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I have to admit right now, that I had so much damn fun at Shock Stock 2011 and was anticipating so much of the same for 2012, that the closer the date came the more nervous I found myself becoming. Had I built up too much of an expectation? Can they possibly recreate that magical formula a second year in a row? Is it a ‘lightning in the bottle’ scenario?
They were having trouble with guests – the ‘Suspiria reunion’ was falling apart at the seams because of dropouts and the fill-in guests were not committing. There were still great names on the roster but would they stay or would we see a domino effect? I know people who mentioned to me that they had no interest in making the trek after Jessica Harper dropped out.
On the other hand, if the con ends up being more popular than last year, will it feel less intimate? Will the charm be replaced by the hustle and bustle of a faceless business-minded crowd?
OK, I’m a worrywart, but Shock Stock did sink its hooks deep in my heart in 2011.
I met an amazing group of people I remained in close touch with, I got to play ‘vendor’ for the first time ever experiencing the scene from the other side of the table representing a magazine I’m proud of, I saw a musician play live (Thor) I never expected to see…a laundry list of positives that made for an unexpected perfect weekend.
So by the time May came around, yeah, I was getting apprehensive. Maybe it won’t be anywhere near the same experience as last year.
And it wasn’t.
Somehow it was about a hundred times better.
Let me start at the beginning, which - as a nice change - does not begin at the Toronto Pearson Airport.
Shock Stock is a small horror-only fan convention that takes place in a modestly sized town about 90 minutes outside of Toronto. There’s not a lot of spare coin floating around for a con in it’s infancy to pay for the niceties, so the core team of James, Jake and Bob (Bob lays low behind the scenes so I’ll explain who he is later in part two of this article) sometime rely on the Friends of Shock Stock to help out where possible. I was tapped for a favor that saw my weekend beginning with a run into Toronto with my van to pick up band gear. I would be transporting ‘Goblin Keys’ instruments with me to London, the band playing the Saturday night after-party gig.
So for me, my weekend began with Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti videotaping my arrival at fellow musician Maurizio Guarini’s house on a small 3D camera.
If your weekend had a more surreal beginning than that I’d love to hear about it.
After introductions and some chit chat, the three of us loaded up the six huge keyboards, electronics, and ‘merch’ for the show, grabbed a fast food lunch together nearby, then separately took off down the 401 to London Ontario.
I am now officially adding ‘Roadie’ to my resume.
Two hours and two narrowly avoided speed traps later I was in London heading up sun-drenched Wellington trying to remember what Centennial Hall looked like. Once found, I made my way back to the loading dock where a chipper volunteer helped offload the Goblin-gear as well as my own merch; the Fango mags we’d be selling at our own booth. I was immediately impressed with the enthusiasm and helpfulness of the volunteers, meeting people at the door with dollies and whisking their wares off to their designated booths.
Maybe I should learn to relax and enjoy these old-age perks.
By the looks of things I was one of the last arrivals, but all I had to set up was a tablecloth, several piles of Fangos, (current and back issues) and my big rubber leech and centipede, so I was ready to go in about 10 minutes. That gave me time to go walkabout and say hi to the folks I hadn’t seen since last year, or in some cases a recent con elsewhere.
At first I didn’t have to stray far, as geographically, I couldn’t have had better neighbors. Right next-door (as we mutually requested) were our next-door pals from last year, Black Fawn Films. Their booth was set up but no one was home. Hmmm, wherever could they be?
One property down from them was Carlos Henriques (The Butcher Shop) next to Chris Harrison and Phil Pattison (Nictophobia Films). Carlos I met at last years Shock Stock, and the Nicto-boys I met at the Toronto FanExpo, and we’ve all kept in touch since and grew the friendships on Facebook.
The other side of our street was no less fun.
Directly across from me was Twisted T’s house consisting of Darryl Magierowski, his lovely wife Bounmy, and their untrained jungle-boy Cannibal Cam.
