Mythic Faire 2011.

20 March 2011

While few people will admit to it, just about everyone I've ever met seems to hold one sort of myth or another close to their hearts. Some are die-hard fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and decorate their homes with memorabelia from the show. Others have the full set of (kind of crappy) Babylon-5 action figures in the packaging, and have a habit of asking people what they want. Some find their muse in fantasy rather than science fiction, and are known to dress as medusae, sprites, dryads, or Sidhe nobles at festivals for fun. Steampunk has brought a whole new generation of people to the fantastic, from pulp adventure to weird horror to Victorian science fiction. I freely admit to wearing odd combinations of clothes from all through Time, and yes I do wear a fez (because fezzes are cool, don'tcha'know). So, when Lyssa first told me that Mythic Faire would be held in Baltimore this year I dropped everything to reserve a room and get weekend passports for the convention.

The drive up on Friday afternoon was unfortunately timed for the precise moment when everyone who can get out of work early does, so it took Lyssa and I about two hours to get to Baltimore. It also took another half hour to find the bloody hotel because my GPS, her GPS, and the directions on the hotel's website all took us to the same (incorrect) industrial park just off the highway. Still, once we found the right place it wasn't difficult to make sure that we hadn't gotten lost again - just follow the line of people in wonderful costumes. We packed a little heavy this time so hauling everything up to the room was something of a production. In the future, I'll probably pack my clothes in a rolling suitcase and leave off the physician's bag of random stuff, most of which wasn't terribly handy during the convention. We missed all of the panels on Friday afternoon but got there in time to catch dinner at the hotel restaurant, met up with Laurelindel, and then got dressed up to catch SJ Tucker and Abney Park perform at the Time Travelers' Masquerade.

I'd never seen Sooj perform before before but I've liked what Lyssa has played for me of her work. Some describe her work as bluesey, others folksey, still others as filk. It's safe to say that no matter what you hear of her work (and there is a lot of it - six albums and counting) you'll not only hear something you'll like, chances are you'll break into gales of laughter at the song if not the turn of phrase. She seemed to have done a lot of newer songs that evening, all of them fan favorites judging by the crowd. At some point I somehow wound up with a crocodile mask on the top of my head, and discovered that a sonic screwdriver works just as well during a ballad as a cigarette lighter. The evening was finished off in grand style by Abney Park, who always put on an excellent show (and if they don't, the Ophelia's time engines give them another try (though I haven't yet figured out why the Blinovitch limitation effect doesn't shred their dirigible)). Captain Robert is one of those performers who captures your attention and refuses to relinquish it until the final note is played, Nathan hams it up with the crowd, Daniel's solos captivate, Kristina's riffs on the keyboard buoy everyone's spirits, and Jody.. you know, I didn't know that the band had replaced their dancer with a backup singer. Jody brings a very different dynamic to their music, one which I think that I much prefer. From the moment they hit the stage until the final encore, I think it's safe to say that all of us in the ballroom were having the time of our lives.
Wisely, the organizers of Mythic Fair scheduled nothing earlier than noon on any day, so most everybody woke up well rested, mostly recovered, and probably ravenous. In small groups, congoers descended upon the breakfast buffet like plagues of locusts before returning to their rooms to get dressed for the day's festivities. The only panel we really caught on Saturday afternoon was hosted by Abney Park, and was a question and answer session for fans of the band. Abney Park spoke about what it's like to go on tour when you have two kids at home (the parent-teacher meetings must be two martini affairs after the final bell rings), some of the logistics of planning a tour (or even a show at a festival), what it's like to be described by people rather than choosing a label ("They're a goth band, but they're too cheerful!"), and how they plan their setlists (by the instruments they can get onto the plane). Captain Robert told a couple of touring and world travel horror stories which a young'un in the audience kept asking about (William Gibson apparently had it right about Istanbul). I think that Nathan really hit the nail on the head when talking about music: steampunk, like punk and industrial before it, is an extremely diverse genre. The groups that are making steampunk music right now don't have any fixed attributes, common sounds, or even subject matter. Everybody's trying something different to see what sounds good, sometimes even in the context of a single album. To date, there hasn't been a moment in which one band suddenly defines an entire genre as the Sex Pistols did with punk, and that diversity is a sign of creative health for any genre. I got to talk for a while with Captain Robert after the panel was over; much to my surprise he seemed to have recognized me from when we worked together at the last Saloncon. The band now has some HacDC stickers to adorn their instruments' shipping cases if they so choose.

