Marcon '94 Review

Leslie Fish's Filksongs

The Virtual Filksing

Convention Reviews

Personal Filk Projects

Other Cool Stuff

Just returned from Marcon. Thanks to Bob Laurent for recommending this con to me in the first place, and to Robert Stockton for providing the ride from Pittsburgh. It was a most excellent convention, and capped off a most cool school year.

In the midwest tradition, the filk programming was held to the bare necessities: a 5 hour concert set, a jam session and nightly filksings. The concerts were most excellent, and consisted of:

  1. The Black Book Band (who I had never seen before: Barry & Sally Childs-Helton, MEW, Gwen Zak & Michael Kube-McDowell --- who are all excellent musicians; I'm not much into rock, but they got a HUGE audience, and a very positive response. Really liked their version of Hope Eyrie. Mike's guitar work (or was it Barry? Donít know their respective styles too well yet) and MEW's vocal work really drew it home for me!)

  2. Joe Ellis (is his voice getting better, or did I imagine it? Finally heard Sky Full of Stars, per his previous post. VERY NICE!)

  3. Juanita Coulson (who I didn't catch, since it was directly against MEW's Kids Filk [although the adults outnumbered the kids! I still think they should do a kids' filk with songs the kids WANT to hear --- like Rhinotelixamania, and so on...;-])

  4. Cynthia McQuillin & Jane Robinson (whose concert I thought was reasonable; half of their concert was the standard Midlife-crisis set, which I've heard zillions of times and am quite bored of by now.) I really enjoyed the rest. I found it particularly humerous when Jane described Drivel as a song about how to write your term papers and social science projects --- my project group was LISTENING to Drivel last week while we wrote our final project for computers & organizations on privacy, security and electronic communication/transactions. We took it more seriously than the song suggested, although it did summarize our opinions of the project. ;-) And we got the highest grade in the entire class for it, although it was all TOTAL bullshit!!!) Reminded me of a quote from that class's professor (who is one of the most renowned researchers in the world on telecommunications policy; he was finally snared from Bell Labs by CMU), when a student asked about figures he was writing down: "I'm actually just making up these numbers, but they're probably correct."

  5. Tom Smith (who started out his concert with an excellent song about the current events in South Africa linked the eclipse we had last week. Ask him for it if you see him. It's awesome. I missed most of his concert, as I chose to leave and grab food when he strongly indicated that he was going to be singing older songs for the tape recorder.

  6. Andrea Yeomans (who I unfortunately only mostly catched; I was starving and had heard most of her quite excellent songs before. She "released" revision 1.0 of her songbook for informal sales at the con, and it looks beautiful. She does marketing professionally, and it shows!)

ELI'S CONCERT/FILKSING TIP #42.5: Find one of the following people: Steve McDonald, Andrea Yeomans, or Maureen O'Brien. Sit next to them. You'll get awesome harmonies. Add to this list when appropriate. ;-)

The Friday night filk was most excellent. Most of the well-known filkers (if not all) didn't show up, and all of the great performers who are always at OVFF but don't have the courage to sing with the well-known guys around strutted their stuff. There were two guys (Tucker & Andy; don't recall their last names) who did some great filk that I had never heard before. It died early, unfortunately (2:00?), but a group of a dozen of us sat around and wrote a song about a dead beached whale in California which was bombarded with explosives by the Highway police to get ride of it. LOADS of fun; I had never particpated in an informal group filksong writing session before. I wonder how much of this night happened because it was untaped (Spencer came Saturday at 10:00 AM, as he had lots of things to do and wisely chose not to kill himself working before the con!), and folks performed for fun, with no concern for ego or such things.

The Saturday night filk was just as short, with a LOT of people crammed into the room, and (IMHO) it felt very cozy, although a number of folks felt very claustrophobic in it. It also died around 3:00 or so, with folks talking or so until 5:00ish. Some wonderful music. I don't think I'll forget Mark Osier's following up Steve Mac donald's I just love those Old B Movies with I Just Love those Porno Movies. He had a reasonable proportion of the filkroom falling on the floor (myself included) with his rendition of the chorus (which I believe was), "OOOOOOOOOOOOOH! UUUUUUUUH!! AAHHH!! MORE, MORE MORE!!!! OH.....THAT FEELS SO GOOD!!!!!!". Sick, sick, sick...And very well written. ;-)

Marcon had a wonderful sense of filk community to me. Filk was just everywhere, as were filkers. I even heard a guy asking another fan in the hall, "Can you tell me if there are any cons around with less or no filk programming??? I can't stay awake for the daily programming since the filks are so much fun!", and saw filkers whereever I went. For a 2600+ fan convention, I was amazed!

I was very impressed by the con's alcohol policies. They had a wet con suite, and I only met a single drunk person who was in the filksing for 5 minutes Saturday night and was "shushed" out. (he had difficulty trying to understand the roman numerals on Robert Stocktonís Pennsic bag ;-) Nobody violent. I've been told that it's a matter of local honor and respect within the fannish community, in that fans maintain their dignity and don't do stupid things, like walking around drunk harassing folks, which I was unfortunately unimpressed by at this year's Balticon.

