This past weekend was one of the largest steampunk conventions in the United States, and this is the first year they’ve ever capped the attendance. Steampunk Worlds Fair (SPWF) boasts some of the most well-known steampunk musicians, authors, and makers, and this year Jeff Mach Events stepped up their game in a major way, in spite of a tornado warning and a very high temperature on Sunday. Debbie Farber and I attended for our third year together. Here’s a breakdown of what we found to be some of the best bits: Music
Steam Powered Giraffe played, which made a lot of robotic groupies very happy. This is the second time I’ve tried to sit through one of their performances and just felt bored. Their music is very cute if you like steampunk, The Wiggles, and/or Chuckie Cheese.
For those who opted to see bands other than SPG, there were some awesome alternatives. There was a metal band from Italy that only performed one set all weekend, the always fun Frenchy and the Punk, Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, and a whole slew of performers we didn’t get to see. This Way to the Egress released a new CD, and performed a bunch of their new songs. All were wonderful, and all but one were danceable. The one song that wasn’t upbeat was chillingly beautiful in its intensity.
Eli August and the Abandoned Buildings were fantastic as well. We were disappointed that their Saturday main stage show was tornado-ed out, but they went on as a much appreciated alternative to SPG and gave a very high energy performance.
The performance that MADE the weekend, to us, was HUMANWINE. I believe they’ve performed at Jeff Mach Events before, but for some reason we had never seen them. HUMANWINE is a three person group who have a very cool sound, and some fairly powerful lyrics. Their songs range from creepy to political to funny. It was truly a captivating show.
The main indoor stage for bands had no room for people to dance, which ended up creating the most bizarre conga lines around the room, and one totally unforgettable one: Egress and ENSMB teamed up to play Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), and with the help of Circuit 6, Beetlejuice led a pretty fantastic dance party. In a line.
An impromptu midnight performance given by ENSMB that took place in the Ramada Hotel’s car port was high energy. The crowd of fans came out to see ENSMB jam and we danced along. At around 1 a.m. they marched to the main stage and we followed right along to meet up with This Way to the Egress. The two bands created a lively party.
Panels and Programs
It was really difficult to get interested in panels this year. There was more variety in what was offered than in previous years, but the convention program did not offer anything more than a title, so it was difficult to discern whether or not it would have been worth it to go. There was more information on the SPWF website, but it would have been way more convenient to have all the information in one spot. There were panels we definitely would have attended if we had known who was speaking. It was fantastic to see two extremely well-respected female authors on panels and signing books. Leanna Renee Hieber, who has actually written a guest post for DG, and Gail Carriger, who you’ll see interviewed on DG later this month, came out for the event. Having Ms. Carriger at the event was a pretty huge deal because she rarely comes to the east coast. Her autographing line was crazy, and one person even brought every single Parasol Protectorate book, both Finishing School books, and the new Prudence book.
There were some really cool things for sale this year such as chocolate gears, hand-felted dragon shawls, and an entire booth dedicated to Edgar Allen Poe merch. The absolute best items being sold at SPWF were the dinosaur toys. They ranged in size from about six inches tall to two feet tall, were bronze colored, and interacted. Some of them walked, some of them bit, but all of them were awesome. When asked if they could actually be given to small children without being destroyed, the answer was a resounding yes.
While the people of Jeff Mach Events clearly stepped up their game, costumes were slacking. The “oohs” and “aahs” were few and far between. Sunday’s heat had people putting their hoop skirts and wool coats away in favor of tank tops, bloomers, and a parasol. What was cool (no pun intended) was that it was always obvious who had put crazy effort into their costume and who hadn’t. Below, you can see some of the costumes that really stood out. One that isn’t pictured was an Alexia Taraboti cosplayer, who had Gail Carriger sign her dress.
My one complaint about this whole convention is that it was unbelievably difficult to get a cup of tea (Lipton doesn’t count). I had to buy loose leaf tea from a vendor (Tea and Absinthe, who make amazingly yummy teas) and then wait for forty five minutes for restaurant staff to not bring me hot water, before finally having my mom jump in the incredibly long bar line and ask them. I miss the days of Wicked Faire’s free tea around the clock. You’d think at a steampunk convention, there’d be a more convenient way to acquire a cuppa.
Overall, this was a really fantastic experience. I stand by my hypothesis that steampunks are the kindest, most intelligent group of people in the world. We danced, we learned, we made new friends, reunited with old friends, and bought some pretty cool things. It was a stellar weekend.
Have you been to the Steampunk Worlds Fair? Do you intend to in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments.