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Apr 142014
 
Spine

Spine

by RJ Ryan-Seutter, contributing writer

Steam Powered Giraffe, billed as a musical pantomime troupe, performed at the Wild West Fest in Calico Ghost Town, California, on Saturday April 12, 2014. The event brought together steampunk, wild west, and SPG fans under the event hosting of San Bernardino County parks.

After we media-types were safely in our seats, the floodgates opened as hundreds of fans hurried in, scrambling to get the seats closest to the stage. Even as the last few seats filled up, small throngs of people sat on either side, attempting to get as close as possible. Many, in fact, resorted to sitting on the dusty desert ground. The atmosphere was one of nervous excitement, and with Hatchworth (Sam) coming out and stirring up the crowd, the entire amphitheater was buzzing.

I was talking to one of the attendees when, suddenly, a high energy voice rang out. It was Steve Negrete, the ever-suave and tech-savvy sound man who accompanies SPG. He began the introduction by booting up the two operating system AIs, BeeBop and QWERTY, eventually having to break up a dissing contest between the two. Finally, the two began running through diagnostics and the three automatons filed onto the stage. They kicked off the show with  their new, self-titled theme song from their album MK III.

Though their music was just as catchy and enjoyable as I remembered, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of nostalgia. This was, after all, their first performance since the departure of two of their members, Matt Smith and Michael Reed.

Hatchworth

Hatchworth

After the preamble by each of the three main robots, Rabbit decided to regale the audience with a short story of how Hatchworth came to become part of the troop. This segued into “Hatch Fever,” an upbeat, yet somewhat morbid tune. Soon after came my personal favorite song from the album, “Ghost Grinder,” a haunting and fast-paced melody about the supernatural specters that once inhabited the town (or the “dearly defarted” as Hatchworth so aptly put it). A pre-ordained shutdown shortly occurred afterwards, prompting the robots’ assistants, the Walter Girls, to rush out on stage and give them a quick dusting. It’s also worth noting that this was Walter Girl Chelsea’s first appearance with the band.

The next song required a “volunteer” (one of their traveling photographers from Geekshot, Beth) from the audience. They serenaded this “totally random” lady with the song, “A Way Into Your Heart.” The song itself is actually a very personal shout-out from the members of the band to the fans that have been supportive of them as they grew these few years. Next came Spine’s own song, “Go Spine Go,” a regular tour du force of poop humor, promptly followed by the exceedingly appropriate “Automatonic Electronic Harmonics,” a long time favorite of the fandom with a distinctly western vibe to it.

Another intervention from the Walter’s Girls later, Rabbit took center stage for her heart-crushing song “Honeybee.” This one has always stuck with me, and in some ways, is even more eerie in tone than their stuff about ghouls and monsters. It’s also a very deep, very relatable song about the pain of loss and heartache, all made easily palatable by a sweet melody.

Rabbit

Rabbit

Not long after, the guys (and gals) received a transmission from the Walter Manor itself: home to the line of inventors that created and tweaked the bots over the years. It was GG, the incredibly cute and talkative giraffe (also voiced by Bunny). After some comical chit-chat between the two, the band went into their bio-epic, “Rex Marksley.” SPG has an assortment of these self-contained story songs about any one character. Rex, being a cowboy of sorts and a dashing inventor, fit in quite nicely with the setting.

The concert almost took a turn for the worse when Hatchworth was unable to perform due to the sheer incredibleness of one man’s Nikes, but it was later explained to the Spine that it was only an excuse to play their song “Fancy Shoes.” Oh, Spine. You are so silly.

Another malfunction and a wrench smack to the head switched the robots to their Japanese language setting, going through their theme song in full J-Pop style, with the Walter Girls’ caramel dancing in the background.

The concert drawing to a close, BeeBop came back online one last time to inform the audience that an excess of cheering would be needed for an encore. In no time at all, the band launched into their last song of the night, “Mecto Amore.” In the past, “Brass Goggles” usually took up the encore spot in the show, but the fans seemed to have no issue, greedily taking in even note.

