LACon '96

Leslie Fish's Filksongs

The Virtual Filksing

Convention Reviews

Personal Filk Projects

Other Cool Stuff

This year's LACon (3) attracted roughly 7,500 members. Overall, I had a very enjoyable time, primarily attending the filksings, playing harp, and chatting with friends. Went down with Joan Eslinger, who I had met at the Kathy/Dean/Rhanda house party in Fremont last month, who is a performance engineer at SGI and a lot of fun to travel down with.

Spent Wednesday night with Chris Newman and Mark Corsi, who are a gay couple from college that I had known for several years, and who just moved to Los Angeles last month. Chris is an excellent vocalist and cellist, who has played in Seattle's youth symphony before at a teenager, and sung in Pittsburgh's gay choir..

Now Chris writes IMAP mail servers based on open standards, competing against the proprietary forces of Microsoft Exchange (MS Exchange -> M SExchange; amazing what moving one space can do...) This was their first WorldCon (and Mark's second con), and they had an absolute blast attending, and they even showed up at the filking for a few hours, although Chris left his cello at home. I think Mike Liebmann was going to try to drag them to the local LA filksings...

Speaking of the filking, the Science-Fiction channel even covered a decent amount of it in their web con coverage, particularly Leslie Fish singing the "147 reasons why cucumbers are better than men", and her hallway filk.

Particular strengths/memories that come to mind:

  • The Con Suite was absolutely fantastic. I've never encountered such a con suite before in all 5 years of congoing that I've done: the Con Suite (ConSume) was actually a separate mini-convention. Never mind the HEALTHY and TASTY food (fresh salads all day --- and I'm not talking lettuce in a bowl --- but the kindof stuff you'd expect at a place like Fresh Choice, home-made bean dip, guacamole dip, plentiful fruits, etc), a separate track of programming (!), they did some rather wacko and cool stunts, like putting a scale at the front of the con suite, and allowing one to weigh in and out of the con suite. ;) There was also a Mr. Potato-decorating exhibit, with lots of real potatoes that various con members did obscene things to, etc. Occasionally there were hamburgers, pizza, etc. Great stuff, great humor, great fun.
  • The convention was exceptionally conveniently located; almost all of the programming was in two hotels, both next to each other, and easy to reach.
  • Alan Thiesen (I think?) ran the Totally Tasteless and Tacky Revue, and did a splendid job, as did most of the folks participating in it. (Including Alan Thiesen, who entered as "Mr. Small Fred", spoofing Fred Small's political correctness, with a sign-language interpreter and all!) Quentin Long was toastmaster, and having never seen him do so before (or really met the man before, for that matter), he was an absolute riot.
  • Sitting five feet away from Deidre McCarthy in her group's Sunday concert (Avalon Rising). Now I understand why she's been described by some as one of the best percussionists in the world. Her Troll-esque drumming in In Durin's Day contrasting with Kristoph's dreamy vocals left me (literally) breathless. Wow. Double Wow.
  • Getting a chance to do a harp arrangement for Gary Ehrlich's song Through a Child's Eyes with Gary (vocals), Robin Baylor (on fiddle & harmony vocals) , and Dave Clement (guitar & harmony vocals) in our Instaband. I had felt, since I first heard it at Musicon, that the song was begging for a harp and a fiddle, and it was way cool to not only have seen it happen, but to have been part of it.
  • Playing harp in the hallways for a few hours and only feeling like a partial klutz (unlike my last con in March, where I think I knew a total of five songs by heart.) I think I almost understand why Robert Stockton has so much fun in convention hallways playing harp and chatting with folks who drop by to listen. It's actually a very effective icebreaker for shy folks (like me), and an excellent egoboo, too.
  • Adam Who Walks Between Worlds. He's apparently a local pagan musician who walked into the Celtic jam session, and traded off with Heather (or was it Kristoph?) for most of Sunday night. He was excellent!!!!
  • Joey being very Joey-like and sweet beyond any obligation or reason and generously spending much of Sunday evening trying songs on harp & voice. Until that night, I had forgotten how much I learned about playing the guitar from Robert Stockton, who plays three chords and will tell you flat out that he can't play a guitar worth beans. But, Robert is an excellent harpist, and one can learn a hell of a lot (never mind have lots of fun) by playing with other folks who really know their stuff by pure osmosis and raw energy sharing. This was unquestionably the highlight of my con, and would have been worth the cost alone. (Never mind the fact that Joey's significant other, Lewis, is *serious* eye candy, but I digress... ;-)
  • Spending too many hours in the 14th floor lounge with an Australian fan who works in Information Systems at an Australian, whose name I'm ashamed to have forgotten, and who was absolutely fascinating.
  • Catching all the filkers that I recall waiting for years to finally meet in person (and then seeing them now every month!). Hi, Mary! Hi, John! Hi, Mike!
  • Being tortured by Katie (sp?) Savitzky, the first 11 year old kid who has ever described herself as a "UNIX Guru" and handed me a business card...
  • Torturing Shannon Mcguire.
  • Watching Shannon Mcguire torture Ken & Steve.
  • Watching Ken torture Steve & Shannon.
  • Watching Steve torture Ken & Shannon.

Album reviews:

I admit I haven't really been able to take Life's Flame out of my CD-ROM drive for long enough to actually finish an in-depth album review for any of the other $200 worth of filk albums I picked up, so...

Life's Flame (Heather Alexander)

The first (and only) 100/100 on the Eli Scale ;)

I was expecting to like this album from the start. And I'm not even a die-hard Heather Alexander groupie. I just respect and admire her vocal technique, audience interaction skills, originality in guitar arranging that she's developed over the past few years, and her ability to apply testosterone to vocal performances without compromising her tonal quality. I wasn't expecting to absolutely fall in love with the CD to the point of having it stuck in my CD player for almost a week.

I don't think I've enjoyed a new album this much for at least a year, perhaps two or three. Life's Flame is Heather Alexander's long awaited live album from Sea Fire, and it is a true gem. The performances are virtually flawless. Ditto for the engineering. The album insert is beautiful. The energy is infectious. The audience was used for good effect without damaging the performances. There's just enough spoken introductions and song comments interspersed to provide the feel of a real concert, but without compromising the album's long-term listenability. While I don't write songs and thus can't comment with any authority on their quality, I will say that I very much enjoyed almost all of them.

About 75% of the songs are new Heather (or Heather & Phil) pieces, another 20% are performed acoustically from the Phoenix album, and another 5% are recycled. For entertainment value, compare the recording of Voices of the Sea with the recording recorded almost exactly a decade ago from Bayfilk 3 and compare the interpretations. I honestly cannot think of a single flaw in this album, and it's my personal opinion that if this album properly distributed and toured doesn't make Heather into a nationwide name in folk music, I can't imagine what would. (I think you can E-mail and get ordering information for the album.)