle the venue of a large outdoor stage, but the acoustics were agonizing.
Actually, checking them out on Youtube, they really have it together, so I don’t know what the hell happened to make them sound like such shit when I saw them. (I found something nice to say!) Maybe we can chock this one up to a technical problem or just a really off day.
In any case, it was more than my ears were willing to endure, but I knew there was another outdoor stage nearby that was supposed to have a performer on until 5:45 or 6, so I decided to head there.
This one was an opera singer named Jennie Jean. To her credit: her voice was awesome. The 30 seconds of music I got to hear sounded really good. But, after polishing off a piece, she was stopped to pose for a photo, then walked off stage. The set was definitely scheduled to go longer, but after about 3 minutes, I saw no indication that she was going to get back to it. This was around 5:30. I had a show I definitely wanted to see at 6 (Humanwine), so I threw my hands in the air and moved on.
(Note: She actually starts singing a minute or so in, if you want to skip watching her just stand there as the music plays in the video below.)
The group performing before Humanwine was Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band. I admit I wrote them off when I read the schedule. A marching band? Eeeeh. No thanks. That was unfair of me. These guys were great. Packed room, people dancing in the aisles kind of great.
It just goes to show, even those of us who complain about musical bias and have an eclectic musical collection have a few biases of our own. In the end, that the first two performers in this time slot didn’t work out for me was a blessing in disguise, because I would have missed these guys (well, not entirely, part of the band reappeared in the middle of the Humanwine set), and that really would have been a shame, because they were a new-to-me act that I genuinely enjoyed. Enjoyed enough to buy an album…eeh, I’m still debating on that one. I don’t think it’s something I’d pull out of my musical arsenal often at all, but definitely cool enough that I’d go to see a show.
A similar thing happened to me last year, actually. There was a lot of hype about the Nathaniel Johnstone Band, but checking them out online, there just wasn’t anything that was really speaking to me. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t really exciting, so I decided not to waste my time on that set. But, I ended up catching the tail end of it, and wishing I’d seen the whole thing.
Some bands are at their best live, and that doesn’t translate as well to an album, while others fall apart on stage. I haven’t bought the Emperor Norton’s albums.They’re good. Really good. I just don’t know yet if this is a band that won’t lose too much from anything but a really top-notch sound system. They are on the list, though. They are definitely on the list. I’m just not sure if I like them because I’m riding the after-effects of the World’s Faire, or if I just plain like them.
Finally: Steam Powered Giraffe. SPG is the boy band of Steampunk. That’s not to imply SPG is or sounds like a boy band or has anything really in common with one, but that they have that sort of expansive fanbase and popularity within the community. There are people who attend SPWF just for SPG, and there are the haters who feel that their Saturday headliner ruins the event. You know, there’s always that guy who decides the moment something becomes popular that it’s no longer cool, and will waste the rest of his life bashing it. There is such a divide in the steampunk community as regards Steam Powered Giraffe. And, as with all things, I exist somewhere in the middle ground.
SPG is a musical pantomime group. They make good music. They make you laugh. They put on a really great show that I recommend you go see if you’ve never seen them before, because you will absolutely not be disappointed.
But, their fans ruin it a bit for me. I kind of feel like going to an SPG show is the steampunk equivalent of going to a…okay, I am not up on my pop-culture references, so forgive me for being a little dated, but …Backstreet Boys concert. (I know, that’s more than a ‘little’ dated. Lol. But I have no idea who 15 yr old girls are getting screamy about these days.) Sufficed to say, you wait on line to get smushed in a thrall of overexcited teenagers. It doesn’t make the show any less great in and of itself, but it does make it something an older fan might not be as excited about doing EVERY year.
I’ve seen SPG two years running, so this year, when they were sitting in the time slot opposite A Halo Called Fred, I had no idea who I was going to see and was debating it until the last minute. Then, it rained. I might be willing to stand in a thrall of screaming teenagers for an hour, but I’m less inclined to stand in that thrall in the rain, so I went for the Halo show, but the SPG show was longer, so I did manage to catch the tail end of the set, when they played two of my favorite songs. I skipped the encore, because I wanted to catch at least part of a different performance nearby (that didn’t actually happen, but surprise Eli August set, so that actually worked out for me.)
