Contata '94

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Just got back yesterday from Contata, the 4th (I think) annual East Coast filk con.

This year, it was held by the New York filkers (NYMFO) in Sequacus (sp), New Jersey. It was an excellently run convention, and extremely enjoyable. Joey Shoji was our excellent GoH, and Mary Ellen Wessels was our hilarious Toastmistress. (Yes, master MEW! <whip!> <crack!> ;-)

The Con Com from NYMFO consisted entirely of con-running newbies: yes, not a single person had ever been on a con com before. This is, needless to say, traditionally a recipe for pure disaster. I found it quite awe-inspiring that a group of people who had never run cons before not only managed a con, but a con that most members thought was one of the best EC filk cons ever done, if not the best. Not a single problem occured during the weekend that affected the con. Mike Browne clearly worked himself to death during the weekend, and I think he (along with the rest of the con com) deserves inordinate praise and compliments for the scope of the task they pulled off with unbelievable success.

The con started Friday with the opening reception, during which a dozen filkers pulled off When I grow up, I want to be Mary Ellen, to Joey and MEW's complete and utter surprise and bemusement (sorry). All of the concerts (friday to Sunday) that I attended were really fun. Joey, MEW, and Joey and MEW did some awesome stuff, as did Musical Chairs.

Jean Stevenson had written a new song about jocks in shorts to a choir song (the name of which I don't know), which took 3 tries to pull off --- when half the audience was falling over in their chairs (with Joey and MEW clearly rolling on the floor under a sheet they politely covered themselves with), it was correspondingly difficult for Musical Chairs to sing the song!

The con suite, run by Debbie & Jonathan Baker, was very good, and considered by many to be the best one ever at one of the East Coast filk cons. With great conversation, bagels & cream cheese, lots of great drinks (cream soda, black cherry soda, etc, besides the usual pop), a microwave oven, etc, and lots of veggies and fresh bread and so forth, it was a very popular conversation place.

The only thing about the con that I didn't like was the nightly filksings. It wasn't the con com's fault, of course. The Friday one unequivocally sucked for me because everyone was dead tired and asleep. Most of the singing was done by three rabid filkhogs. I left after only an hour or two for more exciting things, like sleeping. I hear it got better after I left. It would have really benefited by going to a poker chip style, or some other system of getting the filk-leeches to simply shut up.

The Saturday night filk had more spirit and much less hogging, but was still very mediocre, and I left when it reached the point that I found too high a proportion of it to be physically painful (around 4:30 AM). I really do like East Coast filks when the filksing turns to sharing filksongs, even if merely enthusiastically sung, but this didn't cut it for me.

I was quite amazed by Ellen & Spencer of the '95 East Coast filkcon com --- on Friday, they put out their flyers, with 3/4rds of the guests "TBA". On Saturday, I asked about it, and Spencer said they'd have to confirm the 3/4 that hadn't yet. Within a half hour of this conversation, I gasped in surprise when I saw xeroxed flyers announcing Barry & Sally Childs-Helton as the Music GoH, and Bob Laurent in his first appearance as a well deserved Listener GoH. Gee, I should try suggesting guests more often...

The con publications were quite likely the nicest I have ever seen in my years of congoing (all 3 of them). They were done by Avram Grumer, I was told; I was not exactly surprised when I was also told that he does graphic design and DTP professionally. Profound attention to detail everywhere.

Random Musings:

  • I note that Joey Shoji changes the lyrics to Fred Small's song Cranes over Hiroshima at the end of it; instead of "No more Hiroshimas! No more Nagasakis!", he sings, "No more Hiroshima! No more Nagasaki!". Look at that closely, and then tell me what it really means. ;-)

  • Speaking of interpreting things weirdly, in order to completely embarass myself, MEW and Dick Eney (I even apologize to the latter two for my doing so ;-))...MEW did an excellent performance workshop (more later) on Saturday. In response to a "let's go around the room and talk about this" question that she posed, when Dick took his turn, he responded with some very astute thoughts and ideas, but MEW suddenly noticed we were unfortunately low on time in the middle of it. However, her precise phrasing to articulate this thought just happened to be, "I don't mean to cut Dick off, but..." Even worse, I later started thinking about what ASCAP has for a homynym. Sigh...

  • Oh, yes - MEW did an awesome workshop on performance. She didn't give the standard blab on singing and all that, but instead, taught yoga, did various games with eye contact, and lots of really awesome stuff. Attend it when she does it at a con near you!!!

  • I was very surprised by the Jewish presence at the con. It was really unique. And, I must say, it was really unique and intriguingly pleasant to see discussions of Talmud and kashrut in a corner of the con suite half the time I came by. Speaking of which, the con suite was actually half Kosher and Treyf (non-kosher), too! It was a refreshing change, and it helped contribute to the unique environment that the con enjoyed.

  • Joey Shoji and Mary Ellen Wessels did Boys Want Sex in the Morning in the Sunday all-request concert to help the con break even (anyone know if it did? What was final membership count?). I recall a comment by Kanef about how some filkers can ruin songs by singing them well. I spent almost all of my time listening to the beautiful harmonies that Joey did on Boys... rather than laughing at the crass lyrics. Is that supposed to happen???! ;-)

All in all, it was a great con, and I'd like to thank everyone who I met/talked with/enjoyed hearing perform/etc and everyone who put a hand in bringing the con to life. It'll be a while before I forget this one...