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12 August 2005 @ 02:25 pm
In Which Bill Works Interaction  
Thursday - Peterborough/Glasgow

fleetfootmike had to head for London at the crack of dawn on Thursday, so even though I was leaving fairly early for Glasgow it made little sense to go with him to the train station - especially as it meant I wouldn't get to spend much time with James. Thus, the Lovely Anne was stuck with running me to the train station in the midst of getting James to the day care and running other various and sundry errands. It seemed to work out well and I made it onto the train for Glasgow without incident. The change at Edinburgh was difficult with the luggage (oh, what I'd give for Pratchettian self-transporting luggage!) but I managed to make the change fairly smoothly, arriving at Glasgow Queen Street and getting a cab to the Moat House as expected.

The suite we had gotten was wonderful, with a gorgeous view of the river. The problem - it had twin beds instead of a double bed. No other rooms were available, so I was told to check in on Friday to see if a change was possible. I offered to change to a regular room if need be and this was duly noted.

A check of the Filk area revealed a number of potential problems:

- somehow, I'd lost one of the rooms I thought I had booked as concert space. From an area seating about 100 max, we were down to an area seating about 70 max. Probably was caused by misunderstandings about what "two rooms" meant - I thought it was 2 rooms in addition to the room with the stage in it, department room allocation thought it meant 2 rooms including the room with the stage in it. This might not be a problem depending on attendance, we would wait and see.

- the Secure Store that I had so carefully planned (and for which I had created a nifty little playing card check-in system as done at Noreascon 4) was not key secured, it was code secured. This meant that instead of a key we could pass around to anyone who was willing to work an hour or so, we had a code that we needed to restrict to a very few people. This would reduce our pool of those able to "wear the ugly orange hat" significantly. We worked a bit of a compromise by making the Filk area responsible only after 7 pm, meaning if no one was available who knoew the code the orange hat wearer could contact Ops so that a rep from the Tech Crew with the code would let them in. In practice, someone was usually actually in the room during the day (and we had a great volunteer who was willing to sit in the room for a couple of long shifts, yay!), so this part was unnecessary.

- during load-in of the kit, we found that the door in the air wall between the room with the stage and the function room being used when concerts were not going on would not lock. This posed a little threat but we decided to treat the door as if it did lock, and place a table and other blockages against the kit side when the room was closed so that it woudcddld at least hinder any potential light-fingering. As far as I know, this did the trick and all was OK through the convention.

ladyat was very late getting to Glasgow as she had missed her connection in Edinburgh due to the general crowding which prevented her from seeing the platform for the Glasgow train. Because of this, she ended up on the "slow boat" train. She had not turned on her phone, so I couldn't call her and find out what was going on. This made me rather worried until she finally arrived about 2 hours late.

We had to do some walking in order to get to any of the places listed in my Beer Guide, especially since the one I most wanted to get to (the "Bon Accord") was way up North Street and difficult to find on the map. We finally gave up and got a cab. Upon arrival, we found that a) this was the pub where the alt.fan.pratchett meet was held at the last Glasgow Worldcon, so I had in fact been there before, and b) they had stopped serving food for the night. Not to worry, a few doors down was the Cafe India, where an excellent buffet was had for a reasonable price.

Thurday night I wore the orange hat and passed on the code to a few people who could be available to help folks get instruments in and out. The open filk started in the smallest possible room, then moved to one of the other two rooms that had been set aside - which also proved to be too small. Luckily, we actually "owned" all the air-wall separated rooms after 9 pm, so we were able to arrange to have the room opened up to create a larger filk room for the remaining nights of the convention.

Open filk ended somewhat early so I arbitrarily decided to shut the Secure Store for the night and get to bed.

Friday - Glasgow

Friday the work began in earnest. I showed up to help set up kit but was mostly unneeded as Andy, GK, and vaurien all knew far better than I what to do. Leaving them with it in hand, I concentrated on confirming other arrangements regarding schedules (adding concerts) and room changes (opening the wall between two empty rooms at night to make a bigger filk room).

ladyat and I decided to put up with the twin beds because we would need the suite space for Three Weird Sisters rehearsal through the con. This worked out very well as there was just enough room to get everyone in without stepping on each other. A regular room would never have worked.

The scheduled sound checks started a little late because of the kit setup (we could not get the non-stage portion of the concert room until right at 2:00 pm). In spite of this, Andy, GK, and vaurien very professionally handled gathering info for each performer. This daily activity (to the detriment of their own sound checks Sunday, I might add) meant that we stayed exactly on time throughout the entire weekend. Hoody Hoo!

The concerts went extremely well, aside from a late start due to our first performer not appearing on time. figmo finished up well, filling the stage with her guest backup vocalists. Jordin Kare came in at the last minute and was fascinating as always. The biggest issue of the day was when the_gwenzilliad began her concert - the room was packed with more people than it could legally hold (it was at this point I realized that the Three Weird Sisters concert on Sunday was going to be much better attended than the room could be expected to handle. Uh-oh.) Her performance mesmerized the (literal) crowd. I was unfortunately in and out of the room during Gary and Phil's concerts, but was back in time to hear Blind Lemming Chiffon kick ukelele butt. filkerdave took us into the dinner break on a strong note.

