Convention Report: HarmonyCon Retrospective Part 1

 A Retrospective: Convention Report 1 

HarmonyCon, Dallas, TX 
by Dr. Foal Duke

The title of the convention was Harmony, but the atmosphere it created was anything but.

This was the third convention they had held, and the first in the United States after the pandemic. Naturally, this being close to our main office, we had to go along and take a look. The convention has survived a hoax SWAT call, a fire alarm, a hotel closure, and a two-year fucking pandemic. And yet it still rings out loudly in the mist, defiant and proud. So, how did it celebrate a return to form? what happened? Just about everything. And then Elley Ray.



Also this disturbing thing.

Part 1: Friday Events (18th February 2021) 
Ingrid Nelson, Elley-Ray Hennessey, Imalou, Japanese Fandom Bigwigs Spill All

Opening Ceremonies

These were a strangely emotional affair, marking a return to form for the convention I was frankly relieved to see. If the remarks in the crowd were anything to go by, I was not the only one. The entire room was filled with tension as the light dimmed. It was electric. Like a gas, almost glowing with anticipation. The convention hosts appeared. Familiar faces. Tyler and Pepper. The applause was thunderous. With more applause each time the VIPs and musical guests made their way on stage, hearts alighting, it was clear we were back to strength, raring to go.

Statistics:

  • Charity – DASH Network for asylum seekers

  • Amount raised - $12000

  • Attendance: 809, previous con in 2020 was 811.

  • Guests: Ingrid Nelson, Elley-Ray Hennessey, Imalou, Gabriel Brown, Claire Corlett, Tony Fleecs

  • Musicians: Prince Whateverer, Haymaker, Namii, Loudsdale, Nevermourn, Neighgative, 7TH Element, Loophoof, Blue Brony, 4EVerfreebrony, Wonderbolts, Whirly Tail, Koa, Eurobeat Brony, Faulty, John Kenza, Pegasys

  • Other notable guests include Minty Root, Step 2 Harmony, Riffponies, Silver Quill

Panel – How to Trot Your Way into the Industry

The first of many practical panels, which I feel as part of the convention's statnd out features is symbolic of Texan pragmatism. This hour guide by Imalou – the ascended fangirl, artist and character designer for the G5 Movie – and professional artist Minty Root, detailed their journey from fan artists to official employees with a Very Serious Job doing what they liked. The panel provided a variety of practical examples for anyone looking to turn the things they like doing in the fan base into actual marketable skills to get a job.

Particularly engaging was the advice on pitfalls and how to present your work professionally. This deserved its pride of place on the main stage. Attendance was at about 200 out of a total of about 800.

Panel – Making Friends at Harmony Con

This was another panel we attended at around the same time. There was, again plenty of practical advice, on how to make friendships and keep them. But also, most importantly, how to find friends and where to look in the first place. I feel this panel suffered a bit from being situated in Galleria 3, with the doors hidden behind the main screen in the lobby, but you can't have everything. Maybe put it in Galleria 1 next time, which is more visible from the doors.

Panel – A Look at the Japanese Fandom

This was a very intimate look at the small but every dedicated Japanese fanbase. Hosted by Sunchase, who spent ten years living in Japan and making connections with the fans there, this was an interesting treat of a panel. They looked at the Japanese take on fan art, various Japanese memes, and a Japanese convention head's story in the fandom and his experiences in setting up a Japanese convention for a Western cartoon (hooray, opposite day!). This was conducted by a videostream live from Japan.

Thoughts: Other Events

There was a great variety of other social events, including 'How to Be a Villain', a workshop for writers on how to write amicably evil characters using your own social relationships as an example, to the Fireside Conversation (in which the heads of various conventions got together with audience members to share their stories of running conventions and meeting people). There was also the Friendship Maid Cafe, run by the members of dance group Step 2 Harmony, if that's your thing. It's done in the style of a Japanese maid cafe, in which the waitresses wear maid outfits and have gentle amiable convversations with the customers. Japanese food is served. These were all staggered throughout the day, allowing newer, more shy attendees the maximum opportunity to meet new people. However, it also meant the rave would be missed; if you are quite shy, perhaps the rave is not for you, and this can provide a nice alternative.

The creative/educational events were also very good, and made use of the time available, but unfortunately some of them clashed with the more fun panels such as Taskmaster, as can be seen from the schedule below. Nevertheless, the convention certainly got their money's worth from the special guests, including Minty and Fallout Equestria luminary Fiaura.



