Wicked Faire 2015:
*CORRECTION ALERT: In this review episode of OMV, I exhaustively referred to Azkadelia’s associate/compatriot as “Charlie”. This is inaccurate information. His name is Christopher. My sincere apologies for the mix-up!*
Princeton, NJ was the travel destination for fans of Renaissance, Steampunk, Gothic and alternative culture this past weekend. Costumes, Vendors, Performances and good company abound as this year’s Wicked Renaissance Faire fell upon the grounds of its new home at the Hyatt Regency Hotel off Carnegie Center. A staple in the pantheon of Jeff Mach Events, Wicked Faire boasts a plethora of performers, patrons, vendors and activities to satisfy the nerd in all of us.
I got to give my artistic skills a stretch over the weekend by handing my airbrush ability over to the Fantastic Photographer, Babs Who Takes Pictures! She was taking a con off from work and was out and about doing costuming with the help of Redfield Design. Here's my favorite look from the event:
Once costumes had been donned and readied, we hit the Convention! Babs told me that she got quite a lot of photos taken of her, which was great to hear. Here is my systematic and methodical breakdown of the event in categories. Enjoy!
The Venue this year was nothing short of beautiful. The Hyatt Regency in Princeton (which was reserved just for Wicked Faire attendees) boasted a lovely setting for the event. Among the beautiful architecture and design of the hotel, the most impressive space was the wide open, courtyard-style area in the lobby of the building, and was brightly lit and packed with activity.
The central food court area made for a great place to eat and drink without having to leave the venue. The quality of food sold there was outstanding, and the beverage selection (both alcoholic and N.A.) were fairly respectable.
There was a hallway for vendors, one for panels and adult vending. After just a few rounds it was very easy to navigate to where you needed to go. The only challenges were the inevitable traffic jams due to mini photo shoots and socializing, but it never got to a point of incessant or intolerable.
PERFORMANCES & PANELS:
The Schedule did not disappoint this year, with more than 100 separate events occurring on Saturday, and well over 50 happening on both Friday and Sunday, there was always something to see or do. Here is a quick rundown of the shows and performances I saw at length:
Katie Kat: A gifted singer, Katie took to the main Atrium Stage and captured the attention of the entire courtyard in a few short notes. A powerful voice paired with enchanting music! (KatieKatOpera.com)
White Elephant Burlesque: This troupe had a number of memorable and entertaining performances!
Frenchy & The Punk: A must-see for any convention. They performed new music from their recent album, and they delivered grand performances throughout the weekend.
This Way to the Egress: A surprise discovery for me, this band was nonstop fun and energy. A six-piece blending sounds of swing, folk and more, this talented group was a great time to see. I look forward to seeing them again.
Poisonous Apples and Pretty Witches - Lilith Lore: Lilith performed a number of darkly re-imagined tales with grace, poise and intrigue. Among the tales was a sublime rendition of the Beauty and the Beast, which was both engrossing and enchanting. An enjoyable exhibition!
Azkadelia the Mad Hattress / Mad Hatter Aerials:
Akkadelia and Christopher entertained and engaged this weekend with nearly nonstop performances throughout the weekend. In addition to performing, Azkadelia also held workshops in between shows (all having been booked solid before the weekend began, which speaks volumes). Her final performance of the weekend on Sunday was chock full of DJ takeovers, background dancing from both Chris and Wyck, as well as guest appearances. You know it's a good show when an entire hotel of attendees stop dead in their tracks to watch!
Karneival Sideshow Circus: Their Saturday performance was very impressive, with great feats of skill and sensation! Whip cracking, Broken Glass walking (and face standing), blowguns and balloons, ending in the classic Human Bulletin board. A solid show with strong character work and audience report!
There are never a shortage of unique and interesting vendors at a Jeff Mach event. This year the Vendors were spread out between two separate areas/floors of the con. Here is a list of the vendors I saw that I really enjoyed and had to note:
With Accessories and Accouterments that any Victorian Gentleman or Woman could ask for, Mark P. Donnelly's booth will never cease to engage and impress me. I added to my collection with a Gangs of New York-styled Police Club/Truncheon.
