GAFilk 2011 was less well attended than my last visit, two years ago, mostly reflective of the current economy. That said, there was no lack of enthusiasm visible to our “posse”.
Four of us official Dragon*Con filk staff types and one unofficial (that would be you, Chip) member met up to do what filkers do, and put a current face to the (oft cursed name) of Dragon*con Filk. For our fearless leader, Robby Hilliard (a relative newcomer to the filk world at under a decade ), along with Alex Boyd, it was a chance to see some of the icons of classic filk for the first time. For others of us, it was a chance to renew our unholy alliance, and savor some “old school filk” juxtaposed with a variety of other styles and eras.
My pseudo-niece, Amber , and I arrived at GAFilk on Friday, exhausted between a combination of my air travel glitches (my six hour trip took 12 hours) combined with a catching up on news and her having to work bright, early, and all day Friday. The highlight of Friday was definitely the ConCom’s Choice concert, featuring Antithesis, a trio with two onstage performers, and one who refused to budge from the audience. Teri “Aunty Quated” Wachowiak and Linda “Aunty Binary” Walsh, along with “closet” lyricist Barb “Aunty Social” Bowen lived up to the GAFilk website hype “”the Indigo Girls meet The Smothers Brothers — in the middle of a Warner Brothers cartoon.” They almost energized us enough to go to the Friday night Open Filk, but we just couldn’t manage it. After mingling for a bit after the concert, we opted out until Saturday.
On Saturday, we arrived in fine form just in time for Toastmaster and Pegasus Award winner Matt Leger’s stellar performance. His original songs, as well as his covers, both filk and non, made this a “must see”. He was ably accompanied by his elusive Songbird and well known filker, Gary Ehrlich.
Howard Scrimgeour, the Interfilk guest, whose fine musical delivery was accompanied by insightful and amusing filk history narrative, followed Matt. We missed the first part of Pegasus Award winner and Campbell Award winner GOH Seanan McGuire’s performance.
She did not disappoint, with her enthusiastic, tuneful and often downright fun performance style. Several filk luminaries skillfully backed her up.
This was soon followed by the 2 X 10’s (two songs or 10 minutes).
Our own Alex Boyd, billed as “the Lone Gunman”, performed; and we had our first chance to see Dene Foye on stage. Bill Roper has a knack for making it all look easy, and in his 2×10 he did just that…unruffled even when my new cellphone Munchkins loudly ringtoned (I thought I’d put it on vibrate, grrr) “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” while I stared in horror at it (thank you, Amber for jogging me out of my transfixion, “Turn it offffff!“). Oh my. There were a couple of outstanding Harry Potter filks done by a duo (backing each other up on their solos) whose names I didn’t get (BAD reviewer, bad, bad).
We didn’t attend the sold-out Dinner Dance, thereby missing Play it With Moxie. Having seen them before, I can say they surely swung the house. Later, Part 1 of the The Interfilk Auction occurred, and while our fearless leader, Robby, and I both bid on Matt Leger’s earlier performance audio, our paltry bids didn’t approach the $450 it finally garnered. Generous bidding means that the Interfilk organization will get a nice fat check from GAFilk. They raised nearly $4000! Well done!
The Saturday night Open Filk was crowded in the Main programming room. A few uniformed deploying US Army soldiers on their way back to Afghanistan were invited to listen, and created quite a stir in the room by their presence. As the mother of two Iraq veterans, I quietly wished them well (as did some others).
Over time, our crew migrated into an overflow room, and stumbled upon author, Nebula Award winner, Filk Hall of Fame (FHOF) inductee and Pegasus award nominee Juanita Coulson , a rare treat for us! Amber and I lost no time in grabbing a couple of chairs. The venerable FHOF and Pegasus Award winning Suttons soon came in, as did Pegasus Award winner and FHOF, Bill Roper, and FHOF & Pegasus Award winning Decadent Dave Clement and friends, as well as Pegasus Nominee, Paul Estin.
Amber and I were a little nervy in this august company, but we managed to get a song or two in, including one a capella Lady Gaga parody we hadn’t performed in public before. Juanita Coulson treated us to her The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and a darkly humorous cum sinister cover of Daniel Glasser’s Close Your Eyes. Paul Estin played off our own Gaga parody with one he’d found on YouTube, among other fine numbers. Alex Boyd played a couple of tunes, including a Dinosaur Filker song (RAWR). With chaos being the order of the filk, it was both interesting and challenging to keep up. Juanita intervened once to make sure everyone had a chance to participate. Paul Goode joined us, as did
the Kronengolds Joshua Kronengold and Lisa Padol (though we didn’t hear nearly enough from them). I apologize for anyone left out in this review, but I was a little pixilated (the pixie kind, not the pixEL kind) as the hour grew later. The Decadent Dave contingent moved out to the lobby to hold lively court until the wee-er hours, and the official filk rooms wound down.
A winter storm was bearing down on Atlanta on Sunday. For many of us, the day was more or less a non-starter as people scrambled to change or update travel plans. We said our goodbyes and went on our way.
I had attended GAFilk a few of times before, missing last year. For someone who is not in the “inner circle,” GAFilk can be a lonely place. It’s a close-knit community, and it’s completely understandable that they want to meet and greet old friends and acquaintances. It’s a lot more fun if, as we did this year, you meet up with a gaggle of friends. If I had one single personal observation to make, it would be that the GAFilk organizers sometimes forget they are host to filkers and fans from far and wide, of all shapes, colors, sizes, ages, and abilities. That said, this year was less clannish, perhaps because attendance was down, and the registration folks were friendly. Even so, there are the occasional “who the hell are you” looks and some occasional filk hogging (though not as much as the last time we attended in 09).
There have been and continue to be notable exceptions to the clique tendencies. Teri Wachowiak was, in fact, the only person to speak to us (outside of business in the Dealers Room) the entire weekend at our first GAFilk several years ago (before we were even members of the oft cursed Dragon*Con Filk track). That year we had no opportunity to play, as we were repeatedly overridden in an unfriendly fashion each time we tried to start.
The last time we attended, in 2009, my youngest son, on leave from Iraq, came with us. He’s not a filker, but a longtime fan who literally cut his teeth on filk. Such was the unfriendliness he experienced that he finally stayed in our hotel room, and said he would never EVER return to a GAFilk. Amber and I did get to play in the Open Filks, thanks to Tom Smith and Bill Roper.
Fast forward to this year: I was not inclined to return since battling for a chance to share music is not my idea of fun. Yet we Dragon*Con Filk staffers made a pact to attend together this year and see how it went. This was in no small part due to the welcoming attitude of Toastmaster Matt Leger and longtime filker Paul Goode. On a personal level, GAFilk had lost me, my son, and the 1-2 friends with whom I’d attended before. On Friday, Amber and I thanked Teri for her friendliness when we were there alone. As East Coast filkers from old, we’d come up when all Filkers were like extended family. The difference in tone between “who are you?” and “who the hell are you”? is subtle but significant. As a filker, I personally can sing and write fairly decent songs (both filk and folk), but will never be more than a mediocre guitar player (when in practice!). Many others play better than they sing, or write better than they play. To me, as a fan and a filker, that’s part of what makes it all interesting and fun. I hope that GAFilk will continue to become a more welcoming place as time goes by. Next year? I will think about it after Dragon*Con.
** Photo Credits: Robby Hilliard and Chip Brazell (used by permission)