I got off to a later start than I really meant to, but I still made it to Lansing Thursday night, not too awfully late. Friday morning, since I was just a few miles away, I dropped by Elderly Instruments and picked up a few things. I didn't have a lot of time or money to spend, so I didn't even look at instruments, but I wanted to pick up some strings at a reasonable price. It keeps getting harder to find 12-string sets. Then off to the border crossing at Sarnia, maybe 15 minutes waiting in the queue to clear customs, and an otherwise uneventful drive to the hotel. I picked up my badge and looked around for trektone, who had kindly offered me a room share (I couldn't have afforded a room to myself this year). I couldn't find him, but when I went to the front desk to see if they knew about me, they got me a key, and right about then he walked in the front door. I brought my luggage in, and we negotiated logistics like who got which bed, all very trouble-free but we both agreed it was wiser to go over things right away than possibly have confusion or misunderstandings later on.
I had dinner with janmagic, Art, Sue, and Bunny. We all piled into Jan's new car, with me sandwiched between the two women in the middle of the back, which was very pleasant except for a certain lack of headroom, and went a fairly short distance to Chang and Huang's Thai Restaurant, in the strip mall of many restaurants. The appetizers were good, and Jan and Sue had pad thai which I had some of that I thought was good (but which was unfortunately too hot for Jan), but I thought that my own entree (Thai spicy noodles, only named in English) was lame (it seemed like a bland, uninteresting dish with a couple of chopped hot peppers added to it as an afterthought, not even really blended in), and Art had an entree that was also uninspiring. I didn't sample Bunny's and I don't recall what she said about it. Note to self, next year try going to the other Thai place farther down the road.
We got back to the con about halfway through the Tie and Tails. I hadn't even thought about trying to come up with something clever -- not that I likely would have managed if I had tried -- but it occurred to me on the spur of the moment to take the plush tiger tail beige_alert gave me off of Tiger (my Tacoma guitar) and put it around my neck. I amused a couple of mundanes in the hallway, but didn't impress anyone at the reception. The Tie and Tails was officially, according to the program, in the main function space, but people migrated to the con suite anyway. I was looking for something sweet for dessert, and I found braider's gift that she'd sent along -- a cookie jar in the form of a penguin, full of sugar cookies.
Headed downstairs to Ookla the Mok's concert. They started late because there were problems with the sound, and there were more problems with the sound during the concert, which I think meant that they cut some songs out of their set. Ookla was very professional, and it was cool to see them playing as a 4 piece band. And their new bassist plays fretless bass, even bowed, in addition to bass guitar. Their new drummer seems competent, though he didn't stand out for me. And, of course, I completely forget both of the new guy's names. They caught the audience in a really good joke while they were filling time, though. They announced that they'd signed a contract with Columbia Records, and after a brief, appreciative reaction, elaborated, "Yeah, we get the first 9 for a penny, and then we have to buy 3 more in a year..."
For the concerts Friday night, Tanya Huff was doing Toast duty, and she was wearing this blue feather boa that she was having a little too much fun with. How would this be for a dust jacket photo on her next book?
After Ookla's concert was a special concert for Judi Miller, our Interfilk guest. In case anyone doesn't know, Judi doesn't sing, play, or write songs; she interprets songs in sign language. She's fantastic; even though the only sign I know is what I've picked up from watching her and to a lesser extent Linda Melnick signing filksongs, I find the signing with songs very beautiful and amazingly meaningful and evocative. Every time I watch her, I feel drawn to trying to actually learn sign language. This concert, however, was almost cruel; several songs were selected mostly to see how Judi would react to challenges. Her performance for Ookla's "Number One" was hilarious. She did also sign a couple of the serious songs that are classics of sign interpretation: Stan Rogers' "Lies", played by decadentdave, and Fred Small's "Cranes Over Hiroshima", played by trektone. After the last one, she was presented with a paper crane. That's the picture at the left -- she seemed to like it.
After the concerts Friday night, I found myself feeling very tired. I'd had a full day, and while I wanted to get to some open filking, I wasn't sure if I really had the energy. I went up to the room, thinking I would get a guitar, play through some songs, and head downstairs, and trektone came in, and we ended up conversing for two hours. It was a good conversation. I remember we talked about old songs, and why some old songs stay in circulation and others get forgotten, and trying to separate the appeal of a song from the appeal of a particular performer. I headed down to the filk after that, but I was tired. There was a happening filk in Hawthorne 4, but it looked too full for me to break in at my energy level. Down in Hawthorne 1 there was a much smaller group, that I felt more comfortable with, but they were breaking up and I didn't get up the inspiration to actually play anything. I drifted past Hawthorne 4 again, and realized that I needed to sleep so I did that.
