Monday, July 8, 2013

WesterCon 66 Review

And so the 2013 WesterCon is in the bag.

Overall not a bad convention.  Major issue was poor communication and organization.  WesterCon has always been known as a "relaxacon" so this is par for the course.

Communication: Hotel Parking was free for hotel guests and con members, but said fact was never on the convention website, I only found out about it a day and a half into the con from one of the convention newsletters.   I know a couple of folks who may have decided against going to the con due to the parking situation, so the fact that it was not clear may have cost the con memberships as well.  I never saw a bulletin board so the newsletters were not posted anywhere either.

Organization:  The filk programming track was pretty much a disaster from the get-go.  There were three "scheduled" concerts, but none of them were actually on the scheduled.  (again they eventually showed up in one of the daily newsletters a day late) They were also in the filk room instead of on the main stage.  Seriously, you can put a guy with a freakin' SITAR on the main stage but not the filk concerts?  The Tyras very generously provided sound gear for the concerts (totally unnecessary in the small room we had) which meant that the filk room was locked up for most of Saturday instead of being open for singing.

ConSuite:  Nice selection of snacks and a good view of Sacramento since it was on the 12th floor.  They were supposed to be open until 1 (unless preparing for a party).  Party's start at 9, so one might expect that the con suite would close at 8 or so.  No, they closed at 6:30.  Again, bad communication and organization.  By Sunday at noon they had a huge spread of food due to donations from the previous night's parties.

Hotel:  3 working elevators out of 4.  Probably needed more like 8.  We used the stairs a lot since we had a 6th floor room.  Nice pool, 8 ft at the deep end.  Was in partial shade by 1700. Convention space was good, and generally well used.  Only one meeting room was separated from the rest of the con, and many times the rooms filled to standing room only.  The open "atrium" area was a really nice venue for the headline band and masquerade, but was a horrible choice for actual panels due to all the hubbub and milling about.  Lack of microphones meant that nobody could really hear any of the panels in this area either.  Hotel restaurant was very expensive and we went elsewhere.  Also the chintzy-ass Hilton provided neither a microwave, mini-fridge, or free internet. (I've stayed at Motel 6's that had better amenities.)

The Phenomenaughts played Saturday night.  In typical WesterCon fashion they ended up starting 40 minutes late.   They were loud.  They were distorted.  Sort of a Punk/Grunge hybrid sound.  Couldn't understand more than one word in ten.  (maybe if I was 20 years younger) Nonetheless they had a great stage presence.  They really know how to work a crowd and got the younger folks dancing in no time.  I was very, very, impressed with their stage presence actually. I left after a half hour or so as my head was starting to pound.

Panels: Best panel by far was "Page 119"  the panelists read page 119 from various books and asked folks whether it would be a "buy or not buy" based on the passage, then brought out the book for the big reveal.  For well known books they would change the characters names or use initials to help disguise the book.  Great panel, need to steal this one.  Some books were instantly recognizable though, (page 119 of FEED for example)

The 2014 WesterCon is in Uta (not going to go to that one); 2015 is SanDiego, and is a likely one to go to.


Rich McAllister said...

A relaxacon has no (or very little) programming. Westercons have multi-track programming (and have since Jerry Jacks' SFcon invented it.)

Mark Horning said...

Yeah, but WesterCon's have never been "overly organized."

5 parallel programming tracks with big gaps isn't a lot of programming. Certainly not compared to some of the smaller local con's in Phoenix, San Diego, or the Bay Area.

ConZilla was probably the best-run/organized one I have ever been to.

Kevin Standlee said...

"Never" is a long time. By that generalization, no convention is that well organized.

You might be interested in the video of the Westercon 66 Feedback Session, which addressed some of the issues you raised.

Personally, I'd rather have a facility that was a little too small (forcing some difficult decisions) but where our members "own" the property over one where you have no space constraints and you end up with two dozen program tracks, each with six panelists and two audience members, and where you can't find your fellow members because the convention attendees are only 10% of the people in the building.

Mark Horning said...

Agreed, things always work better when you "own the space". Obviously broken hotel elevators are outside the control of the convention as well.

Having experience with a hotel really does seem to make things run smoothly though. BayCon always seemed to run very efficiently when we had the Red Lion, same for any of the Phoenix conventions at the Mission Palms.

Barney Evans said...

Big hotels like Hiltons and Marriottes rarely have free wifi. Kate and I bring our own microwave and food due to our dietary needs. The hotel had fridges available, we had one in our room. Large sized mini fridge! Hotel restaurants are usually pricy. The hotel staff was very nice to us, no problems there. Loved the power outage on Thursday night. I will be running the filk track at Westercon 68. Hope to see you there.

Mark Horning said...

Barney, every hotel we have ever used for a Phoenix con (in recent memory) has had free Wi-Fi, including Hiltons and Marriotts.