Mad Etcha: Freehand Glass Etching (etsy.com/shop/MadEtcha) Fantastic skill and artistry from Mad Etcha. A lovely display and impressive breadth of work!
Warpath Archery: (WarpathArchery.etsy.com)
A very cool booth that specializes in Bows, Arrows, Strings and other Traditional Archery Equipment. Very cool display and array of wares.
Masks by Antonette and Creations: (facebook.com/antonette.masks)
Given the Masquerade on Friday Night, this booth was a no-brainer in theming, with a lovely selection of hand-painted masks of various styles! From Carnivale to Dia De Los Muertos and everything in between.
Dellamorte & Co.:
I have seen Dellamorte & Co. a few times, and every time I see them, they have something new in their selection, and something that makes me mad that I don't have more expendable income. Their work is in a dark/gothic aesthetic with beautiful detail. If they are at Steampunk World's Fair, I will be making a purchase!
Corvus Creations: (etsy.com/shop/CorvusCreations)
I was drawn to their wares, especially their Steampunk pieces. Very nice work!
The Leather Lair: (theleatherlair.com)
They had an impressive display and selection of wares in the bigger Vendor room at the Hotel. Vests, shirts, wrist buckels, you name it, they have something in the neighborhood of what you are looking for. Very personable and friendly staff!
ISSUES & CONS
Overall, the Convention was a wonderful time. While there were the few expected "new venue" hang-ups that occur at any public gathering, to anyone attending a convention for the first time would not have noticed anything. It seemingly ran quite smoothly. My notes are quite nit-picky and really played little roles in the overall experience I had with the event.
The Hotel Staff were incredibly helpful and accommodating, and despite looking confused and befuddled from time to time, they were exceptional and professional whenever I saw them.
Princeton Police Department was in full force throughout the course of the event, with no less than three officers on site keeping watch (that I saw). In addition to the Convention Volunteers, everything seemed well organized and taken care of.
On Saturday, there were a few Facebook posts that alerted to some indiscriminate behavior that occurred at the event. I did not bare witness to any such occurrences, which to me would speak that they were handled with grace and discretion. (If there's more of a hassle going on about it online than at the event it occurred at, I think you are handling it right.)
A blameless issue that occurred was the weather. Many people were forced to disband earlier than expected on Saturday due to a Storm system that rolled in through the mid-afternoon into the evening. With a couple inches of snow which turned into sleet and ice, it was a major impact on the mood and behaviors of the attendees. However, those that stayed were determined to enjoy themselves, and did not let the weather ruin their good time. And that is turning a frown upside down.
There were spacial issues in some spaces (a vendor or two out in the open, seemingly displaced, traffic jams from people, etc.) but once more, these are VERY minor observations, and if Wicked Faire returns to the Hyatt Regency (which I hope will occur), I am sure it will become bigger, better and a more well-oiled machine. My grade for this con is: B+/A-
I had a blast, and I attended this convention with less than 6 hours of sleep in two days under my belt and fresh out of a Wisdom Tooth extraction the afternoon before. I was smiling, dancing and laughing with people both familiar and unfamiliar. I got to network, be artsy and spend time with members of the Steampunk Community. A weekend well spent!
One thing I really appreciate about Jeff Mach Events (there's plenty of things I appreciate, but this one in particular) is that there is always the desire for dialogue between the Convention holders and attendees. The Facebook page is always active with threads actively engaging and requesting feedback and thoughts on how things occurred, and how things went, as well as gauging interest on possible future events. It is refreshing to see, especially when that formula is not as well-exercised with other live events in this category.
A solid Convention, and if you have not been to a Jeff Mach Event, do yourself the favor and take a weekend to enjoy one. You will not be disappointed!
This concludes my post-mortem of Wicked Faire! I would like to thank Alex and Jayare for enlisting me to help report on this great event, and I look forward to doing it again for Steampunk World's Fair in May!
Brett Kelley: Art Mercenary