Will I go to the SPG show next year? Maybe. It’ll depend on how the schedule falls otherwise, if they’ve released a new album, and what the weather is like. They are a great band. I don’t want to downplay that. But, I’m also in a situation where I have already seen them a few times, so I don’t HAVE to see them EVERY time. I’ll still be buying the new albums as they’re released.
And, that is that, ladies and gents! All of the performances I saw at this years World’s Faire. The next show I’ll be attending is Against Me! So, no more concert talk out of me until then.
I knew from the start that I wanted to feature Feline & Strange right after A Halo Called Fred, which seems completely bizarre, since the two bands have virtually nothing in common. (I know I’ve posted a lot of unrelated things in between, but the last band I talked about IS Halo, so it still counts.)
EXCEPT that they are the two acts that featured 5 string basses, and as someone learning bass I couldn’t help but connect them in my head because of that. What’s funny about that is that the bassist playing with Feline & Strange was not a normal member of the band (I think), but this is a case where, unlike watching the Halo set, I could see the purpose of the extra string – this guy was all over the place on that thing! Since both sets were late in the evening, Halo was still pretty fresh in mind, so the contrast between the two struck me.
Of course, they’re very different sorts of music, so they SHOULD be very different.
Feline & Strange was another band I nearly missed because of scheduling conflicts, but, by sheer chance, at the very end of the night, JUST as I was getting up to leave the event after Eli August, the announcer says, “Don’t go anywhere. Feline & Strange is on at 12:30”, so I stayed. Of course I stayed! This band was one of the international acts, so the chances that they’ll be back again next year are more likely a miss than a hit. So, even if it was 12:30 in the morning, and I was getting pretty droopy, and my phone was in single digit battery life land (which I thought I’d prepped for, but apparently your phone needs a certain percentage of life left to even utilize the juice stored in the power bank I brought with me, and whatever that percentage is, it’s higher than 8. Live and learn. I actually turned it off so I would have juice enough left when I was leaving for my phone to tell me if I exit to the left or the right.).
Now, I knew absolutely nothing about them going in other than the fact that they’re from Berlin, and their name. They’d been on that lists of acts I might like to check out, if scheduling permitted. And, since they only found out they were doing that late night set immediately before the set happened, I figure it was a pretty happy accident that I managed to be in the right place at the right time, because these guys were fantastic.
I really want to say that again: fantastic, because I don’t normally go in for synth-pop – European or otherwise. So, when I say fantastic, I want you to understand that I went in having never heard of them, and left with two of their three albums (the third I bought on Amazon later, since I didn’t have enough cash left on me for all three on the spot). In fact, one of the albums (Lies) wasn’t even due to be released until June, but those of us at SPWF had an opportunity to get it early. Yay!
Now, gushing aside. The band was listed as ‘synth-pop’, but it’s not what jumps to mind when I think synth-pop. I always imagine mostly bouncy techno(synth) without substance(pop – don’t look at me like that! Have you heard the top 40 recently?!). And, I know that’s not fair, because I know how outsiders view punk and metal with that same sort of blanket of disapproval. But, I can’t help it; it’s just what my mind fills up with. It’s the association I make whether I know it’s wrong to make snap judgments or not. I like my music sounding organic, and I loathe drum machines, so there is a knee-jerk not to music that IS synthetic, but music that sounds like it came out of a computer.
Well, there was a computer. And, I didn’t care. There was also a keyboard, a bassist who Feline said was “from here”, so I assume is not a usual part of the band, and a guy playing teeny tiny drums and what the sound guy called a cello. I thought he had to be wrong. I’d never seen a cello that looked like that before, but apparently electric cellos can look quite different! Cool. 🙂
They opened with a song called “Science Fiction”, with dialogue interspersed setting a storyline where the band is a bunch of aliens inhabiting human bodies and getting to know the world of humans. Now, on the one hand, that is kind of cliché. On the other hand, clichés become cliché because there’s something about them that is intrinsic to the human condition. Everyone feels a little alien sometimes, and with a set full of songs that deal strongly with love, isolation, and our place in the world, the alien backstory just plain works.
The bands I’ve spoken about so far are bands I was already familiar with, so that makes this post a little different. Frenchy & the Punk, Eli August, Humanwine, and Halo, are all great bands, but they’re also familiar bands. They were my wonderful discoveries in prior years. Feline & Strange is the hidden gem I unearthed at this year’s SPWF, and they are worth polishing off and showing to all your friends.