Steamathon Notes

   Posted by: craig   in Events, Music

If you did not make it to Steamathon, then I’m sorry to say that you missed a good one. Steamathon was a convention with real heart that persevered despite two major roadblocks. (I’m not privy to the details, but I am convinced that they were both circumstances beyond the committee’s control and not likely to reoccur.) Yes, Steamathon had all kinds of scheduling problems to the point that much of the programming devolved to ad lib, but I’m still calling it the best first con I’ve ever been to in my almost 40 years of congoing because of the attitudes of everyone involved: staff, talent, and guests. (The head of security at the Main Street Station Casino also went on record to say that this was the friendliest, most well dressed, most well behaved group of people they’ve ever hosted.) I personally made 15 friends before the opening ceremonies even began and 30 more by the time it was all over.
So, “Hip, hip, cheerio!” to Doc Phineas Kastle, Alexander de Lion, Taylor Hummon, Wolfe and the rest of the Queen’s Temporal Service for putting on a most unusual convention that was a treat to attend. I am most definitely looking forwards to a number two.
  • The party started early on Thursday night when a dozen of us from San Diego and Orange County headed over to the extremely steampunk Rx Boiler Room in the Mandalay Bay Casino. The absolutely wonderful food, combined with the sublime decor was well worth the price. Note: The Rx Boiler Room is on the second floor across from the Ice Bar and is not to be confused with the “1936” Speakeasy, one flight down (although that looks like fun, as well).
  • The Main Street Station Casino was a perfect venue for this convention, but the available meeting space is quite tight and we didn’t even get full access to what there was because of a SNAFU on the part of the corporate owners (Boyd Gaming). When Steamathon II happens (I don’t dare say “if”), and after word gets around about how much fun this one was, I’m afraid that it’ll outgrow the MSS already. Not to worry, there are plenty of other suitable locations in Vegas — the South Point, with its horse arena and corresponding old west decor, is the first to come to mind. That place even has its own cineplex — so I’m already dreaming of a Thursday night steampunk triple feature followed by some kind of a stagecoach demonstration on Friday (photo ops, anyone?).
  • The 777 Bar in the Main Street Station served up some tasty micro-brews, but the food was hit and miss.
  • The grouchy puppet shtick used by The Velveteen Band of Ventura in the promo video they uploaded to Facebook before the convention had me braced for the worst, but it turned out to be the only part of their act that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. Otherwise, therefore, I give them 4.5 cogs out of 5 and another “Hip, hip, cheerio!” Their catchiest tune is In the West is a Robot, and their deepest lyrics can be found in Fire Away, an anthem for odd-man-out geekdom (http://thevelveteenband.com/lyrics/fire-away), but both of those are solidly rock genre. So, the only two tracks of theirs that are actually going on my “steampunk” playlist are Fear the Rider and An Old Knive’s Tale.
  • Poplock Holmes has a dynamic multi-media act that I found entertaining even though I’m not really a hip-hop fan.
  • I missed the live performance by Unwoman (Erica Mulkey from San Francisco, http://unwoman.com/) but I caught up with her afterwards and bought her latest CD sight unseen (sounds unheard?) on a whim. I’m glad I did because as I listened to Circling on the drive home I found it to be a collection of mesmerizingly powerful pieces — too powerful for one sitting in fact, although I’m certainly looking forward to playing each and every track again in rotation over time. My favorite tracks? Flowering VinesLullaby and With All of My Intelligence.
  • One of the most fascinating talks at Steamathon was a back-and-forth between Doc Phineas and Mark Hall Patton, historian and curator of the Clark County Museum — which I am now quite anxious to visit the next time I’m in Vegas.
  • UNLV has a steampunk club. That makes me wonder if any of the Orange County campuses have one yet.
  • During the celebration of Jules Vernes’ 163rd birthday on Sunday I learned that the early English translations of his works (all the way up until 1965) were only intended as children’s books, and unfortunately these are the translations found in the public domain. To get a real feel for his work, it’s necessary to track down the post-1965 translations.
  • David Knight, a surprise guest affiliated with the California Science Center, talked about modern-day Zeppelins, as well as other forms of transportation of interest to us steampunks.
  • Did you know? Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the only children’s story ever penned by James Bond author Ian Flemming, and that the Flemming estate just recently commissioned three sequels, which were written by Frank Cottrell Boyce (http://www.ianfleming.com/the-books/chitty-flies-again/). The sequels were published in 2011-13, but rumors of a movie remake have been floating around since 2008.
  • I spent several hours in Antique Alley on Monday before driving home and barely scratched the surface of the treasures to be found there with surprisingly affordable prices. I picked up an old LC Smith typewriter (as in Smith Corona), a telegraph key made by the Manhattan Electric Supply Company, and a 1901 draw shave tool in mint condition with a custom fitted case all for under $200.
  • I was told that anyone attending Wild West Con next month, in Tucson, needs to watch out for the rivalry between the dastardly villains known as L.O.S.E.R.S. vs. the upright law enforcers known as S.M.U.G.
  • I heard that the ConDor SF Con in San Diego has a growing steampunk contingent. The next one is coming up soon.
  • I was told to check out the Lucky Street Productions Marketplace down on PCH in Oceanside. It’s a gathering of multiple vintage-item vendors that occurs almost every-other weekend. http://www.luckystreetproductions.com/

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