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In all honesty, I’ve been a huge fan of Steam Powered Giraffe for nearly three years now. They have a blend of visual and musical artistry that I find truly entertaining. I have embraced the band’s evolution with gusto: even Michael going away. It allows for new and exciting avenues of growth. The main problem I had with this performance is that, without the live accompaniment, they’re sort of stuck to a track. I know it’s weird saying this about an act that specializes in being inhuman, but there was an organic flow that dwindled a little since the last time I saw them.

Still, top-notch performing with side-splitting humor made for a really enjoyable show. At one point Beth, the photographer, jokingly pantomimed throwing some change on stage, leading Bunny to momentarily break character to convey her mock distain for the action saying, “That’s insulting. I’ve spent years mastering this. How dare you? Where did the money even come from, huh?”

Anyway, the concert was great, the people who ran it were super nice, the band members were sweet, and it was an overall success by all accounts.

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Photographs by Robert Seutter and RJ Ryan-Seutter.

We’d love to see your photos of the SPG concert! Tag us on Facebook, Instagram or Tumblr (#kryptonradio), or email us.

Apr 142014
 

Western Steampunk Fun at Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town

by Robert Seutter, Krypton Radio Columnist “The Voice of Legend”

The genre of Steampunk has many facets. One of the more prevalent ones is the Old West genre, which does pretty well out on the west coast. Europe may have its castles and halls, but we out west have some very interesting sites ourselves.

One of the best is the Calico Ghost Town. This weekend, April 12-13, 2014, saw the return of the Wild West Fest, a two-day Steampunk event at an old silver rush boom-and-bust town out in the high desert of California. If you want the old west atmosphere, you could hardly ask for better. In fact, if you look at the history of old west mining, the madcap technology of that time makes for a very good fit for our modern Steamers.

Calico is just north of Barstow, California, and was founded in 1881. At one time, there was a thriving mining and industry town, complete with a thousand or so miners and their families. During its heyday, they pulled over eighty-six million dollars worth of silver out of the mountains and another forty-five million dollars in borax. But when the silver ran thin, the town went bust and the desert began to reclaim it.

In 1951, the city was restored by Walter Knott (of Knott’s Berry farm fame), and in 1966, it was donated to the County of San Bernardino. It has been an old west tourist attraction ever since. It is the real deal, with many of the buildings restored to something approximating their original conditions from back in their booming silver days.

Noele Wayne, special events coordinator

Noele Wayne, special events coordinator

A few years ago, Noele Wayne, special events coordinator for the County parks, reached out to the Steampunk community. And so far, the event has been a great success. According to the personnel who run the event throughout the year, they love the youth and creativity of the Steampunk crowd, and find them charming and very well behaved.

I was surprised to find out that unlike many conventions where one fan-organization usually spear-heads and acts as an umbrella for themed events, Noele had reached out to many groups and helped to create the event out of whole cloth. She manages seven special events at Calico throughout the year (as well as elsewhere), and as she put it, “has been delighted with the camaraderie and support of the Steampunk community both with groups and merchants.”

With the lovely old-west ambience, the Steampunk crowd delighted many of the regular tourists, some who were visiting from Korea and Germany and who had no idea that the Wild West Fest was ongoing. Ladies in bustles with bright parasols strolled the dusty streets accompanied by dapper gents on a sunny and slightly windy day. Mind you, some of those strolling had sophisticated clockwork sidearms and ether-powered back-packs, and there may have been an automaton or two.

Steampunk aficionados representing a wide variety of classes and cultures had a great time exploring the displays and old shops. Scheduled gun-fights happened next to costuming classes, and old cowboys enjoyed chatting with Steam Powered Giraffe fans, some of them who were silver or gold mechanoids awaiting the concert that evening.

The site itself features tours, mines, and a small railway, as well as reconstructions of an old bath house, saloons, school houses, a jail, and a mystery shack. For the festival, there were some new attractions in town. Among them were the “Gypsy Time-Travelers Storytelling” where Christy Horne told traditional stories as her partner Michel Olson hammered out iron dragons in the background on anvil, all the while standing in Florence, their “incredible Recreational Castle Stage and Blacksmith Shop.”

