Three Days at A-Kon 23: J-Pop, Boy Bands, Grown Men with Pacifiers

Categories: Last Night

akons.jpg
Catherine Downes
The ladies of A-Kon
See also: The fans of A-Kon.

I don't really know why I asked to cover A-Kon, the annual anime convention in Dallas, other than I support like-minded people coming together to share a common passion, the exception being those who burn crosses and wear red arm bands. I had no idea what to expect from a convention centered around a medium that's literally foreign to me.

The little I do know about anime was gleaned from one fall in the early Aughts when Dragon Ball Z crossed over into the mainstream, and various things I've picked up from being a fan of the rather brilliant SNL J-Pop skits. But last week, an email popped up about the fest. After perusing the site, I noticed the programming had a pretty strong musical bent, so I sent an email to Audra and after a quick back and forth my weekend was planned. I was left to wonder what the hell J-/K-Pop really was, and if Peelander-Z was close enough.

Friday

As I made my way to the Sheraton in downtown Dallas, I had little idea what to expect. I assumed there would be hordes of costumed individuals and even larger hordes of general fans converging on a few conference rooms to swap memorabilia and talk about their favorite shows or movies.

I was so unbelievably wrong.

South Pearl Street was awash with costumed convention-goers, a sea of colors grabbing my attention as I tried to cross the street. One girl dressed in little more than day-glo netting, a bikini top and barely-there shorts almost caused my death as she sauntered across the street. By the time I make it to the press check-in, I've already seen several dozen people in cat ears, at least four middle-aged men in baby doll dresses and more school girl outfits than I saw throughout my entire Catholic upbringing.

My press contact is a friendly guy named Lee, who can't be older than 23 and is wearing a set of blue fairy wings, or maybe they're Brony wings, I can't tell. After a quick greeting, I'm banded, given a map and a schedule and told they're expecting more than 22,000 people through the weekend. The entire 39 floors of the Sheraton are occupied, and there is spillage over to the Marriott across the street.

It's decided by what I assume is a festival higher-up that Lee will give me a quick tour around the main rooms and get me to my destination: the Music for Nerds panel. Lee quickly leads me to an elevator, making sure to point out where the festival worker elevators and staircases were, and making it a point to let me know that with some coaxing, I should be able to use them.

We arrive on the second floor, where there are massive rooms for video screenings, a first aid center, multiple bathrooms and a room where con-goers can enjoy delicacies like Domino's Pizza. As we trek across a skywalk, Lee points out that the escalators are all turned off. There was an issue with them breaking down in previous years, so the hassle of a repair job has just been eliminated. We arrive in the main hall and are greeted by what must be hundreds if not thousands of con-goers of all shapes, sizes, genders, non-genders and dress. Lee points out that the music panel is on the third floor and I'm off to join the discussion.

I arrive midway through to find about thirty or so people listening to the panelist, a woman named Beth, talk about Auto-tune. Beth is in a Nashville-based band that goes by the name Absinthe Junk, and their website features the sort of swooshing font choices bands made around the time nu-metal became popular.

Beth does not like Auto-tune, but is resigned to the fact that it is a necessary evil of modern music. She also seems to take issue with pop stars lip syncing, though she understands the choice. These points are well worn and we're not breaking any new ground by rehashing them. It was, however, enlightening to hear Beth heap praise on Pink for daring to sing during her shows.

The discussion bounces from the lack of philosophy in today's music to how disposable lyrics are. A few people take time to attack current chart-topper Gotye, noting that they liked the song when they first heard it, but now considered it watered down from overplay. The Internet from four months ago wholeheartedly agrees.

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Sisqó/Blade guy
After Gotye is sacrificed at the alter of mainstream success, a young lady dressed in a frilled dress goes for the throat and says Radiohead is a band that everyone claims "to love but never listens to." She goes on to say this will never allow them to be mainstream, and adds that we need to champion bands that have made their own way in the music business, like Matt & Kim.

I'm rather shocked when UGK comes up in conversation, but that's not enough to keep me in the room. I raise my hand and point out that Radiohead selling out arenas is awfully mainstream, and that Matt & Kim have been under sponsorship since their Colt 45 tour. I exit the room determined to apologize to every poor soul who's had to listen to me bitch about music in the past ten years.

