Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Return of SteamPunk World's Fair

Thanks to  Bubble T's dear friend, Doctor Ziff R. Zedock, Apothecary and Scribe, we were able to not only hear about the ins and outs of this years SteamPunk Worlds Fair, but were able to coax the dear Dr. into giving us his thoughts on this years event.

One of the many amazing poster's designed to advertise SteamPunk World's Fair

It's difficult to sum up the SteamPunk World’s Fair (SPWF). It's a festival steeped in Victorian aesthetic, and run by the esteemed, Jeff Mach, the very same who orchestrates the one and only, Wicked Faire. The SPWF has grown to such a size, and attracts so many different types of people, that the myriad of activities going on at any given time makes it impossible to focus on just one aspect of the overall event.  It’s quite possible (and likely) that you’ll lose yourself in all of them. Therefore, I'd expect every review of the 2012 SPWF to be different, but all of them echoing the same sentiment, "I can't wait for SPWF 2013, I need it inside me, now, and I want to have all of its gorgeous goggled babies".

2012 found the SPWF returning to the Embassy Suites and Radisson Hotels in Piscataway, NJ. If you attended the 2011 SPWF, then you'll know that the vendor situation was a complete and utter disaster, as last year's hotel insisted on following, "fire codes"-- lame regulations that prevented vendors from selling items from their rooms. Not the case this year! It is unclear if Radisson is woefully lax on safety measures, or if they're not managed by a draconian assembly of lawyers; whatever the case may be, I'm happy to report that nearly every available room on the first floor was indeed 'transformed' into some type of merchandising location; the Steampunk markets are alive and booming.

While we're on the topic of the hotel situation-- I was happy to find that this was the first year in which the SPWF properly utilized both hotels. While the Radisson has always been the 'Main' hotel, this year, The Embassy also saw a fair amount of events, including a major stage, at which Emperor Norton Stationary Marching Band played on. The only thing lacking at The Embassy was guests. While the Embassy hotel was mostly filled, Steampunkers appeared to only take up about 3/4 of the attendees; which can make for odd elevator conversations.

(Side note: If you haven’t attended a Jeff Mach event before, more often than not, the Embassy hotel often becomes the spill over hotel.  While there have been efforts to rouse interest and entertainment at the hotel, it has usually come up short and left attendees wanting.  The hotel itself is a beautiful setup that allows for fantastic photo opportunities and a number of different venues for entertainment, but Mach and Co. still seem to be in the process of figuring out how to utilize more than their one main space.)

Of all the events I've attended, the SPWF seems to consistently have the most and best organized steam activities and panels. Pushed harder this year were the concept of 'premium' tickets, which allowed the purchaser to access VIP events, such as the Goblin Market (an opportunity to meet the various performers and entertainers). I must have been the gentleman P.T. Barnum was speaking of, for not only did I pay an extra $10.00 upon early registration to attend the Goblin Market, but I showed up at 10:15pm Friday night, just in time to miss the event. Not that it mattered.  On any of the three days of the event, some 60 to 100+ scheduled    events occurred, including: panels, poetry readings, book signings, workshops, plays, burlesque, dancing, fashion shows, and all number of parties from tea to kink. 
Some of the acts and performances featured at the SPWF 2012 included: V is for Villans, Hellblinki, The Cloockwork Dolls, Dr. Dubious Lie, Wyck, Blue Beard, Eli August, The White Elephant Burlesque Society, Voltaire, Platform One, Way to Egress, and the aforementioned Emperor Norton Stationary Marching Band.  Each one has their own unique style in terms of music, presentation, and audience appeal.  EMSMB is a continual crowd favorite that kept it's audience on it's feet and dancing into the wee hours of the morning in 2011 outside of the hotel, as it was the only space to fit the band and the large group of listeners/dancers.  Frenchy and the Punk, a new and up and coming favorite both stateside and internationally, is based out of upstate New York and provide the dulcet tones of tribal and far east influence mixed in with Victorian dress and classical sounds to even out to the kind of music you expect to hear at a steampunk event.

Greetings from Emperor Justin of RFE
 It seems like every year a different group tries to assert itself as 'the' nerd-gang to hook-up with. Last year, I attended a panel where Doctor Steel made a charismatic push to have anyone attending enter into his flock.  It must have been a bad year for Doctor Steel, because this year he failed to make an appearance. Now, in his stead, were two parties lobbying for my attention, the "Red Fork Empire" and the seemingly more poorly organized "Phoenix Something-Or-Other". The only reason I know about the Phoenix crew, is that members of the, "Red Fork Empire" drew a number of black sharpie penises on the Phoenix propaganda poster in the elevator outside my room. The idea of Steampunk "Gangs" seems like silly fun I suppose, but one of my new acquaintances did recently post a photo of her new arm sleeve tattoo, an insignia pledging allegiance to RFE for life (or until she comes up with the cash to get it removed). Here's hoping RFE lasts longer than Doctor Steel.

Great show for a late night viewing at SPWF
Everyone seemed to behave themselves, or rather, seemed to respect others and the hotel properties; that said, the Embassy's fire alarm did go off Saturday evening around midnight. I don't know for sure, but I'm willing to bet it was due to some partying. Ahh. Partying. There was much of this. ENSMB always bring the ruckus with nightly impromptu parades. The clink of absinthe glasses and 'crack' of beers are regular sounds after the sun has set; as is taking in the heady aroma of weed outside of the occasional closed hotel room door. Not everyone parties, but if you leave SPWF Sunday evening 'well rested', then you did it wrong.

If you haven't attended a Steampunk event in the past, and would like to start-- then by all means, attend SPWF 2013. If it's anything like SPWF 2012, then it's bound to be a good time!

See you at SPWF in 2013!

1 comment:

  1. Dear souls: If I were a man capable of blushing behind this beard, rest assured that I would blush quite a lot.

    I'll add a small fun fact about fire departments, which illustrates a certain philosophical difference between the Former Crowne Plaza (it went out of business about one month after last year's World's Fair; its general manager was fired; it is now a different hotel, with new management, and we are, in fact, taking it over for Wicked Faire) -

    but the *Former* Crowne Plaza had a philosophy of "Perhaps the nice gents of the fire department would be entertained by surprises!", and, while SPWF filled out all necessary permits and so on, the hotel failed to do so.

    It turns out that fire departments really *hate* surprises. Oddly, this isn't much of a surprise. :)

    The Radisson, in contrast, is quite careful to make sure that the police, the fire department, the local EMS, and the town in general are aware of any large events happening at their hotel (and the Embassy, while not quite so madly devoted to their work as the Radisson's GM--a man who just email me at 3:17 a.m. to respond to a question I sent him at midnight--is also careful to try to make sure that the town knows when thousands of strange Neo-Victorians will descend upon it).

    Anyway, back to bed for me. Carry on, you delightful people!