I'm going to start out by saying that the saddest moment of the con didn't actually happen at the con itself; we received word from Peter Alway that his brother Dave had passed away on the way home from the con. I'm sorry now that I didn't spend much time talking with him at GAFilk. He was a good man and his presence will be missed.
On to happier things!
Hugs! Music! Good friends and chosen family! What more can you want from a convention?
Well, I'd have preferred slightly nicer weather in the area, actually. I wasn't outside, but it affected my travel plans. Not seriously, but enough that I got to the con rather later than I wanted, after a very bumpy flight (or what I recall of it, at any rate. I slept for most of it). I wandered around the airport trying to find the shuttle, finally managed, only to see Bill Roper boarding just after me. We had a pleasant chat on the way to the hotel, and saw...people! Filkers! Sue Cochran, Dan Kachoogian, and others, all hanging out in the lobby. It was GOOD to be home.
Check-in was easy enough at the hotel; my room was outside but close to the function space (and it was warm, so I never worried about a jacket). My roomies for the con, Paul Estin and Leah Smith, weren't going to be getting in until late, but I'd made sure their names were on the room. I wandered down to get my badge and chat with more people (spent time with Daniel and Melissa Glasser, Tanya Huff and a few others in the hallway, ran into Rob Wynne and Bill Sutton), and met up with Becca and Graham Leathers. Becca wasn't expecting to see me there, so that was a big squealy surprised-hug from her, and plans for dinner at the Waffle House more or less across the street from the hotel. Aside from Becca and Graham, Mary Bertke and Ian Hanley were also in our little group. Naomi Rivkis came in a bit after us and ordered take-out, but she chatted with us a bit while she waited.
After dinner, we sort of split up; I wanted to walk down to the little store a bit further down the street to get some whisky for the con. They had one bottle of Islay malt; Bowmore, 12 year old, and I claimed that as my own. Then it was back for opening ceremonies.
Opening ceremonies at GAFilk include a New Year's Toast and a countdown and the singing of Auld Lang Syne, followed by the game show, My Filk. Conchair Bill Sutton tapped me to be one of the contestants. There were six of us, divided into two teams. Team 1 was T.J. Burnside-Clapp, Alan Thiesen and Franklin Gunkelman. Team B was Michael Bernardi, Ju Honisch and me. There were 4 rounds of the game. Our team did OK in round 1, trivia about filk bands. Their team kicked ass at round 2: trying to guess a song when the 1st line or title was signed by Judi Miller and Linda Melnick. Ay-yi-yi! THAT was hard. Round 3 was guessing the first line, song title and author when given the 2nd line of a song. On the whole, I found that one pretty easy. Round 4 was the deciding round (indeed, it was the ONLY round that really counted). Each team was given two words and given 10 minutes to write a song that contained those two words. Their song beat ours (deservedly so; we only had a one verse parody of "A Thousand Ships" while they had a full original song). It was great fun and I'm glad I had a chance to participate!
After that was the first concert, Concom's Choice. This year, it was Becca and Graham. Now, neither of them brought their good guitars with them, so Graham had arranged to borrow Bill Roper's Guild and Becca asked if she could use Six Pack, my Takamine. They did a great job; they have somewhat different musical styles, but they work really well together. They did a couple of the Pegasus-nominated songs from the past OVFF. I particularly liked their version of Michelle Dockrey's "The Girl That's Never Been" and Mike Whitaker's "Before the Dawn". I was trying to get the concerts to stream via my laptop, but there was no good WiFi in the concert room, so I settled for recording it with the internal mic (the feed from the soundboard wasn't quite working either :/ ) for later streaming.
There was chatting in the hallway, and sharing some of the Bowmore with people. France and Steven Joel were there, having arrived a bit later than I did. Kathy Mar was there, it was good to see her. Dave Alway and his brother Peter were walking around, Steve Savitzky, Jan DiMasi, the Haymans. Paul and Leah showed up...oh loads of people. Remember what I said about it being good to be home? It was good to be home!
