Grand Rapids (and Ann Arbor) based comic book shop Vault of Midnight host themed dance parties throughout the year. Dance Planet’s theme was space fantasy. Trekkies, Whovians and one particular dead astronaut were among the many varied costumed folk dancing on the floor. Fun time as always when people unite to dance at the Pyramid Scheme. I was incredibly happy to see Spaceman Spiff show up with Hobbes in tow. It took a moment to catch the reference from my favorite comic strip of all time, Calvin and Hobbes. I love the creativity that people bring to these dance parties. These dance parties are always worth it.
The Grand Rapids Alternative Small Press Expo was designed to be a comic con centered around local and indie artists at the Delta Plex. This event was ran by the folks behind the Grand Rapids Comic Con. The idea of a comic con focusing on local talent is wonderful. Unfortunately, there was not much support on the attendance level. The massive amounts of people that filled the Delta Plex for the GR Comic Con were not present for this event. From what I understand, people were not aware that the event was associated with the GR Comic Con. It might have helped if the posters advertising the event stated that GR Comic Con presents GRASP. Or GR Comic Con Summer Edition. However, the lack of waves of people was beneficial to those who wanted to take their time and explore the convention. I was able to have actual conversations with the artists and vendors instead of being shuffled along like cattle to the slaughter. Plus, I was able to snap a once in a lifetime photo of gathering of comic and animations greats in one group shot. The flow of the venue layout was better compared to the GR Comic Con 2014. It showed that the staff of the Comic Con had listened to the criticism of the people, in order to improve the flow experience for GRASP. From what I understand, GRASP will not be in the plans for the future. I still believe that an event surrounding local and indie artists needs to exist. I feel that if you don’t support the local talent, they might not have the chance to be on those bigger shows that people flock to. Plus, you might miss out on the growing stars of the future as well.
Fundraising video game concert series GR8bit Live! decided to take a different route for it’s third year and become a convention. Held at DeVos Hall, this free event (due to a successful kickstarter campaign) saw a modest number of people over the day. The convention portion was small with two connected rooms dedicated to artists and vendors. Table top gaming was available in the lobby for those who interested, all thanks to the folks behind GrandCon. The video game room with a plethora of consoles ranging from the past to the present was located next to the concert room. The concert room was the main draw of this event. The Super Smash Bros tournament final matches were displayed on a projector screen in front of an audience while Arc Impulse performed the background music of stages. The one thing that I have against this event was the bad sound techs. My Parents Favorite Music and Knight of the Round sets suffered at points due to the union hired sound techs. I can not hold this against GR8bit since union sound techs are required for events held at DeVos Hall. Other than that debacle, I found GR8bit Live to be enjoyable as always.
I was present at the inaugural event held at the Pyramid Scheme. GR8bit founder (and all around swell guy) Mark Lago used the concert to raise money to buy video game and gaming equipment for patients at the local children’s hospital. Each year, bands or artists whose sole focus was on doing covers of video game tunes provided the entertainment. I would be an idiot if I didn’t talk about the bands for this year. Three piece Mail Order Monsters played songs with chips from the Commodore 64 in synthesizers. They did an awesome cover of Black Sabbath’s Electric Funeral. Steffeny Messinger of My Parents Favorite Music spat rhymes to video game beats. Multi-instrumental Chicago natives Arc Impulse returned this year. I’ve always enjoyed their cover of Kirby’s Green Greens. Two piece acoustic duo Super Guitar Bros showcased their classical influenced talent. I can now say that I experienced the sultry seduction of Careless Whisper, the Final Countdown and being Rick Rolled all during the same song from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The band that I was excited to see was Knight of the Round. They did metal covers of songs from the Final Fantasy universe. Grand Rapids own Playing with Power injected new songs into their evolving set of songs. The last group Gimmick had an issue with a band member unable to make it to Michigan from Texas because his flight was cancelled. While this shortened their set, it led to a great moment that will never be replicated ever again. Normally, the band does a cover of the only song from Bubble Bobble during their set. This NES song is looped infinitely from when you pop the game into the system until you turn it off. Don’t believe me, check it out yourself and tell me that I am wrong. Now, the band informed me that they do different genre and tempo variations on that song to end a set. This time around, they invited anyone to come on stage and play the song along with them. I have never seen so many people take to the stage and cooperatively swap out instruments while keeping the beat of a song. It was fun to watch and left my cheeks hurting from smiling and laughing so much. This was a terrific way to salvage a usually terrible situation. Great way to end the show.
My sources tell me that GR8bit Live may not be a convention again. If it that is true, Mark can rest knowing that he ran a successful first year convention in Grand Rapids. While not in convention form, GR8bit Live will continue as an annual concert series and fundraiser. I will look forward to more GR8bit Live.
Also, a massive thanks goes out to Dan from VanDuinen Photographic for assisting with photography for this event. The dude does awesome work.
