Dragon*Con Filk Staff

GAFilk 2011-A Semi-Official & Personal Journey

Matt & Antithesis 2

“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” — Henry Van DykeRabbit Hat

Official Review

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 Dragon*Con Filk Stafffilkers 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 Antithesis 1Choice 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.

Toastmaster Matt and CoOn 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 ScrimgoeurHoward 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.

Seanan McGuire & Co

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).

Among the familiar filk figures performing was the much beloved Paul Goode, man of Paul Goodemany filks. Alex BoydDene FoyeBill Roper

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).

Bill Sutton & Bill RoperWe 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).Juanita Coulson, Paul Estin

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 Decadent Dave ClementAward 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 Saturday Night Open Filk 3managed 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, Saturday Night Open Filkamong 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, The Kronengoldsas 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.

FilkersPersonal Filker’s Eye View

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 Teri Wachowiaktendencies.  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 FrogSingchance 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 Bob Zentz & TW cast-VAfilkers 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)

10 thoughts on “GAFilk 2011-A Semi-Official & Personal Journey

  1. Matt G. Leger

    Dear Pat: Thank you for your kind words regarding me and this year’s edition of GAFilk. I had no idea you were feeling excluded to any degree, and I am sorry for any unfriendliness you and your son experienced this year or in years previous. I’m glad to hear I was able to mitigate the problem to some extent, as I was consciously trying to do so in my capacity as Toastmaster.

    I saw my position as having an obligation to make sure everyone who wished to perform or to be part of the experience got their chance, both in the 2x10s and in open filk when I could be present (I had to miss part of the Friday evening open filk to rehearse for my Saturday concert). This was one reason I asked Kathleen Sloan to loan me the three signs I bid on in the auction for use by circle members Saturday evening; had I known those were there Friday, I would have done so sooner.

    Bear in mind also that those actually running the con (the committee members) also had a lot of work and running around to do, and may not have been able to be as sociable and welcoming as I know they can be otherwise. I hope we can make it a still better and more welcoming experience next year and beyond for everyone, so that we can get back people like you and your son and make them feel included rather than excluded.

    You are right about one thing: GAFilk is, to some extent at least, a sort of annual family reunion…but the same can be said of Consonance, OVFF, the East Coast Filk Cons and most other gatherings of this sub-subculture. Each con has its regulars and many of them know each other. But that doesn’t mean new family members can’t be added…and I hope you and everyone who attended from D*C consider yourselves part of GAFilk’s (and filk in general’s) family in future; as far as I am concerned, you are.

    Kathy Mar taught me a long time ago to “tend the garden,” meaning encouraging newcomers to participate, particularly if they show talent or potential. I know I don’t always do that as well as I should…but as Toastmaster at a filk con, I know I damned well better do my dead-level best, and I hope this last weekend I at least came close.

  2. Profile photo of RindaRinda

    Thanks for the amazing review. As someone who has been a long-time fan of filk, and has seen both the good and bad sides of the fandom, I am pleased to hear that GAFilk was more welcoming this year. To be honest, I have experienced the cliquishness of the tight-knit group before and it’s made me shy away from something I love. Being someone who grew up in the bad-old days of filk when finding an empty hallway, a group of strangers and a guitar meant a grand old evening of fine filking and making friends, it was disheartening to see how uninviting the fandom had become of late. Fortunately, your review has renewed my faith and left me wishing I could have attended GAFilk. Maybe next year. Thanks again!! :)

  3. Profile photo of Shiny1Shiny1 Post author

    Matt, you have never been unfriendly in any way! Quite the contrary! You have always been kind and gracious to us. In fact, as I said, it was Paul Goode and you being open and friendly to us at Dragon*Con that made us willing to try again! I just thought it was important to give the perspective of a few “outsiders” of past years. I saw a post from someone this year who sounded as if she had a similar experience to our past. I also know when you’re on a con com, it’s really easy to be too busy to be social. It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be the “strangers in town.” I do hope it came across that we had a positive experience this year! Thanks for your comments, and thanks again for being yourself.

