Convention Review: OVFF '95

OVFF 1995

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OVFF 11, which just ended yesterday, made history by having 262 members (!) this year, probably the largest filk con attendance ever. It's great to see that while other regions of filk are apparently downsizing, OVFF just gets more and more people. I think that their formula of fun, energetic filk with talented musicians, and zero visible political bullshit has some serious merit to it.

Diana Huey was this year's con chair. To say she was outstanding would be an understatement. Her hands-on/get dirty approach to the con (would you believe that she even picked up a filker she had never met --- and only talked with by phone briefly --- at 1:00 AM from the bus station on the morning of the con?) truly succeeded.

Steve Macdonald, that kid who walked into OVFF just three years ago, had his first guest of honor slot this year. And his wife, Susan, even came, with kids in hand! (ok, she needed 2 hands) Just goes to show ya that good filkers get noticed!

Heather Alexander had her first Toastmistress position at a convention at OVFF. She was not only a wonderfully friendly person, but also did a great concert, and actively contributed to the open filks without any semblance of hogging. Since Bill Rintz sadly was not at the con due to his recent stroke, Heather took the torch for a year in his absence...her uncanny musical ear and fiddle talent helped make every performance Bill, she was often boldly playing (and beautifully!) along with songs she had clearly never heard before.

I think what was really amazing about Heather was not the way she performed, but rather the way she listened. You could actually see this amazing light in her eyes and enraptured attention on her face whenever she was quietly sitting in an audience while someone was playing in her vicinity. It's been said by Kathy Mar the best performers are almost always the best listeners. I think Kathy is right. While Kathy never gave a reason for her feeling, Heather did, through her performances --- anyone watching Heather could tell that much of her performances consisted of matching and building upon the energy of her listeners, rather than just finding the energy within herself.

However, I think that truly blew me away about Heather is the fact that she clearly has an exquisite, gut-level sense of the energy flows present in any group music session and how to direct, shape, and work with them. During the Saturday night Kicked Out Of Convention Space By Rent-A-Cops Hall Jam (later), easily 75 filkers passionately were drumming along on. Heather quietly, and later openly, started improvising a catchy fiddle tune to the rhythms being banged out. Other folks joined in, with a bunch of folks dancing around the hallway. It went from celtic to middle eastern to whatever...and I suddenly gasped with realization after looking around me for a moment....I think it was at this point (I was tired) that Dominic asked me if I realized that Heather was really the person leading the jam session. It was amazingly subtle, but it was really happening. Amazing person.

Oh, yes, Dominic. Dominic Bridwell actually made it to the con, thanks to Diana, Dean, Kathy and Rhanda, making this OVFF the fifth consecutive year that some filker has flown across the country in order to flirt with me. ;).

But, anyway, Dominic was truly wonderful to have, even moreso after showing up out of the blue from 7 years of gafiation. He was not only an Interfilk Wench (and a damned good one at that), but did some absolutely amazingly tight harmony singing with Steve Mac donald in the Sunday jam session. It was kinda like the movies you've seen about someone who falls asleep for 100 years and suddenly returns...Dominic had an uncanny knowledge of filk as of 1988 (we went through a LOT of Leslie's book in the hallway ;), but was totally dissolate from everything afterwards...and caught up very quickly.

I missed Thursday night at Diana's, as I had the opportunity to meet & talk with the creators of Myst (Rand & Robyn Miller) while they were in town, and wouldn't have traded it for the world!

The Saturday concerts were a blast. Heather started out (in my feelings) surprisingly weak, as if she weren't really putting herself into the performance, and was just singing the words rather than presenting the feelings. By the end of it, Heather was clearly putting herself entirely into her music, and was stunning to experience, treatning us to mostly new & unpublished songs.

Dave Clement & Tom Jeffers followed. They were very well received. For good reason. They're great musicians, and a load of fun.

Kanef had a 30 minute block with folks performing his material for him on stage, including an amazing parody of The Queen of Air and Darkness. Catherine Mac donald learned it the night before, and most of us would have guessed that she'd been singing it for years. Totally, totally solid. Ditto for the rest.

Urbane Travesty...I mean Urban Tapestry...followed with a wonderful concert, including a new song by Allison about the World Wide Web. It was called "Web Surfing". Paul Kwinn & Co were on stage were jamming beach-boys style to an electric guitar. I nearly laughed my pants off. It was wonderful. I hope that it is taped in the future in a more desireable environment, as I doubt the rendition that occured will be of much good on a tape, as it was directionally miked by mikes 3-4 feet away with lots of stage creaking. They also had these wicked flyers out in the hallway advertising "Urbane Travesty" with quotes about how terrible the group was from ficitious people. They're good enough that they *can* make these jokes and we laugh. ;)

The Mac donald (Interfilk guests) followed with a concert. Don't really know what to say about it, and Steve Mac donald finally followed with his 1 hour GoH concert.

The Saturday night filk was amazing. It broke off into two groups (as usual), one in the main conference room, and one in the alternate filk room. Imagine a dozen drummers, Heather Alexander, and a zillion other filkers singing at the top of their lungs and percussing --- the alternate filk room filk got so passionately into their music that the hotel sent people over telling them to shut down the filk room or they would call the police. (The con had violated their contract and blocked non-OVFF people into the rooms under the conference room.)

So, the group went into the lounge and started playing. And you know what filkers can play when they're pissed. Imagine a few dozen people doing a rousing rendition with Heather leading of March of Cambreadth with a dozen people screaming and drumming at the top of their lungs...and now imagine the cops walking in on the last line of the chorus (you know..."HOW MANY MEN CAN WE MAKE DIE?") It was quite a sight.

The cops ordered everyone to break it down. The filkers showed the cops our hotel convention contract which quite clearly detailed that nobody was doing anything illegal. The police left, telling the hotel that they were on their own!

At this time, I had went into the area near the pool with Dominic, as we were looking for a quiet place to play some more music...within 5 minutes, one hundred people sat down next to us and joined the filk sing, with songs like "Marcon Ballroom" and such.

Suddenly, our eyes turned on Tom Smith. He was writing. Uh oh. He sung to us his instafilk, chock full of bad puns, rent-a-cops (there was one called by the hotel), and a rousing call to action apparently, He actually seemed to be really loving the music!)...sung right within earshot of all the hotel staff!

It was a great filk, and nobody was in bad humor. OVFF's con com and members are certainly distinguished by their determination to have fun and take everything in its context.

I suspect, however, that the hotel (which just had new managers) will have lost one of their best customers for the past 5 years; OVFF has many hotels eagerly seeking their business.

Anyway, I only had one gripe about the con, and it was the sound reinforcement. I hadn't realized how great the sound reinforcement Spencer's been doing at cons for years was until we didn't have it. Heather had no reinforcement for the beginning of her concert, as did Urban Tapestry, making their concerts very hard to hear. Later concerts were reinforced by (don't laugh) directional microphones which amplified much more noise than music. Learned very quickly how to sit on the sides of the filk room next to the stage in order to not have to listen to what came out of them.

See ya all next year! ;)