Pop-Lock Holmes

Pop-Lock Holmes

Farther down the road, there was professional magician Dyno Staats doing “scientific demonstrations” of magical proportions, guaranteed to go horribly wrong, and Dr. Solar’s good time, Sunshine Traveling Medicine Show. Music was everywhere including the BillHilly band, Chap-Hop rapper Pop-Lock Holmes, and even a Steampunk parade band E-Steam De Corps. Gunfire erupted throughout the day as various double-dealing, owl-hoot varmints shot it out with the constabulary, to the great applause of the audience. And a large automaton named DAGON wandered about, shaking pincers in a friendly way.

I had a chance to speak with some folks from the San Diego Steampunk community, and asked them if there were any misconceptions about the Steampunk genre. They happily obliged with the following.

  1. They really wish there were another term besides Steam “Punk” because their genre is not all that “Punk” in the Sid Vicious-Sex Pistols frame of mind. It’s more about alternative histories and creativity, less about mosh-pits.
  2. It’s not all about English or Old West alternative histories. New styles like Asian- or Indian-influenced steam alternatives are just a few of the more recent innovations. There is also more to Steampunk events than just conventions. There are hosted picnics and tea-duels, and even just going out for a costumed carousel ride can be interesting.
  3. The Steampunk community is exceedingly glad to welcome new people who only have to exhibit an interest. People can come and play, even in T-shirts and jeans, and the Steampunk community can help folks find ways to put together costumes and personae, without costing a fortune. Everyone started somewhere, they are glad to help.

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I would have to say that, as a community, from the merchants to the players young and old, they all seemed remarkably fun-spirited and had a great sense of humor. I asked one young lady around seven or eight years old what she liked best about the event. She said, without missing a beat, “No ghosts.” In fact, the only complaint I heard about the event was that there was not enough advertising, and the people who said that just wanted more folks to come and join the fun.

As the day turned into evening, people headed to cafés and restaurants for cold sarsaparillas or a cup of decent tea, while others lined up for a concert in the Silver Bowl, featuring the much-loved Steam Powered Giraffe. The western sun was gleaming red gold over metallic automatons and jewel-toned Victorian dresses, and songs and laughter filled the air. Calico may be a bit of a drive but, for a Western Steampunk event like no other, this reporter heartily hopes that this event continues for many years.

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Photos by: Robert Seutter and RJ Ryan-Seutter.

We’d love to see your photos from Wild West Fest! Tag us on Facebook, Instagram or Tumblr (#kryptonradio), or email us.

Mar 142014
 
Handcrafted giant squid as a raffle prize for the Kids Need To Read charity

Handcrafted giant squid as a raffle prize for the Kids Need To Read charity

by Karina Montgomery, contributing writer

Out in the blazing Arizona spring sun and dust-choked desert winds lies Old Tucson Studios.  Over the past 75 years, 300 movies have shot old west scenes here, and for its third year, the Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention takes over one weekend for some western-flavored steampunk fun.  This March 7-9, 2014, we were first-time attendees (and panelists) at the Wild Wild West Con 3, and thrilled to transport to the wild west that never was, where Abe Lincoln’s robotically preserved brain twinkles merrily next to Airship Isabella’s motley-but-sexy crew; where Steampunk Boba Fett dunks his flowery cookie in his cup of tea while Victoria and Otto meets Victoria and Otto beside a T.A.R.D.I.S.  Leather corsets, brass blunderbusses, steaming boilers, shiny medals, and a plethora of parasols adorn the most warm and friendly people you could ever hope to meet.

If you’ve never been to a steampunk convention, you might not know about the faire-like atmosphere and casual egalitarianism amongst guests and artists.  The easiest icebreaker in the world is to ask about that cool thing someone is wearing or carrying.  If you haven’t been to one, you probably also have a functioning savings account – WWWC’s vendor barn (and supplemental tents) was the most tempting array of goodies I have seen in my six-con experience.  The vast majority of items are hand-crafted (or vintage) and all of them are unique and creative.  And the barn has a bar!