And after that? Open filk! Sitting in a circle with UT, Summer&Fall, Yooh, Franklin...it was great. The first hour of the circle was all Media Songs. Most of them were Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly...I started out with The Battle, my Iron Chef song (which, I think, amused Kip MacMurray). I didn't sing much else besides that; I know I did the solo version of The Wild Hunt at one point later in the evening. Walking down towards the con suite for tea, I also had a nice (if short) conversation with Jan, SM Stirling's wife. I eventually went off to bed at about 1 or 1:30, having had a long and tired day.
Saturday morning, I woke up in time for Mary Crowell & Teresa Powell's yoga class. There were a surprising number of people who were there. Judi Miller, Greg McMullan, Mary Bertke, Cat Faber and George Powell...there were others, my brain is blanking on them right now. It was the first real yoga class I've taken. It was good. Relaxing, and centering. But also TIRING; it was far more of a workout than I'd ever considered.
I sadly missed most of S.M. Stirling's reading because I was showering and getting food before the afternoon's programming started. Subway was a nice short walk away, thanks to the directions given me by Dan Kachoogian (I was going to walk to Blimpie, but Subway's better and closer.
At 1pm, the concom announced the "winners" of the 2x10 lottery (this allowed everyone who wanted an equal chance to perform, and I think it's an excellent idea). I was one of them, so I figured I'd need to figure out what to play. Fortunately, I'd already had an idea when I put my name it; I just needed to practice it out a bit.
Also at 1 was the Toastmistress concert by Linda Melnick. I first heard Linda back in the 1980s when she was part of Technical Difficulties with Sheila Willis and T.J. Burnside. Flash forward 20+ years. T.J. is now T.J. Burnside-Clapp and is at the con with her daughter Jessie and the two of them are performing WITH Linda as...well...Technical Difficulties v2.0. Not officially, but that's about what they sounded like. That was amazing, really. The room was incredibly crowded and hot, so I frequently listened from the hallway, but it was simply marvellous. Linda also did some of her solo stuff, and some signing and it was really great. It makes me want to run out and find my old Technical Difficulties tape and the Musical Chairs tape.
After Linda were the utterly fabulous Guests of Honor, Urban Tapestry, a group that's in the same vein as TD was. Three lovely women, tight harmonies and a 12-string guitar making wonderful music. They had lots of nice new stuff (including a great song about the next Harry Potter book, a song about coming to GAFilk, and their German song. Ich habe eine Frage: Wo ist der Banhof?). Franklin helped them with that, and with the German version of the Hockey Monkey song. During most of UT's concert, I was out in the hall, where France was giving me a haircut. She is the ONLY person that I'll let cut my hair as short as she does, because she does such a good job (and the money goes to Interfilk), but I could still hear them just fine and they were (as usual) great. Summer and Fall helped them as well, and that was a treat.
The 2x10s followed that. I missed quite a few of the performances (including, it seems, someone doing a striptease. I mean, WTF?) because I needed to practice, not only my own stuff, but also with Amy McNally, because I'd asked her to play violin for me on Geist. This one one I really wanted to sing for Summer & Fall, because it's in German. Amy's violin was great and made it sound really, really creepy. (Eva later told me that I sing German with a French accent. This amuses me.). The other song I sang was Fear the Night. I'd asked Graham to play bodhran for me, but there wasn't one available, alas. Perhaps at the next con! I also was wearing a hat during my two songs. But not just ANY hat. See, while we were waiting, a bunch of us were passing around Joyce Lanterman's hat, and it was decided (NOT by me) that I had to wear it when I played. Which I did. I don't know, perhaps with a different color bow...
Saturday evening's dinner was taken care of, thanks to Gary McGath who could (sadly) not be there. In his place, I went to the banquet. And there was food. And dancing. The GAFilk house band, Play it With Moxie, has gotten better since I heard them last (once, 2 or 3 years ago) and they were good then. And I danced. Yes, me. On a real dance floor. With women dressed to the nines. I will not say that I danced WELL...but I danced! I'm thinking I need to learn how to do it better, though. I don't expect to get as good as, say, Franklin (he cuts a mean figure on the floor, I must say) but it would be nice to have a better idea of what I'm doing.