Friday night dinner consisted of a sandwich grabbed in the Fan Lounge (ladyat was eating with TWS after practice and I needed to stay available to access the Secure Store). I availed myself most heartily of the Real Ale in the lounge throughout the weekend but managed, mostly through being extremely busy, not to overindulge at any given time.

The filk on Friday night was much less stressful than it had been on Thursday - opening the wall between two of the rooms had definitely been the right thing to do. We spent much of the late night listening to a fellow with an amazing classic "English Folk" voice, who sang a number of drinking and other grand songs. He was only going to be able to be there for the night, as his wife had a gig on Saturday and he needed to be there. I kick myself that I never did get his name, and I certainly hope someone else was able to. I crashed soon after some mighty gospel singing, as it was 3 am and the Secure Store could be taken offline for the night.

Saturday - Glasgow

On Saturday we scrambled to come up with a solution to the concert room size issue. The best compromise seemed to be to switch Andy & GK's concert and the Three Weird Sisters concert. This would mean we did not need to displace another panel and also would mean we would not need to get the wall opened and closed twice within 90 minutes. I got agreement from the rest of those involved and immediately started putting out the word. ladyat made flyers to tell of the time change, and she and filkerdave posted them in legal locations throughout the programming area.

By moving Andy & GK, we ended up with an additional 20-minute slot available Sunday. Judicious application of feminine pulchritude in supplicating positions finally convinced vaurien to take it, and we were set.

Saturday's concerts were a success, with all performers making a good impression. Kathleen is always on the mark - the audience was most appreciative. It was the first time I had heard Dave Luckett, and I enjoyed the concert immensely (despite his barb about the English cricket team). Faye Ringel put on a fun show of somewhat bawdy historical folk songs. Even the mixup in times between what I had told bardling and her actual time as sent to programming and published didn't seem to cause her problems, as her set was well done as always. Lawrence was the solid performer we have all come to expect, and Minstrel and Valerie's concerts rounded out the evening perfectly.

the_gwenzilliad had volunteered to wear the orange hat for Saturday night so that I could go to the parties, so after a Weird Family dinner (during which we introduced George, weirdsister, quadrivium, and Wesley to the joys of Aromatic Crispy Duck) I headed off to the Hilton.

The leisurely stroll across Glasgow with many of the General Technics folks was a great opportunity for conversation and catching up, but it left us at the Hilton rather later than we had expected. Most of the group decided against partying once we reached the Marriott. Bonnie and Sam faded soon after finally getting to the Chicago party, so I ended up joining Smitty and Claire (and the ever-cheeky Obi-Wan Kenobi) for the rest of the evening.

I'm not sure how I feel about all the major parties (bids and large fan groups) being in one place. It seemed to take a lot of pressure off the elevators and the upper floors of the hotel (certainly considering the size of the residential rooms), but even by using function rooms the parties were too small for the crush of fans who were all in one place at the same time. The crowd made it pretty difficult to be able to stand around and talk to people, so we mostly moved from party to party sampling the drink on offer (usually a punch of some type) and getting stickered as available. As I had hoped, there was indeed a Xerpes party thrown by the Indianapolis contingent (Frank being back safely from Iraq), but it had been shut down by the hotel for being too loud on a residential floor and therefore had become a secret party where all were encouraged into respectful silent drinking in honor of the alien visitors (and also the space travellers). Even at that, it was good to get caught up and have a sit down before heading back to the Hilton.

I nodded into the filk for a few minutes on my return and, as things were going smoothly, decided to make a (relatively) early night of it.

Sunday - Glasgow

From the filk concert standpoint, Sunday presented the most challenges. We had an additional 30 minutes for sound check but had very complex bands and duets to set up. We had the "Chapter and Verse" panel to get logistically correct. We had to deal with the timing for the wall being opened before the Three Weird Sisters concert (and I was literally praying that we'd at least get enough people so making the change and opening the wall would not look stupid). Needless to say, Andy & GK and Simon did an exceptional job, even to the detriment of their own comfort levels in preparing for their concerts, and hrrunka lent a major hand. The stage was marked for each musician position, all micing and monitoring arrangements were logged, and this carried the entire thing through.

Kate Soley-Barton and Andrew Barton did a magnificent job of organizing the "Chapter and Verse" panel, and this was reflected in its success. Both Colin Greenwood and Tanya Huff were deeply touched by the songs written about their characters. The ad-hoc staging presented no problem for the tech crew. The audience seemed to appreciate the juxtaposition of the readings and the songs. Carol Flynt's concept proves extremely enjoyable once again, and I thank her profusely for bringing it into fruition at TorCon so that it can continue to be shamelessly stolen in later years.

Andy & GK's concert was brilliant, in spite of getting somewhat short shrift on the preparation side. I will someday forgive vaurien for bringing me on stage for "Meaningful Look at the Camera", though the opportunity to mug with micktim couldn't be missed (and having stevieannie's underthings thrown at us was, shall we say, an inspiration to do our best). micktim and stevieannie's concert was fantastic.