Thoughts: The Venue, Accommodation and Food

This year, the venue was the Sheraton DFW hotel close to – you guessed it – DFW Airport. This had both its drawbacks and advantages. As the convention chairs Tyler and Pepper informed me in a post-con interview, they had to look at several factors to pick a venue, and they found this one had better spacing. I have to agree (more on that in a moment). Firstly, having the venue so close to the airport allows for easier access, and simply using a hotel shuttle to get there is all you need. No more taking a DART train, then a bus because it's still a thirty minute walk. However, it also makes for more difficult sleeping. The rooms are a bit more expensive than the older rooms at the Crowne Plaza in Addison, which sadly shut down In the pandemic, but the quality is better (just ask Tony Fleecs – oh wait, I did back in 2020!).

However, there are less options for dining on foot, only a Denny's, but it's open 24 hours and the chicken steaks are great. There is also a Chevron just five mins way on foot for essentials. The only problem is that there are no places to buy booze, unlike the Crowne Plaza, so you will need someone with a car to do a booze run. If you have a car there Is also the Hard Eight Texan Grill in the next town over, where we went for lunch. The real gimmick here is that you can see everything being cooked – whole sides of beef! - in front of you in massive grillboxes, with a ton of smoke extracted out by the required dozen industrial fans in the ceiling!



It's also a bit further out of town than the events held at the Crowne Plaza in Addison, so if you need to buy a plush, print off some urgent flyers (e.g. for SWATCon celebrations) or get party supplies you need a friend with a car. On the plus side, there are tons of cheaper hotels within walking distance, including the Quality Inn, a recommendation from a couple of Dutch individuals. For motel prices, you get a full room with cooker, fridge, microwave, and there's a FREE gym and pool.

The same is true for the Sheraton. Anyway, comparing the maps, one thing is clear; the new venue has more space for its events, with a main stage right by registration in the west entrance that faces the road. The East entrance allows you to see a couple of the Galleria floors across from the doors, on the other end of the bar and lobby area. The venue definitely has more space to work with and more effective use of space for crowd flow. As stated, it's a little bit hard to see some of the doors because there's a large wall in the way. But the lobby allows many attendees to sit and talk, acting like a natural people magnet. With the bar, the most important part of any convention, just a drunken waddle away, you boozey fuck.



The only other issues are that the games room and renegade stage were hidden up on the mezzanine level, and they only have elevator access, no stairs. For any non-Americans, by the way, floors are not counted in numbers but 'C' for Concourse, 'M' for Mezzanine, and other letters you gave to guess, than 4, 5, 6, etc. This is logical.

The city contains several interesting attractions, including the historical centre and log cabin of its founder, the Stockyards where you can watch the iconic Texan Longhorn steers being driven to market for the authentic Texan experience. It also contains other upbeat attractions such as the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the book repository and JFK assassination memorial museum. And you might meet Hank Hill.

Coltchella (Friday Night)

There was no doubt in everybody's minds that this was the main event most people had travelled here to see. The entire set was an eclectic mix of different styles from a range of fan musicians. Clearly, for the first live US concert of 2022, and the second one in the past two years, the convention team were keen to go all out in order to revive the community spirit.

First came Haymaker with a series of slower, lower key jazz pieces to work people up to the faster-paced acts later on. He drew pretty well on his talents as one of the Wasteland Wailers and with excellent command of a singing voice, complemented by excellent use of a harmonica, was able to hold his own performing the group pieces solo. Unique compositions were interspersed in between, giving a nice little variety that upped and and downed the ante over his half hour set.


Haymaker

Then came Namii, offering the first electronic act of the night. Namii gave several tunes that started to coax more people up onto the dance floor as newcomers drew in. She was an excellent ramp onto the next act, Loudsdale, who then proceeded to hit you over the head with their particular brand of rap/rock, and anyone else they had lured into the trap. The variety was eclectic, and the finale left them primed for the next act: Prince Whateverer.

Namii

Prince's mix of hair metal and pub rock was, as always, a massive hit with the fans. While there was nothing new per se, this was no matter, as the man has been releasing new songs steadily over the past few month since we spoke to him at Everfree Encore. There were a good few hundred people up on stage at this point, around 250 – 300, and while they were very excited, he was still able to up the ante by leaving the best to last. I am of course, talking about his 2019 hit Solidarity.

 

 

After a brief interlude came Nevermourn and Neighgative, the next acts. These were able to carry the party on, with one act complementing the other in terms of style and energy, so that there was enough variety to keep people's interests. The night was rounded out by Loophoof and 7th Element, who still haven't lost their touch.

So all in all, a very good first day.

Part Two to follow.

--Foal 'Not Raoul' Duke

Comments (2)

  1. From artist to official employee lol

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