  4. Harold S.

    If I was one of the not so friendly people there in the past, I do apologize. While I tend to be busy during a filk convention (recording a lot of audio and making the CDs for the interfilk auction, and assisting with the sound), I try to make time to listen to anyone I don’t normally get to see at a con, like Paul Goode, whom I only see at GaFilk. GaFilk is nice because I am not running around like crazy and I get to hear the muisc. (Unlike OVFF where I don’t get to hear it because I am too busy assisting with the sound team.)

    I do agree with you. Getting to sit in a circle with Juanita Coulson is worth it. She does some wonderful covers of popular songs in addition to her own songs. When she does cover songs (as in ‘Been there, Done that’ or ‘Close Your Eyes’, she adds her own flavor to the songs that make them unique.)

    Also, I look forward to (eventually) finding your songs in the recordings I made. (If you provide me with info and a time (aprox), I might be able to find them and pass back a copy.)

  5. Joshua Kronengold

    Hey! FWIW, “The Kronengolds” isn’t really appropriate (as we’re not married, and have different last names). Usually we use “Joshua Kronengold and Lisa Padol” — or just “Josh and Lisa”. Clearly, we need a band name.

    Sorry we were mostly pretty quiet. I got hit with a backache on Thursday as we got in, and while it didn’t quite stop me from dancing, it contributed to my normally relatively laconic manner at GaFilk except when I can find or form a smaller circle.

  6. Matt G. Leger

    I should also mention that in open filks, I know I can sometimes be so focused (let’s not say “obsessed”) with figuring out what I can sing to follow whoever is currently singing, rather than either actually listening to the current singer or looking for those who appear to want to sing and need a pair of sharp elbows to help them get a song in. It’s a self-centered tendency, and I know I need to be mindful of it, and I should have been even more so in a circle at a con where I was a main guest. To whatever extent I was oblivious and left anyone feeling less than welcome in a circle, I apologize.

    Southern filkers, as Brenda Sutton has observed, tend to favor chaos-style filk over organized formats such as bardic or themed circles. And when a chaos filk is full of really talented types—the Ropers, the Suttons and the Coulsons (especially if they wield guitars or other instruments)—it can be that much harder to get a song in edgewise. Believe me, I know the “who the hell are you?” feeling from my early days of filking, at least in some areas.

  7. teri

    Ah shucks you were easy to talk to. as to the blood in the waterfilk circle, thats why i invented buckyball. No wall flowers permitted…unless you are a dedicated ‘listener’ hthen request something. You guys were great and I am blushing. Be sweet and keep up the good work.

  8. Profile photo of Shiny1Shiny1 Post author

    Harold S: Thanks for your kind remarks. We had a good time this go around. I don’t know what time it was when we were singing…I know I did am original kid’s song called, Grandma is a Pirate, and then at some point after a lot of really good music about romance in outerspace, we did our Lady Gaga parody (flawed in the middle cuz I flubbed the transition). After that, we did one more song, “The Man They Call Apollo” (a parody of Man of Constant Sorrow). This was all on Saturday night, after the auction, in the overflow room. Any chance you will come to Dragon*Con this year to do some recording?

  9. Profile photo of redshirt6redshirt6

    A late post on this thread, but hey, it’s a post none the less.

    2011 was my first GAFilk. I had the great fortune to travel there and meet up there with established friends. So for me, there was always someone in the room I knew and so felt the clique thing wasn’t so bad. Some familiar faces made me feel welcome and some new aquiantances were established. As a relatively unexperienced filker, I have to say it is intimidating to be in a circle (as Matt pointed out but didn’t include himself so consider him included) with folks who are accomplished instrumentalists, vocalists, and walking filk scholars to boot! But thanks to the friends I met up with and some of the friendly people I did get to meet, I had a good time.

    I also have seen some good discussion come about as a result of this post Pat, so thank you very much for opening up the conversation! I for one (as well as the Filk staff from DCon!) plan to make GAFilk a regular part of our convention schedule!

    On a personal note – I came away with a deeper respect for Filk in general and for quite a few of the individuals involved with Filk. Seeing the Suttons two weeks later at Chattacon really “sealed the deal” so to speak, and for the first time ever I found myself working on a “filk” song that addresses more so the feelings of family, friends, and community of filk rather than a parody piece. So as a teaser for that song, as a clue to how this has influenced me, and as a signoff here, let me close by saying,

    “Friends, you will be on my mind”

    Robby Hilliard

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