By Robbie Nevel
Ever since I was born I was a science fiction fan. It came naturally to me to get engrossed in tales of UFO’s, movies about aliens and intergalactic wars, or books about dystopian futures. Cartoons were also a huge part of my childhood. So of course a large chunk of my identity screamed out in ecstasy when I found out my band, Hoffa HQ, was performing at this year’s Florida Supercon.
Florida Supercon is a huge convention hall full of cosplayers and merchandise enthusiasts, psyched for treats such as meeting Dana Snyder (voice of Master Shake) of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, or meeting voices from Metalocalypse or the classic ThunderCats.
We were slated to play on Thursday the Fourth of July, the first day of the convention. I had originally intended to go to all four days, but I couldn’t attend on Friday. My band had a prior engagement to completely destroy Jazid (by perhaps being the loudest band to ever play there.) But the rest of the days it was back to the ‘con. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. For my friends and I, it was like Fear and Loathing in deep space and it was a glorious mind-fuck.
I got there in the early afternoon shortly before the music festival portion of Supercon began. It was put together by local promoter Darlene Blaspheme, a Supercon veteran. With 50 bands playing on two stages, the level of organization and smooth operation was impressive. Everything actually happened on time at a show in Miami. A good sign.
Before our set my friend invited me to check out the “main” area. To my surprise, after a seemingly endless two minute walk outside in the oppressive heat, we arrived at the much larger part of the convention where all the money-making was happening. Walking past a young woman dressed in an impeccable Chun Li costume, I entered the hangar sized room.
The first thing I saw was a towering cornucopia of comic books. The colorful cover illustrations filled my line of sight and the only thing that moved me along was endless booths selling top notch (and not-so-top-notch) geeky throwbacks and novelty items.
There was everything from rare kawaii items to action figures that brought me back to my 4-year-old glory days. Also there were some pretty cool looking yet curiously cheap swords. Beautiful to look at, but might snap in half upon impact.
Actors and voice actors from shows like the Walking Dead and Invader Zim were signing prints for a minimum of ten dollars at a set of tables towards the back. My friend and I shook Sgt. Slaughter’s hand. The celebrity presence was strong.
Upstairs from there was a whole world of cosplayers living their own realities and animators hawking their wares. I met countless artists who’s work I would plan on writing about in future articles, and I took quite a few business cards. All throughout Supercon, the quality of art there consistently impressed me.
Of note was one fellow named Brian Woodward who made dark, trippy watercolor paintings. Hypnotizing patterns and evil looking women in elaborate flowing dresses distracted me for a few moments. They took me far away to the place great art always takes me.
There was plenty more eye candy as I walked back to watch local prog-metal veterans Dissever play. They did the best set I had ever seen from them. This was going to be fun.
The show was successful for us. We played well and the feedback from the audience was good. It was loud. We tore down, wiped the sweat off, and then caught the end of Moirae’s set, one of the most tasteful and musical metal acts to ever come out of the Miami music wastelands. When it comes to metal, only recently has Miami had some quality offerings of which Moirae are one of the most artistic and rewarding.
Afterwards, exploring the strange world of the Supercon was a surreal experience. For one because we were fresh on adrenaline from playing, and for two we were so out of our minds that we were coming straight from the Hunter S. Thompson playbook. All the stuff I saw before our set was now scrambled and filtered through the lens of chemically-altered vision and put into a brain twisted on substances. For one, there was a gas station walking distance that had a fine selection of beer. For all the selection my comrades’ poison was ironically Four Loko. There were other treats too.
After my day off Supercon, I was back full force. Saturday there was a touch of added intensity. It took 45 minutes to park. Just walking from booth to booth was like the line out of a crowded rock concert. For two minutes I walked with Spiderman breathing directly down my neck, only to turn around and find that he was gone and a random, completely normal looking fellow in his mid-60’s was perfectly comfortable walking with his beer gut gently nudging my back on every other step. This, I surrendered, was going to be how it was.
While peeved, I was somehow able to accept the hardships. And it seemed reasonable. Of course Saturday was going to be more packed! Sunday would be better, so why not just go with the flow (literally, there was no other choice but to be swept along by the current of humans) and enjoy the kaleidoscope of dressed up fellow geeks and various odds and ends.
My dismay was soon obliterated. I clutched an Aqua Teen Hunger Force dvd as I slowly pushed through the crowd, approaching the voice of the slightly dick-headed soft drink Master Shake; Mr. Dana Snyder. He sat there relatively unattended with a small group of fans asking him questions about his various Adult Swim characters. I was a tad nervous as I was standing before one of the shapers of my youth, but I broke through my shell. He was one of the warmest, kindest, and goddam funniest people I’ve ever met. He graciously signed my dvd twice, and then posed for a video with me.
I can safely label Supercon a success. Even if not for playing well, and if not for my friends’ bands playing well, then at least for the fact that I met up with Mr. Snyder on three more occasions, after panels and back at the celebrity tables. It would have felt more stalker-ish if Eddy from Dissever and his girlfriend, Airel, weren’t right there with me. She gave him an expertly drawn interpretation of Aqua Teen characters in the shape of a looming cock and balls.
After riding the waves of people for a bit longer, I wandered back to the smaller building. The appropriately named Joysticks and Quarterslots was taking the stage, and I stood with my half-drunken comrades watching them blare through energetic rockers about video game characters and other nerd-centric things.
After a few more hours of walking around and promoting bands, I was exhausted. One more day…And what a day it was. Sunday was the perfect send-off. I didn’t see George Takei – I’m a huge fan, but the crowds were out of control. I didn’t see Kevin Smith – I hate his movies…and the crowd would have been yet again out of control. So the two main attractions stayed out of my to-do list, and I regretted nothing. The convention was better for it. I basked in the glory of what Supercon is really all about: the cult favorites, the cosplayers, the enthusiasts, the artists, the gamers, the weirdos, and other like minds. I saw more Pikachu’s, Zelda’s, Link’s, Finn’s, and Jake’s than I could have ever imagined.
Moirae played an impromptu set, Joysticks and Quarterslots played again, and the amazing South Florida reggae-pop act Stop the Presses rolled out some precious catchiness in a lineup heavy on the metal. More quality bands took the stage like Suns of the Morning Star, Falseta, the Killing Hours, Askultura, Lynch the Martyr, and the surreal Manifest Test Subject.
Final trips were made to the gas station for refreshments, and we took our last intoxicated mind bending walks through the main convention hall. We even wandered, fried, into a small room set aside for older-middle-aged medieval enthusiasts to just sit there and talk about normal life while dressed up as peasants, knights, royalty, and blacksmiths. They had some sort of endangered bird on display that added to the already bizarre atmosphere. We lingered for a while, got our minds blown, and then left changed forever. The night ended after legendary freak-rockers Green Jello took the stage. It was a fitting end to the music festival, long after the main vendors and celebrities had filed out.
Supercon itself surpassed my craziest expectations. It was bigger, more entertaining, and generally weirder than I thought it would be, which is never a bad thing. One of the most fun weekends of my life came to a close, and I got very drunk that night. Had to kill the pain of knowing that now I have to wait until next year…