This event held at the Olde World Village was so nice that I visited twice. Of course, one was unannounced because I tagged along with some folks the first time around. I wanted to get a lay of the land for my official visit. This season, the cast made the weekend I attended a special event for a little girl. Not only did they raise money to help with her medical costs but they also made her an honorary princess for the weekend. She sat next to Queen Victoria while the Legion of Heroes jousted before the crowd with rescue horses. She was made a member of the much feared Hoarde as well. The good news about the little girl is that her medical condition seems to take a turn for the better recently. The Freestylers of Piping, Raven Song, and Bell Book and Canto were among the numerous musical guests. Ric Roc was on hand to provide buffoonery and entertainment. The man behind the character is wonderful as well. Her Majesty’s Royal Guard provided battle with full armor. The Swords of Valour battled with a Klingon bat’leth while one audience member enhanced their performance by singing the background music of Kirk and Spock’s battle. Granted, it is very painful to relive memory-wise. I must talk about my experience with the Jail at this event. I was placed in a wooden cage to suffer ridicule by on-goers. Then, I was forced to do a walk of shame and sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider Song on stage in front of everyone. Brings a tear to my eye just thinking of that horrible experience since my girlfriend paid the jailers to capture me. At least, I can say that I did not have to wear a tutu and act like a pretty unicorn. The owner of the Olde World Village had that distinct honor. I wonder if there are any pictures of that circulating around. Hmm, I wonder. I was able to stick around after hours for the event known as Night Court. Sorry to be a tease but everything that happens at Night Court stays at Night Court. The one thing from that event that I must remark on was how tight knit the cast and crew were. You can tell that the majority of them were friends who make the circuits at Ren Faires and have fun doing it. The final pub sing was very evident of that. That makes watching everyone perform a better experience for me because they are not going through the motions to entertain people. Blackrock Medieval Fest is nice summer event to check out.
I was not able to attend the week long portion held at the Grand Haven library and various venues for the pirate festival. Sadly, I missed out on the kidnapping of Grand Haven’s mayor. However, I was available to witness the pirates docking on the Grand Haven pier. Since it was drizzling, I was unable to snap some photos of this event. Rest assure, those scoundrels were firing guns. The next day on Harbor Island provided better weather for my short stay. Obviously, pirates were out and about doing what pirates do. Thankfully, they kept pillaging to a medium. Two battled with swords in an even match with the hero winning in the end. Kids were able to shoot miniature canons and catapults at castles and ships. The Gypsy Raqs belly danced while showing off mesmerizing moves. Bocca Musica provided kid friendly and very adult songs depending on which show of theirs you attended. I recommend both of them since they are a fun group to watch. I managed to avoid being placed in jail during this event. I admit that I cowered every time I passed the steel cage. A huge thanks goes out to Morgan and Teach for running this event. I hope to spend more time at this event in the coming years.
A small yet growing anime con based in Muskegon experienced it’s third year. There I met two of the nicest voice actors, Brian Beacock (Bleach and Danganronpa) and Tiffany Grant (Neon Genesis Evangelion). Panels and events were held in the theater section of Frauenthal Center, which was a nice touch. Everyone has a chance to see the guests, That is a better option than hoping a tall person doesn’t sit in front of you to obscure your vision if you were in a classroom or regular panel room. S.S. Kaizoku Con would be a good choice for a beginner con for those who have never attended an anime convention and avoid the overwhelming feeling of massive crowds from bigger events.
Jackson’s own event was very successful for a first year event due to a good crowd turnout. This event was held at the Jackson Commonwealth Commerce building. The event was separated between two floors with artist, guests and vendors on the first floor while gaming took place on the fourth floor. From what I understand, the second and third floor were not available for that day. I can see how the trek up and down multiple flights of steps would become tiring to some con goers. The panel room was difficult to find at first. Plus, it was too small for the cosplay contest. It was standing room with people lined up in the hallway waiting to get in. I don’t know if everyone was able to get in to see the contest. Rita Repulsive from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers won this year because that costume was spot on. It was awesome to see two dudes dressed as Oderus Urungus and Beefcake the Mighty from GWAR roaming the convention. After the con was over, pro wrestling was provided in the parking lot. The main event was between journeyman Greg the Hammer Valentine and local talent Nitro. If pro wrestling did not suit your tastes, MEGGAcon held an after party down the street from the venue. There, I was able to witness the public concert debut of Wesley and The Crushers. Embracing Geek positivity is one of the themes behind this talent multi genre band. EDM, funk, and rock were just a few of the genres this band successfully performed. Please check them out if you can when they pop back on the radar. I learned a very important lesson at the afterparty: always have backup batteries for your external flash on your camera. All in all, MEGGAcon was solid. James and Cassandra, my hat is off to you.
These blurbs are meant to be a series of thoughts instead of full sized reviews. Stay tuned for the fall edition.