Steampunk cons are wonderful because of how accessible the talent is – WWWC had a bevy of special guests who were all thrilled to be meeting and making new fans or just shooting the breeze.  By the end of such an intimate and immersive experience, everyone feels like a friend.  Who might you meet on the dusty streets of Old Tucson?  Sarah Hunter (aka NSFW Lady Clankington), NSFW model Kato, Thomas Willeford, Muffy Morrigan, David Lee Summers, author David Grasse, Eddie Louise, John Floyd the Gentleman Robot, Steampunk Boba Fett (John Strangeway), Poplock Holmes, Steam Powered Giraffe, Brian Kesinger, or Professor Elemental.  And anyone who just came for fun, like the League of S.T.E.A.M.!

Professor Elemental won't stand for such rubbish!

Professor Elemental won’t stand for such rubbish!

WWWC has affordable pass prices, for which you get up to 3 full days of 10am – 6pm programming; you can buy tickets for additional evening activities which include a Friday night ball (Dyno Staats, Nathaniel Johnstone, Osiris Belly Dance) and a Saturday night concert (The Cog Is Dead, Steam Powered Giraffe, Professor Elemental).  Even if you only do the daytime activities, the choices are so vast and so many unexpected incidental diversions pop up everywhere you look, you’ll need those few extra hours to recover each night!

In the Aristocrat Lounge, premium ticketholders get extra perks, such as dance lessons, teas, private meet and greets, and games, as well as their goodie bags and other bonuses.  It never felt like a verboten space, however, as the tea duels were also held there and were open for anyone to watch (or duel!).

 

The San Diego Carousel Hooligans gather and are foiled again!

The San Diego Carousel Hooligans gather and are foiled again!

The park itself is isolated from modern noise or light pollution, and I don’t think I saw a plane in the sky the whole time.  Sure, inside there are electric lights and margarita machines, but overall you really feel like you’ve dropped into a different world.  The “regular folks” touring the park felt strange and foreign after you’ve been chatting to the girl with the mechanical octopus on her shoulder.  Most of the main buildings used for panels and activities feel like what they are – the saloon, courthouse, chapel, sheriff’s office and you find yourself pulled into that era (with all the modern benefits of lip balm & sunscreen).  As Professor Elemental has said, “It’s hard to become immersed in the future that never was when you’re standing in the lobby of a Holiday Inn.”  It’s a unique experience and one not to be missed.

As a convention, atmosphere is really only gravy.  The panels presented were diverse and interesting (if I may say so myself) and offered something for everyone; authors, makers, cosplayers, gamers, tea duelists, historians, fans, musicians, actors, and villains could sweat over a tempting cornucopia of choices.  As I perused my well-worn program in writing this, I was reminded of panels I regretted missing – too much conflicting awesomeness!  It’s a good problem to have and one I have only experienced to this degree at San Diego Comic Con.  I learned to care for feathers and vintage gloves, the ins and outs of Victorian undergarments, I discussed steampunk public relations and watched the Hot Potato School of Writing, and missed three times as many other things.  Check out the program online to see what I am talking about.

This year was themed Land vs. Sea, and special guest and artistic style-maker of the steampunk movement Brian Kesinger provided artwork accordingly (see again the program guide).  As always, he was completely adorable and charming and handed out Otto temporary tattoos at his signing booth.  The L.O.S.E.R.s (The League Of Supremely Evil Revolutionaries) turned this theme into their popular scavenger hunt format, in which you find clues from the LOSERs and ultimately a password to declare your allegiance – Sea was triumphant this weekend!

Wild Wild West Con III Friday Night ball is just getting started.

Wild Wild West Con III Friday Night ball is just getting started.

