Musicon '96

Leslie Fish's Filksongs

The Virtual Filksing

Convention Reviews

Personal Filk Projects

Other Cool Stuff

 At a recent con, Graham Leathers described the Winnipeg tradition of "Blizzard Parties". Apparently, in Winnipeg, blizzards sharp enough to shut the locals into their homes for days at a time are commonplace, and certainly not front-page news. They're commonplace enough that the locals simply check their weather forecasts, and when a blizzard's coming, those who can still travel stock up on food & firewood, grab their musical instruments, shove their dogs into their cars, and pass the blizzard with an informal party with their closest friends. Those who are already hopelessly stuck in the blizzard skip out and just stick it out home.

That was, in effect, Musicon 5. About 75 filkers braved the initial snow to come and were treated to a three (and in some cases, four) day weekend of friendship and song, with full filking Friday, Saturday and Sunday night at the Sled Dog party.

Unfortunately, at least a dozen filkers whose homes were already engulfed by the blizzard missed the con, including Margaret Middleton, Michael Longcor, Andrea Dale, and a number of other well-liked performers, leaving a very small performer core at the convention. A number of other semi-regulars, such as Maureen O'Brien, Renee Alper, Mary Bertke, and Lynn Gold just couldn't make it for various unfortunate reasons. While still enjoyable, much of the convention ended up as performer's circles of Tom Smith, the Suttons, and Murray Porath, filling in the concert slots for the missing performers.

The convention was also notable for the fact that over 10% of its members were lawyers. Not only did it result in countless lawyer jokes (including Mike Browne singing Mike Rubin's song about lawyer roadkill to Murray Porath's face), it also helped considerably with the various hotel incidents that occured during the weekend. (The hotel was $40/night, and let's just say that we got what we paid for.)

For example, while a group of filkers including Solomon Davidoff (who diligently follows the Jewish Kashrut laws) went to the Saturday hotel lunch buffet, Solomon exercised good judgement and asked the chef whether various food dishes contained any meat products or byproducts. The chef promised us that they didn't. Solomon believed him. Not only was there ham cloaked in his mass spinach, but the squash was littered with bacon. Solomon, unfortunately, realized the latter fact after he had already consumed it. Which is apparently a significant sin by Jewish law.

Thus, at the end of the con, when Solomon and a contingent of con com members met with the hotel manager to discuss the various crises that occured over the weekend, I saw at least one of our resident lawyers (Murray Porath) notably present with the con com.

Also notable were first concerts for Scott "Cosmo" Snyder, Terry Kennedy as well as the duo of Andy Eigel and Dave Tucker. Scott's a guitarist and mandolin player of the highest caliber, as well as an excellent songwriter, who just began filking a bit under a year ago. Terry is a professional musicon in the midwest who just started filking last year at OVFF; if you haven't heard him, his vocal & guitar technique very much parallel that of Pete Grubbs. Andy Eigel and Dave Tucker are two young filkers in their early 20's who are quickly becoming outstanding musicians; Andy has already mastered much of Steve Mac donald's guitar technique without a single lesson. Keep an eye on them over the coming years.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Becky McGraw during a lobby jam. Becky is a very talented vocalist who also began filking several months ago. I certainly hope she sticks around. It's my personal opinion that she could easily rival Julia Ecklar as a performer if she chooses to develop her skills.

Bill Rintz, who had recently had a stroke in September and could not attend OVFF, returned to fandom at Musicon. While he only took his fiddle out for 10 minutes since much of his muscle memory disappeared during the stroke, it was truly a pleasure to have his warm and friendly presence back in fandom. In effect, Bill is now in a position where he has to reteach himself much of what he had already learned about playing the fiddle, which is a very frustrating, tedious, and if not even downright depressing situation to be in for such a talented man as Bill. I don't think there's anyone who doubts that he'll be as good --- and better --- than he was before his stroke in the coming months and years.

This was also the first con that I had brought the 29-string harp that I had recently hacked together from a kit in my living room with lots of sandpaper, a drill, a $.99 saw, and about 40 hours of woodworking that must have driven the folks in the apartments neighboring mine insane. Despite the fact that I really couldn't play it worth a damn, a lot of filkers seemed to enjoy it (for a roughly $350 kit, it's actually a very playable harp with a clear, loud sound and a very resonant base range; plug, plug...) Several filkers liked the harp enough that they asked for the address of Musicmaker's Kits to build themselves a harp, too.

Most jaw-popping was Russell, a member of the band "Timelines". While a group of us (Andy Eigel, his really cool girlfriend Jinny, Becky, and a few other people) were hanging around in the lobby mutilating filksongs, this man (whom I had never seen before) simply walked over to the lobby, sat in a chair, and asked me to play something. I naively ignored him, assuming he was with the high school wrestlers who were also inhabiting the hotel. (Speaking of stereotypes, the wrestlers in question turned out to be very friendly people, read SF, spent a lot of time hanging out with several filkers. One of them even knew the son of my officemate at Turner Broadcasting. Small world. Two of them asked for Musicon flyers and said they'd be back next year!)

Anyway, Russell then proceeded to ask for permission to play with my harp, and much to my shock, he was not only one of the best harpists I had ever heard in my life, but it turns out that he lives about 5 minutes from me in Atlanta. Oops. So much for stereotypes.

Most surprising, though, of the folks who played with my harp was an 11 year old child (I think his name was Davis; I know his father's name was Stuart), who is learning clarinet and had apparently never played a harp before, but was plunking out melodies within minutes. I couldn't believe that this same kid who had just plunked his first harp Friday night had actually walked up to me at the Sunday night filksing and told me, "You're trying to play in the key of D, aren't you? You're actually in a different key, I think it's F. I think you want to flatten the two sharped notes on the two blue notes towards the top of the harp, and flip the sharping lever on this other note down here...". Gulp. You know...he was right, too. Yikes.

In conclusion, having just moved to Atlanta six months ago, I certainly found Musicon to be a much-anticipated and appreciated oasis of filk in the veritable Southern filk desert. Thanks for the refreshment, Musicon.

[Or, better yet, thanks for helping me get the hell out of Atlanta, Kathy & Dean! --- 1/97 in Sunnyvale, California]