This past weekend I did something for the first time; I attended SteamCon, the steampunk convention in Seattle. I had only an inkling of an idea what to expect, but I have to tell you that it was amazing.
I found out about it when PolishCellist (her name is unusual and therefore requires a pseudonym for blogging purposes), with whom I play accordion, was asked to perform there. I’m pretty easily put off by large crowds, but I’m familiar enough with the ideas of steampunk (I have a handful of friends who are super into it), and I’m definitely familiar with the type of circus and cabaret culture with which it shares many similarities and ideologies, so it sounded like it would be, at the very least, an interesting experience. Plus, we had free all-weekend passes.
I’m interested enough in anime and cabaret and stuff that I knew the convention would be full of more than just teenagers dressed like comic book characters, but I have to admit that the wide range of ages was a surprise to me. Young and old alike roamed the halls and congregated in the lounges and rooms, and the garden area by the pool. There were whole families, each clearly interested in different aspects of the culture. If you’re not familiar at all with steampunk, look it up it stems from the idea that the Victorian Age was the height of creativity, and culture, and technology. There are a myriad of sub-genres within that simple idea, though. There are people who simply like to dress in Victorian style, and there are people who are fascinated by the elaborate gadgets that were created before electricity was in common usage. There are people who are interested in cabaret music, and people who are interested in the popular entertainment of the time, such as burlesque and circus acts. There are people who build weapons using this antiquated technology, and there are people who build elaborate mechanical body parts for themselves. There are people who are into early flying machines. There are people who are inspired by the Gothic and vampire novels of the time. You can see how there’s plenty of room for interpretation, and all can fit under the umbrella of steampunk, albeit some more naturally than others.
The best thing about a convention like that is the people-watching. Just about everyone was dressed stunningly. It was interesting to see the lengths to which people would or wouldn’t go. One girl wore a beautiful blue ‘peacock’ dress, and one guy simply wore a polo shirt and jeans with his aviator goggles. One guy doctored up an electric guitar, and a husband-and-wife team (who led one of the panel discussions) arrived with an amazing brass electro-mechanical dog that could actually roll under its own power and lift its head, and probably did various other tricks as well. Its eyes were lit up in blue.
There was an art room, which did double duty as a silent auction. There were pictures and sculptures, as well as the requisite gadgetry. The antique bicycles modified into antique motorcycles were particularly well done, I thought, and as a typewriter enthusiast, I love the fact that people have figured out ways to modify them with USB connections, so they can be used with their more modern counterparts.
I feel sorry for the ‘regular’ people who just happened to be staying in those two hotels at the time this was all going on. It was hilarious to watch and overhear people on their cell phones trying to describe what they were witnessing. “It’s some sort of convention,” they would say, “or maybe a fashion show. . .”
All I can say is that it was a total blast, and I’m hooked. I’m into old music, and antiquated technology, and I do love to dress nice. My usual attire owes more to the 1970′s than to the 1870′s, but there are enough cool places in town (not to mention garage sales) that it wouldn’t be too hard to find clothes. It would be nice to go to a different meet-up at a turn-of-the-century hotel or club or something, rather than the ultra-modern hotels. Not that there’s anything wrong with those hotels; it should be noted that they did a tremendous job of hosting the enormous convention.
I think it would be funny and awesome to buy a cheap cello and doctor it up. I would never do that to the cello I have, but it would be a great experiment on a different instrument. Maybe a violin would be better, since it’d be a lot cheaper, not to mention easier to carry around as a prop. Only problem is, I don’t know how to play violin, and I know I’d get tired of constantly having to refuse people when they’d want me to do something with it. Cello for the win (I accidentally typed ‘wine’ just now), as The Kids Today would say.
Why don’t I have any pictures in this entry, I can feel you asking, after gushing about how amazing and beautiful everything was? Because I couldn’t find my camera when I was packing. After I got home, it turned up in the glove compartment of my car, buried under CD’s, where I had left it the other day. I wanted to punch myself in the face when I saw that it was in the car with me the entire time, and I didn’t even know it. Curses!
As a little aside, I have to confess that after dressing quasi-Victorian for the weekend, it was really nice to slip into a comfortable sweater and jeans today.
P.S. – If you should ever find yourself passing through the tiny town of Nisqually, Washington (an hour or so south of Seattle), you owe it to yourself to stop in at Norma’s restaurant, for a great time and an amazing burger. I don’t eat very many burgers, let alone recommend them, so that ought to be a pretty good impetus. While we’re on the subject, Violetta and The Hop and Vine here in Portland have excellent burgers as well. Seek ‘em out.
P.P.S. – I hate to end this entry talking about burgers, even really delicious ones, so I thought it would be funny to tack on this completely unnecessary paragraph. I stand by my decision to do that, even though it doesn’t add anything to the blog.
P.P.P.S. – There is no third post script. Please move along.
P.P.P.P.S. – There’s also not a fourth one. Sorry.
P.P.P.P.P.S. – There IS, however, a fifth post script, and this is it. There will not be a sixth, unless I decide to add one later. Who knows, maybe I will.
P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – Yup, looks like I did add a sixth one. Okay, now I’m really done.
P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – Or AM I?
[Edit: P.P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. - Here and here are some great pictures (including some of the dog!), many of which are from the fashion show on Saturday, which required a separate $50 ticket to attend. Also, PolishCellist is in a couple of those pictures. HINT: She is without her cello.]