As we are wont to part ways from time to time, I wandered around the convention for the next few hours, striking up conversations wherever and whenever I could and browsing the vendors' wares. Booth upon booth of clothing, jewelry, props, leatherwear, and other unusual things lined the hallways as well as one of the ballrooms. I spent some time playing with a hand-made bronze walking stick that sported both a Maglite flashlight and 300,000 volt stunner built into the end (as much as I need a new LART I can't afford $450us for one). I was very fortunate to have met some very interesting people and struck up discussions that lasted for an hour or two at the very least. I also got to see someone in a ten foot tall ogre costume win the competition without even having to set foot on stage. With some of my spare money I bought a couple of pieces from jewelers and leathersmiths, and had a little custom work done which I'm fabulously pleased with. I even got some sewing done, though I had to dump out most of my physician's bag to find any of it. Later that evening I met back up with Lyssa and Laurelindel and, after dinner at the hotel lounge, went back to the room to get changed for the Keltic Worlds Masquerade.

I got to try out a new outfit that I think I'll be sticking with in the future, at least during warm weather. As for the shows, I caught some of Adam Hurst's work earlier that day, both on stage downstairs and sitting next to the escalator by artists' alley - his cello music is amazing, and moreover it's all original compositions. I've had Ritual in fairly heavy rotation at work this week, and it's quite enjoyable. The Woodland String Band wasn't too bad, though I wound up running around a bit during their set so I only caught about half of it. I have to admit I didn't know that Delhi2Dublin was going to be performing on Saturday night, nor did I know anything about them. However, I was not only surprised by their performance but utterly blown away by it. Aside from two people taking turns singing and rapping in English and at least one dialect of Hindi, Delhi2Dublin has two violinists, an electric sitar and guitar player, and a live drummer in addition to their sequencing gear. Their music seems to be a fusion of bhangra, dub, old-school techno, and Celtic music; I haven't seen or felt a performance anything like that since my days in the pb-cle scene back in the mid-90's. I was also astounded to see the ballroom packed with people dancing the entire time, including one young woman who was contact juggling a pair of poured acrylic spheres while dancing an Irish jig simultaneously.

Some time after the concert was over I found myself in a small group of people headed to somewhere in the vicinity of Baltimore, Maryland for a late breakfast. We wound up hanging out someplace I don't remember the name of for the lives of me that was covered in kitsch - there were action figures glued to every available surface and tucked into shadowboxes all over the walls. Being a computer geek by nature I immediately picked out all of the ReBoot figurines, which are kind of rare. I also discovered, much to my surprise that bacon milkshakes are pretty good, though I'm not so sure that they should be a regular part of my diet (hell, convention food should never be a regular part of anyone's diet).

As is to be expected in the aftermath of a convention, I've spent the past couple of days trying to catch back up to workaday life, not only in terms of sleep but also digging out from under the massive pile of stuff that accumulates when I stop paying attention to it for a single day. The amount of laundry that has to be done is considerable (plus some of it really needs to be hung up and taken for dry cleaning) and I'm still sorting through the stuff I bought at the con, plus the business cards of everyone I bought stuff from. Much of the time I spent at the Mythic Faire was spent talking to the people selling stuff who also made many of the things on sale that weekend by hand. As one would expect they were very knowledgable in their fields of craft, but also conversant in a great many other things, hence, the hours spent in discussion. I would be remiss if I did not post links back to them because awesome deserves to be spread around.