I was a bit slow to find fandom, having had no exposure until after I left home and move to the Chicago area in 1989 – this in spite of the fact that the longest-running fixed city convention I’ve ever attended is Bubonicon, held in Albuquerque for all but the first two years I lived there.
Once I got to the Chicago area, it took me a while to correct the impression mistakenly made by the group of new friends I started gaming with shortly after arriving, that cons were just giant drunken parties – something I had no desire to attend.
I did finally start attending cons, with Windycon 21 (I think, 1994). The final straw in convincing me that cons were something I should go to was my mom giving me a copy of Bimbos of the Death Sun. This book, I think, also gave me my first, indirect, exposure to filk: one of the characters in the book is a folk singer from Scotland who ends up staying at the same hotel as the convention, and ends up joining a filk circle in an adjacent room because he knew most of the tunes, if not the lyrics.
But, most of my early conventions, I had little exposure to filk. I recall that the Ropers performed “Teenage Popsicle Girl” at the opening ceremonies to DucKon 4 as Filk Guests of Honor. But I was more likely to be spending evenings visiting a few parties (and not drinking) and then heading home since I was a commuter.
While I started making several cons each year: the three in the Chicago area, Copercon in Phoenix in 1995 – while spending 4 and a half months there – and Minicon starting in 1996, I continued to use parties as my primary evening entertainment .
The first time I recall stopping by a filk circle was at Bubonicon in 1996 (the first of two times I’ve been to it), and it was a somewhat awkward experience. While I now suspect that this was a combination of the time and members of the circle, and the songbook that was being freely shared, it seemed to me that most of the songs could almost be described as Neo-pagan hymns. As a Christian this was uncomfortable, so I left (and ended up sitting in the con suite talking with a couple of people until 3:30 or 4 in the morning)
It was about this time I started getting involved in convention running, starting in the registration department of DucKon (a con chosen so I could spend time at least proximate to Tara). Over the next few years, I was either too busy working the convention, or promoting a convention, or was continuing spending evenings in parties or con suite. I did attend at least part of the concert at one of the two Condors I attended in the 14 months I lived in San Diego in 1998 and 1999.
Once I got back to the Chicago area, I was quickly put in charge of two DucKons (9 in 2000 and 10 in 2001), and found myself quickly getting married, and eventually acquiring a kid – pre-aged to 5 (more or less). So I tended to be pretty busy, often spending most of my time at Windycon and Capricon at DucKon fan tables during the day, and running parties at night. At DucKon I usually found myself in reg much of the day, breaking away for a few programming items – mostly ones I was on.
My limited exposure to filk and filkers, however, was mostly positive.
In particular, I recall a conversation on Sunday at DucKon 10 with one of the past Filk Guests of Honor – I had extended free memberships to all past DucKon Guests of Honor for DucKon 10, and Jan DiMasi had taken full advantage of it by getting most of the past Filk Guests there. He reported that on Saturday night, when I along with the Board of Directors, security and several other members of the concom were tied up dealing with a tragic emergency, he had been giving a concert or in a circle. When word of the events reached him, he asked if there was anything he could do, and once confirming that the situation was mostly in hand, turned up his amp and proceeded with the concert or filk. This, along with the first ever Tesla Coli show, kept most of the convention members out of the way of emergency personnel and others needing to focus on the unfortunate event.
Another time, I recall spending much of the evening in a DucKon party at one of the few To-Be-Con-Tinued to be held, where Steve McDonald figured that an appropriate job for a DucKon Guest of Honor was to provide entertainment for the DucKon party.
It was during this time that the Filk presence at DucKon – at least to my understanding and impression – moved from being primarily circles and a few panels, to being largely concerts. But this was also my era as registrar, when I spent little time away from registration. But I did start buying my first few Filk CDs, by artists such as Jeff and Maya Bohnhoff, Bill Roper, Tom Smith and Wild Mercy. My first album from the Bohnhoffs was purchased in response to a suggestion made by Jan DiMasi to Bill Higgins that I overheard. I think I’d heard Tom Smith a bit at some convention – possibly another To-Be-Con-Tinued, and heard Wild Mercy through the air wall after a Capricon Art Auction. I was becoming personally acquainted with the Ropers by the time I bought my first album of Bills.
I did here a bit of Filk, or at least music, when I attended the DucKon closing ceremonies - which were always followed immediately by the feedback session. The year that the Bohnhoffs were the Filk Guests of Honor, they along with someone else (special Filk Guest?) performed Queen’s “39″ – a song which would meet the definition of “Filk” that Heather Dale shared at her concert last weekend at Conjecture/Conchord. There were songs other years if the Filk guests were still there as well.
But the first time I actually made time at a con to attend a concert was at Loscon in 2009, when I specifically went to see the Bohnhoffs in concert. Since then, I’ve taken every opportunity to see the Bohnhoffs whenever I can, and have picked up all of their CDs. It was after there concert at Westercon 63/Conchord that I picked up the Harmony Heifers’ album (half of the Harmony Heifers are Jeff and Maya Bohnhoff), and ended up getting a copy (digital since I delayed until after the Dealers’ Room had closed) of Vixy and Tony’s Thirteen largely on the fact that I could tell from the liner notes for Graded Hits that Jeff took the easy course in recording “Wil’s Song,” simply reusing the instrumental tracks from “Mal’s Song.”
Since then, I’ve tried to make it to the concerts when I can. At Renovation, I went to the opening night concert by Tricky Pixie, and then went to as much of the concert series featuring SJ Tucker, Alexander James Adams, and Vixy and Tony (where Tricky Pixie put in an understandable appearance as Betsy Tinney was playing for almost all of their sets).
This year at Chicon 7, the only programming I made time for (and managed to make) other than the panels I was on – not counting the one I blew off to see the Hugo Awards – were the Christian Fandom Meeting, the George R.R. Martin reading, and the consecutive concerts featuring Seanan McGuire and Vixy and Tony.
While I couldn’t make many of the daytime concerts, I did see at least parts of the Conjecture showcase concert (some of Tim Griffin, all of Karen Rogers and Patty Alley, Lynn Maudlin and the start of Greg Gross), and most of the Conchord showcase concert (I missed part of Crede Lambard due to having forgotten to run home and take care of the cats’ medicine earlier)
So, I was one of the people excited by the prospect of combining Conjecture with Conchord this year, and one who thinks that it worked to the benefit of both events. And I am hoping that we can get everything together to combine again next year – something I have a key part of as Conjecture chair. And, if we can get together next year, I will probably be spending a fair amount of my time in the concerts.
(Then there is this small part of me that thinks I should/could join the circles, if I wasn’t a bit concerned about my inability to accompany myself, and the fact that my singing voice is towards the lower end of the bass parts – often requiring a strain to reach into the baratone range, and forget much of the tenor range. That, and I don’t know what I’d want to sing)