by Robert Seutter, columnist
Krypton Radio visited the Steampunk LA event, Saturday June 21, 2014, in downtown Los Angeles. When we say downtown, we literally mean downtown. The event was held at 333 Live, in a multi-level building, the interior of which hearkens back to the days of disco, and it’s right next to the skyscrapers downtown.
Steampunk LA is the brainchild of four motivated people, Peter Coro, Patty Garcia, Sketch, and Deadmundo, and this was their second annual event. Most steampunk events have a theme (Old West, Queen Mary, etc.) and this one was no exception. Steampunk LA focused on art and expression in a variety of mediums. And in this regard, they did really well. Sketch and Deadmundo work in a variety of artistic circles and produce other events as well. Peter and Patty (of SteamCat Evolutions) helped bring their Steampunk connections to the mix as well. One of their goals was to get the various artistic communities they know from other cultural events to create with a Los Angeles steampunk vibe, and they were very successful. In particular, there was a lot of new Latin-influenced art, Day of the Dead, Goth, Rockabilly, and other maker-style elements infused in many of the displays and merchant wares offered at the event.
On the stage, the first band up was Sammy and the Addiction, who did a great job of bringing the energy. Their music was a nice driving fusion of Americana-rock (think Squirrel Nut Zippers meets The Pogues) and Sammy brought some great vocals with a lot heart. Their drummer, David Cisneros, had a drum solo that had the whole room cheering. I hope we see them again.
There was an interesting magic act by Pop Haydn, who was officially steam punk before there was steam punk. In the fact that according to him, he’s from the year 1910, and just doing a bit of showmanship here and there just to get by. It took a bit for the crowd to focus, but by the time he got out his matter transmitter and some of his other tricks, the audience was enthralled by a great display of classic showmanship. He’s got a newfangled website that displays some of his ingenuity, or look for him at the Magic Castle where he is a regular.
Following Pop Haydn, Noah and the Megafauna took the stage. It took a while for the sound check, but they had an eight-piece band with a wide variety of instruments. A bit hard to describe musically, but try “gypsy-jazz-swing-meets-retro.” It was music that pulled you into a groove that spoke of torch songs and hip bars long ago. While I loved their ballads, I think the audience was hoping for more energetic numbers. Still, great stuff and all and all.
All throughout the night, there was face painting, plus the audience was treated to a lovely fan-dancer demo. Finally, the evening was capped off with a Steam Powered Giraffe Concert. The SPG crew did a solid show, complete with a funny serenade to James of GeekShot Photography by Rabbit. By the end of the evening, the SPG fans were clustered around the stage and enjoying every minute. One nice thing about this event was that the SPG folks were wonderfully accessible, and had plenty of time to chat and take photos with their fans, who truly appreciated it.
The down points of the evening were the 333 Live staff and facilities. The security people refused to let people with stamps come and go as they pleased. This was bad mojo for the Steampunk crowd, especially for an event that lasted eight hours. Steampunk players often have costume changes, and they need to come and go. Instead, customers were treated like people trying to rush a concert, which is unusual since the Steampunk community is extraordinarily polite, and it put a cramp on the whole evening.
Likewise, the small food service table they had was not capable of handling the large crowd, and the upstairs was open to the street. While this may have been scenic, the upstairs temps ran up into some very humid 80s and 90s, and the cosplayers were melting. The merchants and artists endured stoically but not happily.
Later on, the problems were compounded by the 333 management deciding to rent another room upstairs out to an 80s DJ. So while the SPG performers were moving through a lot of their spoken-word comedy bits, there was a steady thumpa-thumpa hammering down from on high. The Steam Powered Giraffe team soldiered on like the veterans of busking they are. If you are an event producer, I would think long and hard about using 333 Live as a venue.
Overall, I would like to give a shout-out and kudos to the Steampunk LA team and their volunteers. They did a great job with all the art and entertainment. I think there might be many opportunities for breakaway entertainment in other rooms, classes, and so on. But L.A. needs events like Steampunk LA to help many Los Angeles artists and Steampunk/Alternative Culture aficionados to bring what is wonderful about their community to the rest of the world.