Convention Report: GAFilk

A while back I had an email from Larry Niven. He had been invited to be a guest at GAFilk, a music convention in Atlanta. He was allowed to bring a guest of his own but his wife Fuzzy has been dealing with enough health issues that she declined. Larry told the con staff that he has a nephew who is “into filk.”

If you don’t know what filk is, it’s hard to explain. It’s music, okay? For a more detailed explanation, click here.

Not only did the con staff tell Larry to bring his nephew, but when they found out it was me they gave me an hour-long spot for a show: it turned out some of the staff have heard me before and wanted their friends to hear me too.

It occurred to me when Larry invited me that I might fly to Atlanta a few days early if I could get some school shows, but I decided not to pursue it as I thought Larry might want my help while traveling. In hindsight, I could have gone separately; Larry is still fully able-bodied and -minded, packs exactly what he needs and no more, and handles his own luggage etc. just fine. Nonetheless I am not sorry for deciding to stick with him for the trip: we haven’t had a chance to hang out for a while and I had fun catching up with him.

We flew to Atlanta Thursday morning. The only interesting thing about the trip was the Atlanta airport, which is amazing in two ways. First, it is really, really huge. If you have access to Google Earth, have a look from above. This airport makes jumbo jets looks like ants. Second, it appears to be the best organized, most efficient airport I have seen. A series of trams and conveyor belts whisks you from A to B very quickly; security is so fast that Larry and I were a little disoriented. (That was security, right?) The only way they could have made it faster would probably involve launching passengers from catapults into the body scanners. I wish we had that airport in Los Angeles!

Rob and Larissa picked us up, greeted us like family (this would continue through the weekend) and drove us to the hotel.

Larry and I had the evening and most of the next day off, so we slept late (we were on California time and stayed that way through the weekend) and then went to see the Atlanta Cyclorama at the suggestion of Larry’s friend and writing partner Greg Benford, who used to live in Atlanta. The Cyclorama is one of those grand historical extravaganzas that has to be seen to be understood, so I’ll just say we loved it and you will too. See it if you get the chance.

My show Friday night went about as well as I could ask. I tried out some new songs, including a filk about one or more books by Larry Niven. The lyrics for There’s A Great Big Thing In Outer Space are now in the Uncollected music folder. The audience was very friendly, laughed in the right places, and bought a lot of CD’s to support GriffinEd.

With my responsibilities met, I was free to relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend. I sat in on a fun RPG on Saturday, attended some excellent concerts, ate good food, danced, swapped stories and songs, bought a few CD’s, and hung out with some of my favorite writers, singers, and instrumentalists until very late in the night.

Lessons learned: 1) Bring more CD’s and business cards next time. 2) If ever I start thinking my guitar skills are “good enough,” playing with Decadent Dave Clement or Sam Baardman for about ten seconds will fix that. 3) There is nothing, literally nothing, you can’t write a funny song about. 4) Keep my iPad on hand at all times for writing down names of songs and musicians. There is a lot of new (to me) music I want to (exploit) cover in my own work.

Overall impressions: Larry says he had a fine time and would do a filk con again. I’m going to gently lean on him about this. We were treated as family from the moment we arrived in Atlanta to the group hugs on our way out the door. My face is still a little sore from all the laughing and smiling. There was not a minute when I was not having a good time, and I will certainly go to GAFilk again when my schedule permits. Filking is not my job (that would be the schools, of course), but it is an excellent source of inspiration, instruction, and fellowship.