Last weekend I went to New York, to a Steampunk event at Webster Hall in Manhattan. The Anachronism Steampunk Event : Oz Meets Wonderland.
This was previously in the category of Not Something I Do.
I was pretty sure the highlight of the evening was going to be the part where I got a free, legal parking spot on 4th avenue. I *heart* NY on Sunday, baby. Last time I spent a day in the city, I went in on a Sunday and I got free, legal parking on Broadway in the 50s. Twice. Take that, New Jersey Transit, jacking up your weekend rates from Princeton Junction. Pow!
I was driver and New York native guide for one of the models and another volunteer, so we had to get there early. This turned out to be the Way to Go, as it got me an early in with the models and the artists setting up their tables and items for sale in one of the rooms near the side entrance to the main stage.
Thank God I left my book in the car.
One beautiful young woman wearing a lovely red corseted dress was setting up brightly-colored, fantastical portraits. I asked her about the materials she used in her work. She patted me on the head and schooled the ass off of me about the medium involved (not pastels, prismacolor pencil), which is bright and rich, and expensive and difficult to fix. She sells the prints. I asked her about the print making. She schooled me on that, which was fascinating. I had no idea that was such an involved process.
Did I feel like an idiot? Not really. A beautiful woman in a corset can pretty much correct me all the livelong day. Thoughtful, intelligent, artistic, beautiful woman in a corset? Dude. Several livelong days.
Another young woman was setting up shop for a designer of corsets. She was a seamstress. She was friendly and outgoing and full of energy. She was awesome. We chatted while she ate a quick meal, and then I helped form a human changing room wall with another model, while she changed into her corset behind us. She also looks really good in a corset. Parts of her seemed like they might have some difficulty staying contained within the confines of said corset.
Expectation bar effectively exceeded. The night had not even officially begun.
Band members wandered in and got changed. Add human changing room to my resume. Another band took their sound check on the main stage. The guy running the event was in four places at the Exact Same Time.
Once the doors opened, the attendees streamed in and there were lots more people, mostly young, some older, and all dressed in elaborate steampunk inspired costumes. The event was themed as a contest of Alice in Wonderland VS The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The main characters had various roles related to the theme, and they hit their marks throughout the evening to keep the theme rolling.
At one point a different group showed up dressed as the principal characters from Alice in Wonderland. They were there in No Official Capacity.
The event’s unofficial sponsorish vendor was Lucid Absinthe Supleure, maker of the legal in the US variety, so there was lots of that going around, along with the requisite green faerie references. Not my drink, but very popular on the steampunk scene.
There was a musical / theatrical group that performed that had a bellydancer. She danced for about 500 hours with a live python, while this guy rocked out on a Turkish lute. Clearly, he was totally awesome, because I can remember him. Everyone else in the troupe, I'm kind of hazy on. Also, I am not a fan of reptiles. For some reason, this didn’t seem to be an issue. The dancer had her some serious stamina. It might have been only 400 hours. But still. The expectation-o-meter glass cracked at that point.
There was an author selling his books at a table on the lower level. C. J. Henderson. I hung around the table for a while and talked with him. I bought a book and he signed it for me. From what I saw, he was in the right place, and sold more than a few books while he chatted with folks about himself, his work, their interests, and the various genres they liked to read. This dude is the hardest working man in show business.
There was a guy who showed up dressed as Amun Ra. Another guy came dressed as Dr. Horrible.
I talked with a young woman who was a make-up artist, who also worked in a year-round Halloween costume store. She had done some elaborate make-up work on her face, had bones in her hair, and glowing red eyes. She makes toys based on her dreams.
There were three or four musical acts that performed. My favorite was a group out of Brooklyn called Not Waving But Drowning. The woman in front was tearing up a viola through most of their songs. She also pulled out a fiddle that had a horn bolted on it, and no body. A phono fiddle, methinks. The percussionist had some empty Jack Daniels bottles in his kit that he rapped on with his sticks throughout. The guitarists Kicked. Ass. They all played at least three instruments. I bought the CD. I have been officially introduced to junkyard cabaret.
The main attraction was the fashion show. Steampunk fashion has all the complexity and nuance of Victorian design, combined with elements of the fantastical. I’m not a big fan of the whole music-playing, model sashaying, runway deal, but these fashions were extraordinary. The room was packed. By the sound of it, the various designers each had a lot of fans in the audience. At the end of the show they came out to a rock-star curtain call. I’ve never seen anything like it. The room was full of this positive, creative energy that I’d been sensing all throughout the evening. By the end of the fashion show, that energy was palpable.
Steampunk fans. These are some smart, creative and talented people. There were some people attending whose personal issues you clearly would not want to get involved with on a daily basis. But still, I’ve never seen so many people in one place exhibiting their creative talents and giving out such a playful, positive vibe.
All Hail, Victoria, Regina et Imperatrix. With a Difference Engine.
After the event was over, I waited around to chauffeur my model back out of the city. Our other volunteer rider was pressed into service as an ersatz photographer, since he had a camera with him. Note to self: next time bring camera, dumbass. Models kept walking up to us and asking for our card, and giving us their business cards. I chatted with a few of them while they waited to have their pictures taken, and while they hung around waiting to meet with the designers to change out of their fashion wear. Pretty much the perfect ending to the event, right there.
If you ever see a steampunk event advertised, and you’re thinking about going, consider the following.
Lots of positive, creative energy
Lots of cleavage
Groovy, elaborate costumes
Fashion show with groovier, even more elaborate designs
Craftspeople selling their creative asses off
Nope. I got nothin.