I just got back from ConCertino 2015, a filk convention held in the Boston area once every three years as part of a series of rotating conventions called NEFilk. This blog is sometimes read by people who have no clue what filk is, so here’s a brief definition: filk is the music of SF fandom. Its subject matter ranges from “a detailed deconstruction of a weighty Asimov tome in 27 verses” to “stuff my cat did to my yarn last Friday.” There are a lot of puns. Some of the songs are completely original; others are parodies. A few are parodies of parodies. Then there are the parodies of parodies of parodies. I could go on.
I was the convention’s Interfilk guest. Interfilk is an association dedicated to introducing musicians, often lesser-known ones, to communities that wouldn’t normally be able to see them perform live. My obligations were basically: 1) turn up, 2) play a concert, 3) talk to people, 4) listen to other musicians, 5) have my flight and my room paid for by the committee, 6) contribute an item to the Interfilk auction (held to support Interfilk), and 7) comment on the experience after it was done. Altogether, it was a pretty sweet gig. I’m now on #7.
Some of my ConCertino-related impressions thus follow.
1) Everybody was very nice. The concomm and the Interfilk people made sure I had everything I needed and happily answered all the questions I had. There was never a moment I was tempted to flee into the forest and never emerge.
2) There was a forest. In fact, the hotel was in the middle of a forest in Boxborough (or possibly Boxboro) and not really in Boston at all. The area was beautiful, though it did have somewhat limited food options. However, we drove past Walden Pond on the way to find food at one point, and I approve of that.
3) There were four other guests, two of whom were in a band together, and all of them were great. I had met Rand Bellavia before, but possibly not Mark Mandel (unless I’ve run into him at FKO, Toronto’s filk convention) and definitely not Eva Van Daele-Hunt and Crystal Blum, a.k.a. Summer and Fall. Rand and Mark had hilarious concerts; Summer and Fall did the whole Beautiful Harmony Thing really amazingly well. They were also just very fun people.
4) One of the highlights of the con for me was Song Sequitur, in which three of the guests (Rand, Mark, and I) squared off against three of the concomm members (Gary McGath, Paul Estin, and Ben Newman). The rules were as follows: someone on one team would play a song, and someone on the other team would have to find a logical way to follow it. The first team would then follow the second team, but not for the same reason the second team had just followed the first. For instance, if Team #1 had sung a song about tribbles, and Team #2 had announced that its follower was also about tribbles, Team #1 could not then sing yet another song about tribbles unless there was some other reason for it to follow from the second tribble song. We ended up with some very creative followers. And yes, at least two of the songs were about tribbles.
5) For some reason I can’t really explain, I decided to draw all the people who had concerts and then give them the drawings. My victims included all the guests, plus the four other people with concerts: Sibylle Machat, Inge Loy, Paul Estin, and Jason Neerenberg. I couldn’t draw the people who did five- or ten-minute performances, unfortunately, as I needed between twenty minutes and half an hour per picture. The only concert not recorded in this manner was mine, so in the interest of my own obsessive completism, I have drawn myself and posted the illustration here. I should not have worn such a complicated outfit.
6) During the open filks (i.e., song circles) in the evenings, I did more listening than playing, and I heard a lot of great songs. It may be ever so slightly possible that on Saturday evening, I didn’t do any filking at all. Instead, I hung out in the hallway with a number of excellent ladies who were doing crafts and talking about basically everything. One of these ladies, Maya, ended up demonstrating (and eventually selling) some hair clips that worked even with fine hair.
7) A few years ago, at FKO’s Interfilk auction, my friend Debs and I became very interested in the auction’s unique economics. We noticed that a rather good banjo was sold for only $150, whereas other items that were not banjos went for hundreds of dollars more. We adopted the banjo as a unit of currency. For instance, we would say, “Well, that collection of filk lyrics just went for three banjos,” or “Those people paid two-and-a-half banjos for a T-shirt.” ConCertino’s auction didn’t have an item quite as noticeable as that banjo, but it did have a small square of German chocolate that went for $57 and a two-dollar cross-stitch kit that I think went for about $150, or one banjo, on the condition that Harold, the gentleman who had donated it, would ultimately complete the kit himself. I bought one item: Debbie Ohi’s Where Are My Books?, a picture book I particularly treasure because I’m amused at how deeply it was influenced by the Debs and Errol song “Narwhal Pet.” Seriously, there are narwhals all the way through that thing.
8) I connected with a lot of great people. Some, such as Gary McGath, Inge Loy, and Rand and Erin Bellavia, I had met before; others I hadn’t. Paul Estin and Beth Runnerwolf, the guest liaisons, were particularly awesome, especially seeing as they drove me between the airport and the hotel and vice versa. A few random memories include Spencer Love introducing me to the song “Son of Mine,” long conversations with Sib, Inge, Maya, Beth, and others whose names I can’t remember, and a nice Sunday dinner with the Interfilk people. There was also a trip to a music store with Ken and Peggi Warner-Lalonde, who were kind enough to drive my instruments from Toronto to Boxboro (or possibly Boxborough) so that I wouldn’t have to negotiate the horrors of customs with a ukulele in tow. We were in the music store for an hour. Ken may have tried all the guitars, quite possibly twice each.
9) All in all, ConCertino seemed like a nice relaxed con put on by a close-knit and welcoming community. The hotel air was made of poison, of course, but all hotel air is. Though I’m not very good at hugging, I did hug some people, and they hugged back.
During my concert, I completely forgot to thank the Interfilk committee and the concom. Thank you, everyone. It was a great experience.
*This was rather near Boston, so there was quite literally a lot of fish, much of it fried.