As I make my way to my car, I share a quick conversation with a Dallas police officer who seems even further out of his element. I snag a picture of a guy dressed as a mix between Sisqó and Blade. Unleash the Dragon kids.


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12 comments
guest
guest

crappy article.  send somebody more with it to the cons please.

Emergency_use
Emergency_use

The painting was actually the worst part of the cosplay, really. That alone took about four hours total. Otherwise, everything came together fairly quickly. I do wish they had asked someone else write this article. He made the con look like a giant freakshow, essentially.

Lacey Jayne
Lacey Jayne

Boo. You obviously don't get what the convention is all about! There were VERY few people who were scantily clad, and it was a part of their cosplay character. People put months into making and planning these. Even those demon girls--it must have taken them hours to paint themselves! You said it yourself--you don't know WHY you were assigned to cover A-kon, and frankly, neither do I!

Savannah Bounds
Savannah Bounds

Eh, could have been written in an unbiased manner, but nevermind.

TCB
TCB

"and one guy makes it a point to say, 'This is where we're normal; we're weird everywhere else.' I want to tell him how wrong he is. Everyone has hobbies that bring them together. There's no difference between people who like anime and people who attend the Red River Shootout."

TCB
TCB

I am clever. Thanks for noticing! "He didn't experience anything new besides being pulled far out of his comfort zone." - Seems like the definition of experiencing something new. "He pretty much just wrote it because it was his job." - Yes, covering events is his job. But he was not assigned to this event. He requested it because "...I support like-minded people coming together to share a common passion..." "He leaps from topics, abandoning them (like originally this was about music? He didn't even go to the concerts. There was two of them)" - As has been said numerous times in the comments, this is an event with much going on. He should jump around and experience the different happenings. "and if his point was saying we're all weird he failed miserably at it pointing out we were more than he." - "and one guy makes it a point to say, 'This is where we're normal; we're weird everywhere else.' I want to tell him how wrong he is. Everyone has hobbies that bring them together. There's no difference between people who like anime and people who attend the Red River Shootout."

Ab Eeyore
Ab Eeyore

Jaime: stick to your music beat.  You are not pre-wired for the strange stuff, and you are getting too old to force yourself to connect to things that far out of your interest.  TCB:  Grow up.  No publication is better of without passionate readers who are willing to stand up to perceived injustice.  An engaged and vocal readership is the lifeblood of an alt weekly like the Observer.   Editorial Staff: You sent the wrong person to cover it, and they botched it.  They managed to walk through rooms full of artists, authors, fabricators, insanely enthusiastic fans and nerds in full regalia and still managed to open with "J-pop kids to not have complex or advanced musical tastes."  What. A. Stunner. Not everyone will get it, but this is Dallas's alt weekly, and A-kon is not a new event.  You should have assigned someone else that had a closer set of interests, and once they had it, they should have done their homework.   He managed to take a vibrant and gloriously weird community and make it seem like it was some kind of caricature of vaguely sad and desperate people doing vaguely sad and desperate things.  While that element exists in all forms of fandom, it was by no means the dominant chord at A-kon, and he did everyone including himself a disservice by focusing on it so myopically. 

Diana
Diana

How dare you for being a smartass! Clever, aren't you? He didn't experience anything new besides being pulled far out of his comfort zone. He did not learn anything as you can tell from this article. He pretty much just wrote it because it was his job. He leaps from topics, abandoning them (like originally this was about music? He didn't even go to the concerts. There was two of them), and if his point was saying we're all weird he failed miserably at it pointing out we were more than he. 

Diana
Diana

A convention review is suppose to be negative and insulting? Or is that just journalism at it's best?

TCB
TCB

The Observer is better off without readers who can't handle articles that don't match their preconceived notions of what a convention review should be.

TCB
TCB

How dare this author write a review about something he attended that he had never attended before, therefore probably didn't write from an insider's perspective! How dare he have preconceived notions about things, but be willing to experience new things and learn something new! How dare he make the point that A-Kon goers are not freaks or weird, because we all have things we like that others think is weird, making us all normies! How dare he!

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