| I don't quite know what to say about the con; I think Mike Rubin's Programmer
and the Elves said it best, albiet taken out of context: "Don't do the impossible...you'll
be expected to repeat it again and again..." I'd like to publicly thank the
convention for providing us with filk programming this year; much of what I think
didn't work was most not necessarily a result of their actions.
Balticon used seems to have peaked as a filking con in 1992, as far as I can tell; it used to be very anti-filk, it became the region's major filking convention through lots of hard work and sacrifice by 1992. That year, we had Larry Warner as GoH, who brought a number of people to the con --- but not enough to overwhelm it --- and whose talent, natural warmth and personality helped shape the filksings into wonderful events, as well as that of the people who came to see him. I guess you could say that the porridge was just right, if you want to use a Three Bears paradigm.
It seems to have started deteriorating last year, when Leslie Fish came as GoH, which was largely considered to be a bad move by the regulars (at least those on GEnie): we had a swarm of 100 or so people crammed into a filk room, mostly listening to Leslie --- the only really good performer at the con, with 3 hour circle durations. This porridge was too large.
This year, Duane Elms was the guest of honor. IMHO, I think he fit the con just as poorly as Leslie Fish: don't get me wrong --- I think Duane's a great person, incredible songwriter, good guitarist, and truly deserves to be a regular guest at filking cons --- at 1993 OVFF, where he was the GoH, he bent backwards writing new songs for us, spent the Saturday banquet going from table to table to talk with fans --- rather than eating like everyone else --- which I think is a first and an outstanding thing to do. I think he works great at any con which has lots of very good local performers --- as OVFF has.
However, since he is a regular at Balticon, he didn't draw any additional people (at least that I'm aware of). Likewise, since his primary strength is not his vocal skills, the combination of these two factors resulted in all the filksings being a pretty much generic East Coast filksing with mostly adequate performances of the same songs that we've heard again and again (or, at least I have). The end result was that there wasn't a single outstanding performer showing up regularly at the filksings. There was a lot of filkhogging both nights (enough that some people just left the filksings), which can sometimes be averted by the Dr. Jane process, but didn't happen since there was no "Dr. Jane"-personality present, as there had been in past years. (At Darkover two years ago, there was a filksing when Dr. Jane was hanging around --- not singing anything --- and interestingly, all of the individuals who had a tendency towards filkhogging were exquisitely well-behaved...I suspect there's some psychological process of wanting to impress one's elders or whatnot.) The porridge this time was too small, and I think this con is the first time I ever left a filksing after an hour, never mind leaving before the end of the filksing.
The programming was the same stuff that we've had for years. The concerts were the same people singing almost entirely the same songs (with a half dozen or so songs as notable exceptions) that most of us have already heard. The programming was the same stuff --- songwriting workshop with the same people, same guitar workshop, etc....I don't know why, but I really didn't get a feeling of strong community like I've felt in past filking conventions, besides talking with filkers in the hallway...I think it was because there were no events that snagged all the filkers at which there was some degree of social interaction.
The con also switched hotels. I think the last hotel changed management, and decided that fans are Satanic or evil. Although it was a beautiful building, it was functionally lousy, and incredibly expensive (I paid $55 for a 4-way split for 2 nights): this one was filled with drunk, obnoxious teenagers who came off the street, and this was the first time I had been harassed (with other members) by drunk slobs in hallways and on elevators while minding my own business. I've been told it's happened in the past every few years; I even got to see a few of them arrested, and hopefully helped get some of them arrested myself. There wasn't a single quiet spot in the entire hotel to practice, tune a guitar, etc, not even staircases -- nothing.
I had my guitar out of tune most of the weekend since you could not tune an instrument in the building!!!! [Has this ever happened in a hotel before?] (Likewise, I received a great bodhran lesson from our local percussion guru Cindy Ross, and couldn't even find a place to practice a damped bodhran for more than a half hour in the entire hotel --- either the area was packed with people, or the con committee and/or volunteers came by asking me to shut up, since the acoustics resulted in the noise going up 3-4 floors!!!) The elevators couldn't even handle half the capacity we had --- taking an elevator to one's room and back was often a 15-20 minute procedure. My room had a defective bathroom. The entire hotel was FILLED with smoke and alcohol wherever you went --- not just the smoking areas, like in the previous Hunt Valley Balticons --- and much of it was very unpleasant to be in.
However, there was some nifty stuff that went on. Musical Chairs (Linda Melnick's group) did a really cool Friday night concert. I was very surprised to hear the British filks that they did (Ancient Skies and Rise Up) gorgeously; British filk seems to have become quite a bit more commonly sung in the states than previously.
In sum, every con has its bad years; I hope that this year marks the end of Balticon's bad filk years. Otherwise, I doubt I'll be back.