Now, those of you who know me as a convention or area head know that I am very reluctant to put myself or any group I play with on the schedule. I feel this way because it doesn't seem fair to displace other people looking for a slot just because I happen to be in a position to do so. However, in the case of the Three Weird Sisters slot, there were a lot of reasons to put them on the schedule and to use the 90 minute slot:

- there might not be another opportunity for people to hear all four of the women in one concert again
- I only play for a few songs (when we are in "Weird Family" mode)
- it basically added up to 30 minutes per person who had not yet played

Given these, I felt justified in setting the schedule as I did.

Even coming up to the end of the afternoon on Sunday, I was nervous about having switched the concert times. I was afraid that everyone would be rushing to dinner in order to be able to get to the Hugo ceremony and that would leave us with a nearly empty room. I already knew there were a number of people who were going to have to leave in the middle of the concert for just that reason, so I warned everyone not to feel bad if the room got empty halfway through.

I needn't have bothered.

Just before the time the hotel staffer arrived to open up the wall to the back room, more people started coming in. As the wall was opened, people started filling in the front and a few queued up to move into the back of the room as soon as it was ready. By the time the wall was opened up completely and the chairs were turned, the new back rows were filling up. By the time the concert started the chairs were all full and there were people standing in the back.

Needless to say, I felt a lot better.

As for the concert, all I can say is that from on stage and from behind the sound desk, it felt like one of the best concerts Three Weird Sisters (and the Weird Family) have ever done. The audience enjoyed it and still numbered 130 when I counted about halfway through.

Miki was willing to watch the Secure Store, so after the concert ladyat and I took off for dinner with micktim, stevieannie and their sprouts, as ladyat would not be seeing them over the weekend due to being in Cork. By the time we got back, Miki was not feeling well but filceolaire had taken the orange hat so she could rest some in the darkened room.

As per usual, the filkers once again were packed into the smaller of the ballroom sections, which was by then hot and suffering from oxygen deficiency. We managed to get the A/C to turn on, which improved the atmosphere somewhat. The highlight of the evening from our end was to get the opportunity to perform the "Tea/Beer/Cheese" suite of songs. Faded out not too long after that, given the length of the day.

Monday - Glasgow/Points North"

By the time I had run about confirming availability of the Secure Store past 3 pm and checking to see if program ops could contact Miki about a room for the dead dog, vaurien, Andy, and GK had loaded the kit into the trailer. I didn't avoid the area on purpose, honestly I didn't!

Since the Secure Store was going to be available until midnight, we decided not to auction off all the instruments remaining in the room at 3 pm. the_gwenzilliad agreed to be available to get folks into the room, so we felt OK to leave. ladyat and I sent guitars and mandolin with Minstrel so that we would be somewhat less encumbered (I plan to pick them up when I visit micktim and stevieannie this weekend). We packed our heavy, heavy bags and decided to spend the extra dosh to take a cab to the airport.

With a last round through the convention to say farewell, we pulled our bags out to the taxi stand and headed out to the wilds of Scotland. An hour or so later, we were on our way.

I had made reservations at the Invergarry Hotel, figuring that was about how far we could get by 9 pm. We made the hotel at about 8.30 pm, even after fighting some roadworks and slow lorries on the A82 going around Loch Lomond. The slow speed did not bother us at all, as we had the opportunity to observe some amazing scenery on the way north.

We ate our dinner at the Hotel and then, after a bit of a walk to settle our food, crashed most completely to try to sleep off the exhaustion of the weekend.

Most importantly of all, I want to make sure to credit vaurien, Andy, and GK for their yeomanlike hours at the sound desk. I apologize for not setting up a better schedule, and I really appreciate the skill, effort, and time. I thank Andrew, and Kate for their hard work helping to get the "Chapter and Verse" panel going. Without the_gwenzilliad, filceolaire, Miki, Piper, and others to cover some of the Secure Store time, I'd have been stuck in the orange hat until who knows when. Thanks to all the folks who ran various errands and (of course) to all the performers.
Current Mood: happyhappy
Current Music: More cricket highlights
Gwenthe_gwenzilliad on August 12th, 2005 11:34 pm (UTC)
The fellow with the great folk voice is Piers Cawley, who has begun showing up on #filkhaven and whose blog you can find by doing a google search on his name-- it's the first hit. I also have an email address to pass to you. He's every bit as much fun to talk to online as he is to talk to in person, although very little tops that singing.

It was such a pleasure spending most of the past week with you. I don't miss Atlanta very much. I don't even miss the US very much. But I do miss *that*.

Simon Fairbournvaurien on August 15th, 2005 12:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks Bill. It was a pleasure being part of the sound crew. With the sole exception of that unexpected spike, it was one of the technically smoothest rigs we've driven. Just as well at times.

I think bringing you up on stage to be part of Getalife (mk3) was only fair, really. {:c) I mean... how else could I respond to you lining up some of my favourite women, on their knees, singing please and in harmony too!

I forgot to mention, it was a 1989 Oban in the hip flask.

Oh and belated happy birthdays to you both. Have fun.