Phil Parker (tigertoy) wrote,
Phil Parker

ConFusion report, part 2

When I posted a couple of days ago about ConFusion, I hadn't meant that to be the end of my report, but when I woke up the next day, I had fallen into the Pit of Despair again and I couldn't find it in myself to do anything as demanding as write in LJ.

I will now, somewhat belatedly, post a few words about the real meat of ConFusion, which was, of course, the music.

The first scheduled event I attended was the Friday night concert by Author GoH Emma Bull and her musical sidekick The Fabulous Lorraine, who performed together as the Flash Girls before Emma moved from Minneapolis to California, backed up by Toastmaster Steven Brust on doumbek and Patrick Nielsen-Hayden on lead guitar.  The Flash Girls feature interesting and eclectic song selections with lovely vocal harmonies, interspersed with Lorraine's competent fiddle playing.  Steve is the finest doumbek player I've ever had the pleasure to listen to, and Patrick is pretty good on lead guitar.  Despite the fact that this group hasn't been together in years, they sounded great together, and managed to successfully make the rough spots into comedy instead of collective discomfort.  It was an excellent show, and I also had a chance to pick up a copy of Brust's solo album A Rose for Iconoclastes which I've wanted for years.

Open filk Friday night was a little thin because a lot of the hard hitting musical talent was in the smoking room where Steve was holding forth, but even though I think he was the only person smoking, I couldn't take being in the room.

Saturday was packed with a solid lineup of performer's circles and concerts -- more, in fact, than I was prepared to attend, since I wanted to get to at least a little bit of the rest of the convention.  It is really wonderful to have so many cool musicians who also happen to be my friends come to a con, but I have to wonder how many people really want a full day track of nothing but music, and how many people feel like there was too much music to get to all of it.  Also, without naming any names, I would like to mention that some of those music events that I did get to weren't very well prepared -- the participants didn't seem to have any idea ahead of time where they were going.  Now, when I've talked to the people running filk programming at some conventions before, they've said that they have to have tons of programming items to be able to get their guests into enough programming slots to qualify them for a comped membership, and I can understand that the person running filk programming wants to maximize on bringing in filkers as comped guests.  Now, I don't know if the people on the music panels were getting comped memberships for being there or not, but if they were, they needed to put a little more effort into preparing not only the individual songs they sang, but the actual flow of the whole hour set.  I suspect I'm sounding excessively negative here, and I don't want to present the idea that the music programming was a waste of time.  These are people I enjoy being with even if they're just making it up as they go along.  I just wanted to point out that, when it comes to scheduling concerts, less is more; and on the other hand, if you (as the filk coordinator) do schedule a time slot, you should ask the particpants to actually work out together what they will do with the time, and if you (as a performer) are put in a time slot, you should get in touch with the other participants and have your schtick worked out ahead of time.

The highlight of Saturday evening was the Riverfolk concert.  Although I'd heard most if not all of the songs they performed before, it's always a treat to hear them again.  Throughout the weekend, I got to hear lots from chasophonic and chirosinger (not that I'd want to imply that I heard too much.  One cannot get too much of them), but the concert was pretty much the only chance I got to hear Andy, and he adds another whole dimension of awesomeness to their songs.  How many people are expressive enough that they can pun on the fiddle?

Saturday night I managed to miss most of the action.  First, for some reason, I thought that the program item called "good old boys" wasfredcritter, Steve Brust, and more smoke, so I stayed in the main filk room.  My mom told me on my way home that it was in fact Fred and decadentdave, no somke, and clearly The Place To Be for that hour.  Which explained why there was nobody there for the B Movies theme filk except for some audience that I assume were there for Tom.  There was great hilarity at my expense during that filk, because at Tom's suggestion I performed Chris Weber's "Bewarre of the Sentient Chili" (well, if that song were a movie, it certainly would be a B movie!).  Anyone who's bothered to read this far presumably knows a little of my history with this song, but I will sum up that a long time ago, I foolishly challenged the audience that my performance of the song was a contest:  if the audience could get me to crack up, they won.  Unfortunately, a few of my friends have not been able to let go of this, and have taken their efforts far beyond anything that I ever intended to invite.  The only good thing I can say about it is that it makes people laugh.  Anyway, Art Warneke attempted to disconcert me by sticking his video camera (an ancient full-size VHS camcorder, not one of these discrete modern things) literally in my face -- I gained new sympathy for the celebreties beset by paparazzi -- and when that didn't faze me, janmagic put Spot, her 4.5' ball python, into the offset soundhole of Tiger (the guitar I wasn't playing).  And Spot liked it in there and didn't want to come back out.

After the B Movie theme filk and presumably the good old boys concert were over, I was waiting for the rest of the musicians to show up at the filk.  Unfortunately, I had managed to be oblivious to the fact that there was a MNSTF music party Saturday night, and most of the good musicians were there until quite late.  I managed to keep going until sometime after 3, when Dave, Chas, Becca, and musicmutt eventually wandered in, but when Dave gave up after only an hour or so, I had run out of steam myself and didn't stay much longer.

Sunday, the farewell filk that was only scheduled for an hour starting at 1:30 kept going until 5, when those of us who were left decided that we really needed to eat and (b) we were supposed to have been out of the room at 4, and we didn't want to stay until the hotel actually got mad at us.  It was a very amusing circle, punctuated by many of the participants taking pictures of each other, and the hilarity of people taking pictures of people taking pictures of people taking pictures of them.

After we got back from dinner, we formed up a music circle in the dead dog in the con suite.  There we were, with the con chair and the head of (general, not filk) programming rearranging the furniture to make room for us.  A circle consisting of Emma Bull, Patrick Nielsen-Hayden, Fred Haskell, Graham Leathers, Becca Allen, and Chas Somdahl.  And some doof named Phil who somehow managed to crash the party.  I don't think I've ever felt more outclassed.  The music was wonderful, and I mostly held my own, despite a big blunder on my part of trying to do "Dark Wine and Roses" on my first turn.  I've been practicing this song a fair bit, and I'm actually getting to the point where the timing is actually working more often than not when I do the song at home, but I still have rhythmic issues, and a lot of them showed up in this performance.  I felt like I redeemed myself on a later turn when I did "Bedford Insurance Claim"; I think some of the people were expecting the original "The Sick Note" from the first couple of lines, but the horrified expression on Emma's face when she realized where it was really going, and her declaration that "you are a dead man" afterwards, made it worthwhile.

So in all, it was a wonderful musical experience, at least as good as the previous ConFusions I've gotten to. ConFusion is scheduled at a horrible time (what genius thought of having a con in the frozen north in January? It was a bad idea even before GaFilk got started only two weeks away from it and Capricon moved from the end of February to the beginning!), but, as it has been when I've made it before, it was worth the trip. So, a big thank you to qnvhrtz for organizing the filk, the rest of the concom for making it available, all the musicians for making it so musically wonderful, and all my friends for the hugs and support.
Tags: cons, friends, music, travel
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