I have returned from MuseCon. It was a good experience. The principal reason it was less than ideal is not the fault of the con at all -- for the days before the con, particularly Wednesday night, I slept very badly, so I arrived Friday afternoon already in the state of fatigue that should be reserved for Sunday afternoon at a con.
The trip up was pretty uneventful. Annoyingly, the rest area at Monee is closed while they tear up the parking lot. We stopped at the Hinsdale Oasis because I needed to pee. The food court looked more inviting than my memory, but since I wasn't looking for food, I didn't actually check the prices. A few minutes' delay getting from 294 to 290, but not really that bad, and then we were there. The Westin was right where Google told me it was. Despite being a very posh looking place, the hotel staff let me take a luggage cart on my own recognizance, and we made it to the room, which was large and well furnished. I picked up my badge and asked the folks at registration if I could do the special blinkie even though I hadn't signed up for it. They told me to ask the blinkie people, so I went there, and found helpful folks who were more casual than the program implied. Not only could I still get the blinkie, I could do it right then, rather than waiting for the time the schedule said. I'd never soldered anything, but I really wanted the alligator blinkie, and they said it shouldn't be that tough, they gave me a little bit of instruction, and I got started. And in something more than an hour, I had soldered all the bits on, and when I put the last battery in, it started blinking -- the switch was in the on position. I was very happy. This did take long enough that I only had half an hour for dinner, so I had a sandwich in my room. Next, mofilker gave us a demonstration of how the accordion works and what's actually inside that shiny box. It's amazingly complicated. Each note has a little module with two thin metal strips (called "reeds", I assume because earlier in the instrument's evolution they were actually made of reed), with little leather flapper valves so that air flows over one when the bellows are pulling air in and the other when the bellows are pushing it out, because the reeds vibrate at a different pitch depending on which way the air is coming from, and the accordion (unlike its simpler cousin the concertina) compensates for this in the design of the instrument rather than making the player do it. Then, there's the fact that accordions have stops like pipe organs. There's actually 3 to 5 modules for each note, and a Rube Goldbergesque collection of little levers and push rods that slide thin metal strips back and forth over a grid of holes to open or close the desired set of notes, and then another set of levers and push rods to open the specific note when a key is pressed. I stopped in at the con suite (awkwardly on the 12th floor, but the the con was small enough the elevators weren't too bad) and then headed down to K and Sooj's fire spinning performance. They were still setting up, but I had a wonderful distraction, because tollers was there with Petey, her 9 week old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Cutest puppy ever, enthusiastic, bouncy, wonderful. And he really wanted my slushie from the con suite. I was so busy playing with the puppy that I missed the very beginning of the fire spinning, but it was impressive enough that it mostly held my attention. Fire pretty. I'd love to watch more of that. But I can't imagine that I'd ever be willing to try it; I'm far too clumsy and distractable, and I have no desire to set myself on fire. The Friday evening program finished up with a concert by Indianapolis filkers Wax Chaotic, who have good songs and sing pretty well. They're not highly polished yet, but they have the talent to work with. Friday finished up with an open circle which went pretty well for having so many people, but I ran out of steam earlier than I'd have liked and headed for bed somewhere around 1.
If I could transcend my body's pesky demands for sleep, I would have gone to the Lichtenberg figure class at 9, but as long as I remain human, 9 AM programming items at cons are just a cruel joke. Even the 10:30 performance prep panel was too much for me to get up for. I was still sleepy when it was time for sexybass's 1:30 DADGAD (alternate guitar tuning) workshop. Unfortunately, Tom gave us the basic chord positions, but didn't give us much detail on the walks and grace notes that he adorns his playing with, which are easier than in standard tuning. He told us to just play with it; I was looking for some more specific direction. I could figure out some of it; if I actually spend time on it, I'll figure out more. Late afternoon brought the wedding of ericcoleman and lizziecrowe. The bride was amazing in exotic silk. The groom was amazing in a whole different way in bare feet, a forest green kilt, and a tie-dyed dress shirt. What I could hear of the words of the ceremony were non-traditional but wise and sensible. Technical problems with the music meant it was mostly quiet, but s00j came up to sing a blessing. When she started and got a blast of feedback, she favored the sound crew with a glare such as only s00j could deliver, a moment of pure comedy gold that will be written in the permanent annals of great wedding moments. Then she restarted the song and it was, of course, beautiful. We adjourned to the con suite for wedding cake, where we were greeted with the sight of a remarkable cake that looked like it was wrapped in leather the same color as the groom's kilt. When the couple arrived and cut into the top tier, we were stunned to discover that the inside of the cake was a riot of tie-dye colors that matched the groom's shirt! No one present admitted even knowing that a tie-dye cake was even possible, much less having seen one before. Epic! And remarkably enough, the remarkable frosting was perfectly edible. Only the small top tier was tie-dyed, so I didn't get to taste that; what I had was ordinary white cake. After that, we went a few miles down the road to a local Mexican place called, IIRC, La Hacienda del Fernando, where I had a bowl of chicken soup that was so large that I could only eat a little of my entree. We got back in time for the headline concert by s00j and stealthcello. Mostly familiar material, but wonderful as always, with one new song drawn from Cat Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making which was awesome enough that I may read the book. (I've read 3 of Cat Valente's novels, and while they're intricate and marvelous, they're too dense for me to be really comfortable reading them. I can appreciate the stories much better when s00j teases individual threads out and makes them into songs.) s00j gave me a shout out from the stage! The tyrannical gundo only allowed us one encore; if the audience had decided, we'd probably still be there. Which would have been a bit too much for Sooj and Betsy. The circle Saturday seemed to be getting out to a pretty good start, but a bit after midnight, I had to use the restroom, and as I was coming back, I heard the pied piper call of lovely music from the stairs to the second floor, and I followed the lure to the room where sweetmusic_27, Betsy, and shadowriderhope were improvising some amazing stuff, and I never made it back out until I started to fade at 1:30 or so and realized that if I didn't go to sleep Sunday was going to be a bad day.
Because I went to bed so sadly early, I was able to make it to the jam workshop. min0taur had been scheduled to lead this, but since he couldn't attend due to a medical emergency, chasophonic took over. We covered some of the basic theory of jamming. I was hoping for some more specific advice on how to make the leap from understanding that "this is where the break goes in the song" to "this is what you actually do if you take a lead break", which is the part I need to get a firmer grasp of to be ready to try it. The leftovers from last night's dinner provided lunch, and Sooj's workshop on Song, Voice, and Energy was interesting, if not quite as directly related to the practicalities of music as I was expecting. A fascinating poet's explanation of string theory: the universe is singing! Some good meditation-like breathing exercises, the sort of thing I really need to do more of but have so much trouble focusing on by myself. A game of visualizing passing spiritual energy as a ball being passed around the circle. Many moving anecdotes. Some things I'm pretty sure I don't believe, some others that I need to think about, but nothing that hurt or threatened me. We finished up the con with a jam that was lower key than we might have hoped -- it seemed that nobody wanted to lead a song. There were several guitars, but fewer other instruments than we might have hoped. Hugs and farewells, and an uneventful drive home.
Next year? Well, a year is a long time for me right now. This is a somewhat awkward time of year for me -- because I did go to this, and I'm going to iFC next week, I'm probably going to skip Irishfest, because 3 weekends out of town in a row is too many. Next year, if I want to do both iFC and Irishfest, I may have to skip MuseCon. But that would make me sad.