Decadence con report

Or, did anyone get the number of that car?

My main impression of Decadence was that there was always something happening. There was jamming in the bar, conversations in the hotel lobby, harp groups in reception, concerts in the main hall... nobody could have gone to everything. Not without being in half a dozen different places at once, anyhow.

Despite starting the programme book a month before the con, it was actually finished two days beforehand (of course). Getting everything down by train to Eastbourne proved entertaining, too. But after that, things seemed to go fairly smoothly. Despite being delayed by forces beyond their control, the tech crew did an impressive job of getting set up in a short time, and things started more or less on time.

I missed the first two concerts (Brian and Rika), but the Phoenix set was everything we have come to expect: excellent music with lots of life and stage presence. Somehow they manage to get better every year... Filkotrash raised around 70 pounds for the filk fund this year, I believe, and it was clear that not only did the audience recognise some of the songs, they also knew the words and liked them enough to sing along. The "Something borrowed" main concert was unfortunately on a bit too early in the con for many people, but seemed to go well; the Friday circle wound down around 2:30 am.

Next morning was an early start: the hotel hadn't delayed breakfast... but then, sleep and conventions rarely go together. Two workshops opened the programme on the Saturday morning: Dan Bennett on copyright, and Tim Walker on Basic Guitar. Knowing all of three guitar chords (on a good day) myself, I went along to the latter, and found it both useful and encouraging; the only problem was that it wasn't long enough! Even so, most people there could manage some simple chord changes by the end of the session.

This was followed by the History of Filk, led by Valerie and Rhodri; an entertaining discussion of how things progressed from groups in bars to dedicated concerts at an Eastercon to the filk cons we have today. Mike Whitaker was even persuaded to reunite the Smilks for one more performance. Like many items, this overran and could easily have gone on for much longer. The next item was Kate's "Songs of the Librarian" which showed that songs do not all need accompanyments to make a good performance. OOK!

During the long lunch break, the NMC had a short rehearsal, and so did Dan Who. The latter should have been for the entire production, but in fact we only got through part 1, neccessitating a hasty extra rehearsal literally at the last minute. After lunch we had the "Something New" concert, where the theme was only loosely enforced; highlights included Phil Allcock's beautiful "Anna" and Annie Walker's haunting "Nu san filani" (with Uriel).

After this, the N'early Music Consort gave another polished performance; well-deserving the standing ovation they got at the end. The next item in the main hall was the American Guest of Honour, Mitchell Burnside-Clapp. Or was it the Australian guest... anyhow, this was an excellent, informal performance in English and German.

This was folled by Dan's Khoomiy workshop, but I snuck out of this because I'd seen some harps and harpists near reception. Annie Walker kindly let me have a go on her harps and for two hours or so there was an informal harp group playing there (including Annie, Rika and Talis). One of the high points of the con for me.

Another high point came just afterwards, with Erica's set. She's been taking voice lessons and gave an excellent performance, with both singing and patter showing her confidence. Several songs were (rightly) nominated for "Best new song since VIbraphone", and one of them was downright cheerful...

Following on from Erica was Valerie's first set; by this time, the main hall was very hot and the hotel had turned off all the heating but the room was taking time to cool down. This had a predictable effect on instruments, forcing frequent retuning (not just during this set). Valerie did a number of songs from her tape, "Lady in Veils", and talked a bit about what the songs were about. Next came Patchwork; I'm afraid I missed most of their concert (though what I heard sounded excellent) as I was sorting out the Blue Circle.

By this time we were running about an hour late, so the semi-formal Blue Concert became the totally informal Blue Circle in the main hall; a lively chaos circle with Valerie, the Allcocks, the Walkers, Erica, Rika, Miki Dennis, a talented newcomer called Oliver, and a few others I'm sorry for forgetting! The "Blue" theme continued for quite a while (until the Discworld filks took over) with the highlight being "Sex and Chocolate" from the Walkers and the Allcocks, complete with chocolate bars and underware being thrown round the room! Mitchell and Bill turned up later, livening the circle with space and computing songs (and wearing some of the underwear). The circle turned bardic and gradually shrank as it got colder and later; in the end, the six survivors moved to the sun lounge and watched the dawn over the water - a lovely sight.

Sunday morning started with a slightly later breakfast. There were two workshops scheduled at 9:30am, but Mike Whitaker had lost his voice so regretfully had to cancel his chording workshop; leaving Zander to do his on songwriting. This lead into a discussion amongst the songwriters present on different styles of writing, of choosing phrases, and which works best in different circumstances.

After the workshop we had Instant Bands - or Instant Hordes, since this proved extremely popular with 25 people signing up. Unfortunately each band needs a significant amount of time to rehearse in, which can eat into the programme time, so in the end there were only three bands. Teddy's solo in the "Time Police" song may have been the best moment! Activity then shifted to the main hall for the bidding session for the 1999 con (won by XIlophone) and the filk fund AGM, after which we had the much-awaited Dan Who.

I missed part 1 of Dan Who because I was out getting lunch, but from the sound of things, everyone was enjoying it. We rehearsed most of part 3 during lunch and performed it immediately afterwards, with the very final scenes unrehearsed at the con. Considerable over- acting and general hamming-up of parts, particularly by Teddy and Phil, produced a good show (the audience's groan when Phil revealed his Evil Plan(tm) was well worth it...) and Paul is already getting asked about another one...

Dan Who was followed by the filk fund auction; together with Filkotrash and a donation, this made over 400 pounds: more than enough to cover the air tickets. By now, of course, we were running late again, but nobody cared. Valerie's second slot was next, followed by Mitchell's: two excellent performances to round off the formal programme. Dotted through the Sunday were groups doing their take on "A Boy in a Room", and Minstrel finished the programme off with his sequel to the same tune: A Man in a Room. We presented some awards at the closing ceremony - it was nice to see Phil win Best Serious Song, then closed the con in the traditional way, with Zander leading "Sam's Song". The committee then kidnapped the guests and went off for dinner, leaving things in the capable hands of the XIlophone committee... I'm told the Dead Mink filk circle was excellent, but since I hadn't had any sleep for about 36 hours, I collapsed around 8pm on the Sunday and didn't wake up until the Monday morning.

It was hard leaving on the Monday; I enjoyed the convention a lot; the company, the concerts, the circles, the jamming in corridores... The staff were very friendly and we had very little trouble with the hotel (what trouble we did have was quickly sorted); indeed, the staff were often heard listening to items. It's a long wait until the next event...

Mike Richards
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