Between the park closing hour of 6pm and the concert start of 7:30 Saturday, a group enjoyed a tailgate out by the Observation Deck, which had been claimed in the name of the Republic of Texas by The Texan, a formidable tea duelist and excellent grillmaster.  Basking in the spectacular sunset and cooling air, his foes The Judge and The Prussian put down the war-biscuit and enjoyed some beers together as friends.  I must confess, I missed as much of the convention as I did due to the endless hilarity that is tea dueling.  I will submit a separate post on this marvelous and whimsical sport but let it be known that these titans (and fellow finalist Cassandra) gave us a tremendous show at the Sunday finals, as did our hosts, the Grand Arbiter and Madam Askew and their crew.

This convention is simply a terrific experience.  Diana Given, Jason Drotman, and their crew of the Arizona Steampunk Society have done a phenomenal job. It doesn’t just rest on its atmospheric laurels.  The website is informative and full of useful information. They offer group rates at nice but not crazy expensive hotels (one of which hosted a free mixer the Thursday before it started), plenty of food options, great perks for volunteers, and good signage. Sunday there was an unfortunate and unexpected schedule re-arranging, as occasionally happens, but it was swiftly dealt with and clearly communicated among the staff. The booked talent was a great fit (I’m not 100% sold on the models but they were popular!) and they were all very friendly and sociable. You could buy a photo op with most of the special guests and get a nice print and a quiet moment to tell them how much you love their work, way off in the back of the vendor barn. Very personal! You could even wear the mechanical arm that Thomas Willeford made for Nathan Fillion for the steampunk episode of Castle. Yes, we still remember!

Dusty, dehydrated, broke, and exhausted, as we set off on the long drive back to San Diego, we couldn’t wait to do it again next year. WWWC is definitely worth the trip.

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Mar 102014
 
poplockholmes

Today’s offering comes from one of the top three “chap hop” acts in the world of steampunk, Poplock Holmes & DJ Watson.  It’s the music video for a comedy piece called Monster Hunters, and it’s rollicking good fun.

Listen for this and other tunes from Poplock Homes & DJ Watson on Krypton Radio.

Enjoy.

Lyrics

‘Twas a long, long time ago, on a night just like this.
By the full moons light, in the middle of the night, when I crept and hid.
Searching, hunting, hiding, and wanting, more treasures for my den.
My Mammoths tusks and my dinosaur bones, where do I begin.
You see my Polar bear and my Lions share of Rat Kings and the like,
It’s the obscure and the occult that, I find delight.
My menagerie is growing each and every day.
But I digress; I must confess the hunting games I play.
It was late at night that summers eve, I was on the hunt.
It was a Yeti, a Bigfoot, a Sasquatch! and I had him on the run!
I tailed his trail and cornered him into old Bigfoot’s den.
I chased him to the bottom and I thought I got him
But he got me instead!

Monster Hunters, Monster Hunters
Hey Ho, what do you know? All those Monsters gots to go.

Now that Sasquatch had me, and he held way up high.
He squeezed me tight and in his sight, and he looked me in the eye.
I thought that he would eat me, but how would I be here?
He brought me in and opened wide, then he whispered in my ear.
He said “I’ve heard of you old Poplock Holmes, and I’ve heard about your flow,
But now you’re here in my hood, and you’ve gots to go!”
I held aloft my Blunderbuss and old Yeti knocked it down.
We locked our eyes, and he towered high, but still I stood my ground.
We battled wits and went tat for tits; we were toe to toe,
But when it came to Poplock, I told him, “Really chap? I’m Poplock Holmes… That’s Poplock Holmes, at your service.”

Monster Hunters, Monster Hunters
Hey Ho, what do you know? All those Monsters got to go.

©2013 J.Ridenour – Holmes Manor Publishing

Film Crew

Directed by Jerrold Ridenour
Director of Photography Christopher Lee Warren
Frank Langley as DJ Wattson and the Yeti
AC – Adam Houle
Hair Make-up – Lora Shepherd
Production Assistant – Gavin Ridenour

Links

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Feb 212014
 

Steampunk 2The clockwork community has joined together, wound this time by key figure Evelyn Kriete, for a second Groupees Steampunk bundle fundraiser. Last year, the group raised $12,321, and they’ve already surpassed that total this year. At the time of this writing, the total for Steampunk 2 is just short of $17,000 USD, which will be donated to Direct Relief International, a charity which provides disaster relief, disease prevention and treatment, maternity and child health care, and other support services in the U.S and throughout the world, “without regard to politics, religion, gender, race, or ability to pay.”