I was also very impressed with how they handled tracking under-21 attendants to ensure that none of them got alcohol --- under-21 members had a radiation symbol on their badges, while older members got a planet on their badge. (Some folks got the under-21 badges, anyway, by error...) This strikes me as being obscenely brilliant; I didn't figure out the coding scheme until Saturday night. Most people never did. Much better than the stated policy in the program book, which struck me as being poorly thought out and rather demeaning (under-21 people were supposed to wear arm bands to identify their age. Over my dead body --- banding is for birds).

I am also starting to semi-seriously think that percussion instruments should be registered as a dangerous weapons with the convention, and banned from filksings without proven demonstration of competence and safety in their usage. The Friday night filksing was nearly mangled by a single filker (who shall remain nameless) who couldn't keep a beat or play a single of his percussion instruments worth horseshit, and did very loud "percussion" tracks throughout every filksong, completely out of rhythm, and with not a whit of technical competency.

I had fewer problems by going to the opposite end of the (rather small) room, but if someone wants to learn percussion, I strongly encourage them to buy some tapes and play with them, rather than to inflict their practicing on others against their will. (I personally recommend The Dady Brothers - Soul Lilt and Richard Stearns - Emerald Castles, which I've been having much enjoyment playing the bodhran along with in the privacy of my house. ;-) [I've had some practice, too, with a local harpist, but it's pretty hard to play along when all you can think is, "oooohhh....that harp sounds so could I ever want to mutilate that by playing this here bodhran on top of it???!" and then go through 2-3 repeats before deciding that yes, it wouldn't be sacriledge to mutilate the harp playing, but merely murder. ;-]

Speaking of the Friday night filksing, I'm also wondering how one defines a star system. Is it when non-"stars" (so to speak) are ignored because of their lack of "name", or is it from holding well-known filkers in high regard? I still haven't seen the former, although I've been told it's everywhere, and I'm wondering if I've misintereprested the meaning of a star system. I've seen the term used to indicate that I should keep people who think they're performers on equal status with those who truly are performers (regardless of status in the filk community), but I haven't seen bias based on experience in filking. I've actually think I've only seen the opposite, where new people are given intentionally more ideal treatment (which they deserve, IMHO) to help snare them into our community. ;-)

There were also a lot of new tapes out. Wail Songs has impressively released almost a new tape every week since FilKONtario last month: the Divine Intervention re-release (which looks by far to be Wail Songs' most professional product to date, although I still prefer the original for plain visual aesthetics; haven't heard the final product, although they had to go through Hurdles from Hell to get it out --- the original album master was recorded on a BETAMAX VIDEOTAPE!!!), Roberta Rogow's new tape (which looks like it was produced by Margaret and Kristoph, and should probably be pretty good), and finally the '91 WorldCon tape, which was fairly reasonable in the car. All of their recent inserts are also starting to look quite a bit more professional. Not Forgotten (released at FilKONtario) is quite possibly the nicest single-color insert I've ever seen on a filk tape to date, although I admit I could have passed on many of the songs on it.

Dodeka had Songspinner & Domino Death out. Songspinner was Steve Macdonald's first tape; I'd probably give it an 8 out of 10. The performances were very good, Steve's songs (as usual) stand for themselves with their sheer power, the artwork was utterly awesome, but the engineering was done at some other studio (not by Bill Roper; it was recorded before a contract was signed for duplication/packaging, as I recall), and had a very compressed & metallic sound to it, and was probably just a bit below Off Centaur tapes from 1984-1985 or so. I hope they don't use the same studio again, since it really made an excellent tape into a merely very good tape, IMHO. Still recommended. I really liked the comment on the tape insert which follows the discussion on parodies on the net (I hope this is fair use!: "Bill and Gretchen would like to thank the Supreme Court for their ruling on parodies, but have nothing more useful to say than Justice Souter did.")

I think that's about it. Enjoyed very much meeting Maureen O'Brien in person (hi!), and enjoyed chatting with Robert, Chuck (Van derlinden --- a Pacific Northwestern filker who came by last week for MEW's graduation [his badge for it labelled him as the token Interfilk guest ;-], and stayed for Marcon) and the BBB club today over lunch; nice ending to a great con. Thanks to everyone who I met for a wonderful time, and to anyone who helped organize Marcon in the unlikely event that they may be reading this. Great con. Sleep calls...

Next year's filk GoH is going to be Kathy Mar. I found this particularly amusing, as I recall last summer when I was vegetating in her household last summer, and received a call...

Voice on Telephone: " Kathy Mar around? We're looking for a filk GoH for MarCon next year..."

Me: "Umm...she's somewhere between Texas and Georgia right now...could I take a message or leave her your number?"

Voice on Telephone: "Ah, sure. Meanwhile, do you have some other numbers? I'm looking for a person named Dr. Jane Robinson?"

Me: " it is."

It was fairly freaky when I finally received the con flyer with Jane's name on it. ;-)