I woke up Saturday morning and discovered that trektone had gotten up and gotten out of the room without waking me at all, which was great. I'd awakened during the night and realized he had made it back to the room, but he didn't disturb me at all. I was up early enough to get something to eat before the concerts began, but nowhere near early enough to get to the juried one-shots. I had not signed up when I first arrived, because slots are limited and I wanted to be sure someone else had a chance, and by the time I realized how tired I was Friday night, I was very unenthusiastic about trying to get up in time to be at a workshop at 10:30; I told myself that if I woke up that early and felt up to it I would see if I could still get in (the last I'd seen the signup sheet it was far from full), but I didn't and I'm not going to beat myself up over it, as much as I appreciate doing a juried one-shot.
I did make a point of getting to Tanya Huff's official Filk Waif concert. This shot shows Tanya on stage with Judi signing. It's a bit difficult for me to talk about Tanya's concert. I love her writing, and I'm really glad that I've had the chance to spend enough time with her at cons, and I think that it is really great that she's taking so enthusiastically to filk, but she's had concerts before that she was, to be honest, not ready for. I wanted to be there to support her as a friend, but I wasn't sure if I really wanted to listen. I'm happy to report that Tanya is much improved, even in the short time since GaFilk. Her guitar technique is not flashy, but her rhythm is solid, and she's even putting in a little melody riff as an intro/outro to "Dawson's Christian" that I'd steal without shame. She still loses the key signing some, but she's solidly where she should be much more of the time, and quite worth listening to. Unfortunately, fairly early in her program, she did her Desperate Wives parody of Lies, and I really don't like that song. I'm not a TV person, I've never seen the show, I'd rather pluck my eyeballs out that have to watch it, and a song about it would be slightly funny the first time, and much less so after. So I stepped out into the hall, and got caught in a conversation, and wasn't fully paying attention to the rest of her concert.
After Tanya's concert was the songwriting contest. I generally skip songwriting contests, because if I stay in the room for the whole afternoon of concerts, I get restless and stop appreciating the music; I'm usually more interested in the other concerts; and this time was no exception. I caught a couple of the songs -- Susan Urban's in particular, which struck me as a good, strong song, but not one that had actually belonged in a Tolkien song contest -- but mostly I wandered. In particular, I wandered to the dealer's rooms, where I mostly didn't buy anything because I'm broke and because the CDs I was looking at were much too expensive. (C$23 for a CD does not compare favorably to what CDs cost here, not with the Canadian dollar at nearly $.90 US.) I did pick up a copy of the Peter Beagle Live tape, so that I can hopefully learn "The Ballad of Mary Reed".
The next concert was vixyish and tfabris. They were fantastic to listen to, of course, and also annoyingly good looking of course, so I include a picture. The only problem I had with their concert was that they only got 15 minutes, so they could only do three songs! "The Girl That's Never Been", of course -- not to imply I didn't like this song the first time I heard it, but every time I listen to it, it grabs me harder. And "Mal's Song", of course -- I have not seen even 5 minutes of Firefly, so I don't know what this song is talking about, but I have to admit that it is a good song, even though it's not as good a song for me as it is for most of the audience. And the real treat, a new song that you'll just have to hear, if you didn't, "Thirteen". And then they had to go away. Boo hiss. But I will reveal at this point in my report, even though I think it wasn't announced until later, that they will be the guests of honor for FKO 18 in 2008 (not next year, but the year after), and we'll certainly get a concert of more satisfying length then. But it still won't be long enough.
After vixyish and tfabris we had a concert by Urban Tapestry, joined on stage by Franklin Gunkelmann, who was visiting from Germany. (He's probably on LJ but I don't know his user name.)They sang ohiblather's song about being in Germany not knowing any German except for the phrase "Where is the train station?" and some improbable trouble it gets them into, with signs held by Franklin. First the critical phrase in German, shown in the sign. Then in English, for anyone who knows even less German than I do. And then in several other increasingly improbable languages. French. Spanish. Hebrew? Egyptian hieroglyphics? Klingon?! I'd have more pictures, but they're an incredible pain.And they did a mini-tragedy, a perfect opera plot, with signs and silly props and theatrics. Again, I'd have more pictures if I knew how to present them without suffering so much. And then, they did the infamous Hockey Monkey song in Enlish and then in German, and provided helpful visual aids for the German chorus so we could sing along:
After UT's concert, we had Guest of Honor Chris Conway's official Guest of Honor concert. He's amazingly versatile.He plays the theremin. He plays the kalimba ("thumb piano"), and actually makes good use of it musically, rather than just a novelty of "look, I have this weird instrument and I can get a tune out of it". He does play guitar on a lot of his songs, but he plays in a weird tuning. And the piece de resistance, he plays two whistles at once -- playing different parts -- while humming a third part. This is sort of a dancing bear gag -- "It's not that the bear dances well, it's that it dances at all" -- but it is impressive, and a nice little tune.
I'm going to post this much now, because I think there's a limit on the size of an entry and I'm probably getting close.