Interfilk guests Summer & Fall were on Saturday night after the banquet. They were, in a word, fabulous. I'd not heard them perform together (although I confess that I was so impressed when I first heard Eva perform solo at Contabile-Fortean back in 2002 that I suggested her for Interfilk back then!). OK, so two people shouldn't play all those instruments AND perform so well AND write such haunting songs in multiple languages, because it's not fair to the rest of us. But they do it so well! I would even say sie haben Arsch getreten.
Following them was the Interfilk auction, containing the usual madness. It was one of the more fun auctions I've been to, though. I took part in the wenching (even wenching someone who was bidding against me!), spent an intemperate amount of money (but got 2 of the 3 things I really wanted to get) and, all in all, had a good time.
I spent some time converting the day's concerts to MP3 and setting up a stream in the hotel room and then it was off to filk. I was in the same room I was in the other night, with mostly the same people. It was loads of fun, lots and lots of good stuff (which, sadly, I don't recall much of who sang what).
Late on Saturday night night, I had the single most bizarre moment of the con. I was out in the hallway with Maya McMullan and her lovely daughter Faeryn (who sang a really cool version of Twa Corbies and a few other people. Maya had asked me to teach her Geist, my German song. And while I was doing that, a very attractive, very sexily dressed and VERY drunk young woman walked over to our little hallway group. She said, "Oh! I play a little guitar!" so I offered to let her try Six Pack. I'm really very promiscuous with my guitars; I'll let anyone give 'em a go. (On the other hand and for the record, any woman who's had more to drink that night than I've had in the prior 6 months? Not at ALL interested, thanks!). And she played...oh...the same 3 notes of a Nirvana riff over and over, trying to get us to say what it was. (I think one of us eventually said it, more than once, but I don't think she heard). She insisted on a picture with me (why me? Because it was my guitar? Who knows) and eventually wandered off to play musical elevators with her friends. Oh, and she was Danish (or so she said; I've never been to Denmark so I can't verify. There is nothing like a Dane?)
Sunday was relaxed, mainly chatting and talking with people. I know I spent a bit of time smoffing with Judy Bemis (well, sort of smoffing, we didn't go whole hog and discuss worldcon bids ;) ). I helped a bit with breakdown (not enough, I'm afraid, because I fell to chatting with people) during Ecumenifilk, and spent lots and lots of time talking, hugging, and hanging out. I was on a 7pm flight, so I figured to take the 4-ish shuttle with Gary and Sheryl. I also found out, while waiting, that TJ and Jessie would be on the same shuttle. Great! My con wouldn't be over for a while! Wello, Gary and Sheryl weren't there (they couldn't get their luggage out of storage), but we made plans to meet at the airport anyway (the miracle of mobile phones).
There was more predicted Weather for the trip back to New York, and the flight was full. So when American offered me an upgrade to first class, I figured it was money well-spent. TJ & Jessie walked through security, and I'd already run into Amanda, so when Gary and Sheryl got there, we all hung out near the gates for a bit. I then walked Gary and Sheryl over to their terminal, where we had a quick dinner together. AND Chicago-area fans Kathy Horning and Zack Fulkerson were waiting with Amanda who was STILL at the gate, so my convention didn't really end until just before boarding. (And yes, First Class was decidedly worth it. A real meal, comfortable seats...even though my flight was delayed by an hour or two, it was still a very pleasant flight.)
I got home 2 hours later than I'd expected, tired but glowing. GAFilk was an excellent convention, and I look forward to next year's; I've already bought my membership.
Best moments of the con for me. Amy playing with me on Geist, Summer&Fall's amazing range of instruments. The Interfilk auction. Dancing at the banquet. All the hugs.
Summer & Fall: http://summerandfall.de
Urban Tapestry: http://www.urbantapestry.org
My GAFilk Pictures on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/filkerdave/sets/72157594471496267/
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