Steampunk Con

June 21 – 23, 2019

It was billed as “the alternative Steampunk Con,” hosted by impresario Jet Berelson’s entertainment organization, Vampire Freaks. The last Steampunk World’s Fair, was held in 2017, was a massive affair spanning two hotels in Piscataway, NJ, and was hosted by Jeff Mach, who was persuaded to step down in January 2018 after multiple accusations arose regarding several contentious issues. 

Re-organized as Steampunk Con, it was held in Piscataway’s Radisson and featured  a wide variety of themes, events, performances—musical and otherwise—panels, and vendors, most with a retro-futuristic, sci-fi-meets-the-Age of Steam motif.

  Quirky, Brooklyn-based string trio Rasputina, channeling the Victorian era, got top billing along with perennial favorites, Stabbing Westward. At least a dozen anachronistically costumed indie bands like the symphonic goth-metal band Infinitus Mortus, and light-show musicians Victor Sierra, performed on the main stage. Husband and wife duo, the Long Losts, put on Halloween-themed show with digital audio accompaniment. Aunt Ange, recently featured in a report in these pages as an unsigned band of note, performed a high energy, heavy and theatrical performance that sometimes rocked with a swing beat. Industrial crossover band and Cleopatra Records stars Chmcl Str8jckt stunned the crowd with symphonic metal guitar-based sound.

A sinister side-show by Karnevil and a magic show by master prestidigitator Jeffrey Jene were among the most entertaining non-musical performances. Othering, a dark arts society project of Ashley Bad and Chloe D’Cay, ran the Black Serpent Burlesque, featuring a lineup of extraordinary and uninhibited models.  

Vendors in the main room and side rooms hawked crafted wares with antique flavor, top hats, goggles, corsets, artworks, fake weaponry, and accessories galore. 

In addition, there were dance parties, featuring DJs Xris SMack!, Mighty Mike Saga, Swabby, Annabel Evil, Matt V Christ, and Jet VF, himself.  Madame X hosted various panels and an installment of Iron Garden conclave. A bout of armored combat was staged in the outdoor courtyard. Denny Daniel’s Museum of Interesting Things maintained a station where antique amusements and devices were on display and accessible for attendees to operate. There was even a pool party. Stabbing Westward’s Chris Hall emceed a karaoke session that could have been taken for an installment of America’s Got Talent, so gifted and dedicated were the volunteer singers. 

All in all, the event created a Victorian Era wonderland of music, magic, discussion, demonstration, and fun attended by top-hatted, goggled, and corseted denizens of the weirdly anachronistic world of Steampunk.

Nights Out

The Red Party

June 15, 2019

This occurrence of the Red Party took place without the performance of a live band. The panel of DJs, which included host Sean Templar, Matt V Christ, and Jarek Zelazny, certainly rose to the occasion with an eclectic and sophisticated repertoire of post-punk music that kept dancers providing their own entertainment in the absence of a band.

Sean posts his impressive playlists on the Red Party’s Facebook page—far too extensive to list here—but some of the favorites to which we danced that night were New Model Army’s “White Coats,” Bauhaus’s “The Passion of Lovers,” and Tones On Tails’ “Go!”

Among the Red Party regulars sighted that night were Toni and George Grant, just back from Wave Gotik Treffen in Germany, and eager to spread the word of the then-upcoming record release party of The Final Sound’s new album “It Can’t Be Undone,” held at the Knitting Factory on July 2.

The big announcement this night was that next month’s Red Party will see the Return of the Empire Hideous—the nineties-era goth/metal/deathrock band—for which NYC’s dark scene has been clamoring for since they went inactive in 2005.

Museums

Morris Museum recently presented two exhibits of interest to enthusiasts of the scene. “Simply Steampunk” is the second installment of their series “A Cache of Kinetic Art.” On display are numerous examples of the ingenious and bizarre mechanisms that one comes to recognize as typical of the Steampunk aesthetic. A poster at the entrance to the exhibit credits the art of science fiction as having served to inspire the whole concept.

Anyone who has ever attended a serious Steampunk event knows to expect artfully designed, working contraptions of gears and pulleys, often beautiful to behold in glittering brass and chrome, but mostly just for show, having no other purpose than to fascinate and dumbfound. We found retro-futuristic flying machines, robotic creatures, and perpetual motion whirligigs done in Victorian era-style entertaining when set in motion by pushing on pedals provided for the purpose of activating them. Some pieces required activation by museum personal. A space for taking selfies was provided where one could take one’s picture amid gears and gauges against a rusty metallic background.  This kinetic exhibit fits in well with Morris Museum’s collection of mechanical instruments and automata, endowed by an heir to the Guinness brewery fortune, now housed in a special wing of the museum.

Morris Museum’s second, similarly-themed exhibition is “Steampunk Fashion,” presenting men’s and women’s costumes and accessories that integrate mechanical, space-age, and fantasy elements into the Victorian Era fashion pieces that were already in the museum’s collection. It runs until Oct 6, 2019.

Simply Steampunk will remain on exhibition only until August 11. A video showing outstanding kinetic “sculptures” can be viewed on the museum’s website. The Guinness Collection of mechanical musical instruments and automata is on permanent exhibition, and there are live demos at 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

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