If you’re not familiar with the humble bundle concept, it’s “pay what you can” ($1 minimum) to purchase the bundle. This year’s bundle includes 22 digital products, including games, music, comics, and e-books, all donated by their creators for the fundraiser. If the fundraising total surpasses $18,000 (which seems quite likely!), purchasers will also get a digital copy of the feature-length, award-winning film, Dimensions: A Line, a Loop, a tangle of Threads, directed by Sloane U’ren.

 What’s in the Bundle?

Games:

  • Bionic Dues, Arcen Games
  • Airship Dragoon, Steve Yorkshire
  • Syberia I & II, Meridian 4
  • Steel & Steam, Red Meat Games
  • Telepath RPG: Servants of God, Sinister Design

E-books & Comics:

  • Tales of Jack the Ripper, Ross Lockhart, ed.
  • 19XX Book One: Rise of the Black Faun, Paul Roman Martinez
  • Cities of Ether, G.D. Falksen
  • Steampunk, GrayHaven Comics
  • Wildside Press Megapack 1 & 2
  • Blood of the Innocent 1-4, Rickey Shanklin & Mark Wheatley
  • Discovering Aberration, S.C. Barrus

Music:

  • Johnny Hollow Collection (10 songs)
  • Sxip Shirey-Sonic New York (15 songs)
  • Spiky-Carnival Symposium (10 songs)
  • This Way to the Egress-Caged Bird EP (3 songs)
  • Sunday Driver-Dred Night (unreleased song)

Purchasing fundraiser bundles is a great way to discover new things and help a good cause. The Groupees Steampunk 2 fundraiser runs through midnight PST on February 27, 2014.

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Feb 142014
 

Tea Duel

This weekend in New South Wales, fans in all their finery will be gathering for The Steampunk Party. It’s not just any con, though; this event centers on the

regional qualifiers for the Australian Tea Duelling Championship. The regional winners will progress to the national competition held at Ironfest in Lithgow, NSW.Tea duelling is a one-on-one competition, in which the contestants dunk biscuits (cookies) into a cup of hot tea for a count of five, then attempt to achieve a clean “nom,” by successfully getting the sodden biscuit into his or her mouth without it breaking apart and falling into the teacup (a “splash”), onto the floor or table (a “splatter”), or onto his/her own person (a “splodge”). Committing a splash, splatter, or splodge results in loss of the challenge. There’s a good deal of ceremony surrounding all this, and a set of very specific rules to govern everything from teacup sizes and type of biscuits used to technique and fouls. Use of coffee or cocoa is strictly forbidden. If both contestants achieve a clean “nom,” the rules state that, “the dunker who last mouthed their bisquit [sic] is considered to be the victor with their opponent defeated.”

Tea duelling isn’t unique to Australia. In fact, there is a “world-governing body” called The Honourable Association of Tea Duellists. Tea Duels can take one of two forms: the Matter of Honour, or competitive tea duelling. Competitive tea dueling was introduced at Anachro*Con 2012 in Atlanta. According to The Honourable Association of Tea Duellists, “Tea Duelling is a concept created and developed by Geof Banyard (aka Doctor Geof) and John Naylor (aka Tinker).  The creators exert all rights to the concept, titles, imagery and rules.” I’m told for U.S. tea duels, Pepperidge Farm Chessmen are the cookies of choice.

The American Tea Duelling Society, an affiliate of The Honourable Association of Tea Duellists, will also be holding a tea duelling event this Saturday, February 15, 2014, at Anachro*Con in Atlanta. For more information on running a tea duelling competition at your event, check out this page on The Honourable Association of Tea Duellists’ website.


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