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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dragon*Con pt. 1: geeks, goths and grown men in booty shorts

Goth outreach program
  • Photo by Chad Radford
  • Goth outreach program

Snap in to Silm Jim
  • Photo by Chad Radford
Fri., Sept. 3. I hit up Dragon*Con Friday night on a mission to go free range for a bit and snap off my annual batch of camera phone costume pics. That's generally they way to do a big con like this; just go where the crowd pushes you.

I picked up my press credentials and the only real agenda item for the evening was to hit up The State of the Goth Scene: 2010 panel discussion. But like Odysseus making his way home from the Trojan War, there were many distractions along the way. Sirens and hideous beasts alike had swarmed upon downtown Atlanta and costumed geeks were getting their freak on as far as the eye could see. Sweet Jesus where do these people come from, and who are they? Misanthropes, curious thrill seekers, gamers, Trekkies, Furries, librarians and blogger shut-in types from the rural American countryside. They live among us and this is their time of the year to be amongst friends and truly shine.

It's an old familiar scene for me at this point. I've been people watching at Dragon*Con for several years now and if I've made one revelation it's that anything goes. Judge not lest ye be judged.

In the Hyatt's main lobby the three poor souls who had been suckered in to concierge duty on this unholy night held on to their game faces; even when a guy dressed as Randy "Macho Man" Savage circa '87 entered through the revolving door, held a hand to his ear and in a raspy voice announced his arrival, "Oooooh Yeah!"

Suddenly, everyone else seemed tame by comparison, and the Macho Man had an agenda. He led me to a large ballroom, which had been converted to an amateur wrestling arena and the place was packed. All eyes were on four buff dudes in booty shorts going head-to-head in the squared circle — tag team. Adults and children alike leapt from their seats shouting protests when one Mohawked manager taunted them all, screaming into a microphone that his favorite Star Trek character was Darth Vader, and that no one else's opinions mattered "because "y'all are a bunch of NNNEEEERRRRDDDDS!!!!!!"

You dont know the power of the darkside...
  • Photo by Chad Radford
  • You don't know the power of the darkside...
It was awesome. Swift maneuvers, a suplex here and there, and lots of flying leaps from the top turnbuckle were incredible to see live. Although the acting that accompanied the hand-to-hand scrapping was pretty bogus. This shit didn't look this fake when I was kid, did it?

I made it to over to hear the goths talk in just the nick of time. Lot's of black, lots of fishnet, eyeliner and lots of jingling jewelry making noise filled the room.

Like the rest of us, hard economic times have effected the goth scene, but there are ways to keep the life blood flowing. The panel was held down by DJ Spider from Charlotte, N.C., Boston-based ATL expat DJ Nemesis, DJ and a goth DJ from Nashville, named Ichabod was the host. Projekt Records owner and Black Tape for a Blue Girl founder Sam Rosenthal was on hand as well. there was also a dude with spidery, gravity defying hair named Rogue and a vampy, platinum blond lady named Jessica Lackey. The latter two are members of the band Crüxshadows. Another guy named Steven Archer from Ego Likeness was there too, and they all waxed intellectual about the club scene.

After all, it's an important part of a night-in-the-life for these people, and their business model 101 talk made sense; give the night crawlers more bang for their buck. I was hoping for more discourse in terms of goth as an anthropological thing, and how it has changed over the last 5-15 years, which is a far more interesting conversation than the revelation that goth kids don't drink as much as frat guys and/or the hip-hop crowd... Not as much alcohol, anyway. Seems like a no brainer, but that's what club owners want, and that's the number one killer of the goth night at your local bar.

The solutions were simple, book better goth bands, bring in some burlesque dancers on occasion. Switch it up. Give the people a reason to spend. From there they talked about the plight of convincing the world that they're not emo, and that the goth scene is rapidly reinventing itself. They also covered everything from expanding their DJ palettes to include goth music as well as '80s classics to more recent pop stuff by the likes of Lady Ga Ga, for example, as a means of attracting larger audiences.

Not a lot of new ground covered. Goth kids like to dance and they like to be seen, and they know their own. As the talk drug on more and more I asked myself 'why am I sitting here in this carpeted room in the bowels of the Hyatt, learning about the economic woes of the undead? A few floors up, Dragon*Con is reaching full-throttle, and like the song says, the freaks come out at night, and right now they're on the move.

  • Photo by Chad Radford

More to come...

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