(Who spent much of his time stalking the convention with his phone camera, which resulted in several amusing you-tube videos)
Adjacent to them was con favorite Troma booth manned by the loveable Ron Mackay, who was uncharacteristically on his own for the weekend, wife Cathy unable to take the time away from home. (I’m positive this was actually a result of me threatening her with a photo shoot when I saw them in New Jersey)
To the left of Troma (or to the right, if you happen to be Ron reading this) was a special piece of real estate leased by Sinister Laboratories, AKA Sin Labs, represented by Leigh Maulson who hand crafts fascinating, often complex horror themed movie props and miniatures. Leigh showed a concrete grasp of marketing strategy by forming the Sin Girls to promote his Sin Labs. The Sin Girls are a collection of breath taking young models, decked out in horror/dark fantasy themed costumes that draw much well-earned attention to the booth. Last year the Sin Girls did an on-site photo shoot with sexy photographer Dana Brushy, but as she was busy with her new magazine launch (Missy/Ink) this year, Leigh asked me to do the honors. So I had that to look forward to on Saturday. Poor me.
Right around the corner from the Sin Labs was my friend Mark ‘Rocco’ Newbery manning his Jagermeister sponsored table with Evan Tisnower, a make-up and FX artist. Rocco is currently promoting a film he’s in the process of making, “Rocco the Barbarian” If this doesn’t turn out to be fun, I’ll eat someone’s hat. (I don’t have a hat, I hate hats, mainly because I look like a moron in a hat)
Shock Stock takes place in the basement of the Centennial Hall, like a big church bazaar, so I quickly lost all track of time and had no idea when the other Fangorians began to show up. I was expecting fellow contributing writers Trevor Parker and Lianne Spiderbaby. Lianne would be bringing her brother Steve and her friend Julie. There would be a mitt full more tomorrow. All told we would end up with more people behind our table on Saturday than actually attended the con in 2011.
‘Occupy Shock Stock’
Trevor showed up first, which gave me the opportunity to scoot around the place with my friend Nicole who popped in for a short visit before she had to run to work. I happily shot her meeting a few of the guests who were more than pleased to pose along side of her – Nicole being an extremely attractive young woman.
By the time I got back Lianne and her crew were settling in which put us at full strength for Friday.
I spent the next while while alternating between manning the table and walking the floor, shooting some of the vendors and guests and getting my autographs and purchases, as I like to do on the Friday night. (Yes, I still get DVDs autographed, I’ll never stop being a fan)
Chad Archibald, Ryan Barrett, Gabriel Carrer and their filmmaker buddy Kevin Lane had finally appeared at the Black Fawn booth so I chatted with them quite a bit when behind the table, and watched with growing amusement as uber-perfectionist Gabriel obsessed over the placement of their signage for quite some time.
And then the craziest thing happened. After one of my strolls, I returned to the Fango table where everyone was putting on their coats. I asked if they were going to dinner to which they replied “No! The joint is closing!” “Is it 8:00 already?” “No! It’s 10:00!!”
Holy crap, that threw me for a loop! I felt like a time-shifted alien abductee, only without the painful limp.
The next sensible thing to do at this point would be to rush over to the hotel and check in but I first had to attend to an impromptu photo session of Chad and Ry who were playing my giant prop leech and centipede like guitars. Quite a little crowd gathered to see this goofy spectacle, which I was only too happy to capture on the memory card for all time. Actually the pictures were a lot of fun to take and one of the weekend’s highlights, very much in the spirit of what makes Shock Stock so great.
The rest of the evening went nothing like I had planned. I wanted to eat (I hadn’t eaten all day) and I wanted a Bloody Caesar so bad I was turning feral. I figured a bunch of us would go eat, have a few drinks, and chat in a quiet lounge somewhere and then I’d crash – early!
What I didn’t realize is that we were in the heart of the university student district. The streets were filled with miniskirts and high heels, and testosterone saturated punks. There was nothing to be found but noisy ‘THUMP THUMP THUMP’ clubs playing what I consider to be the exact opposite of music.
Everyone made a plan to meet at one of these (I thought it was a regular restaurant) but I first stayed behind in the hotel lobby to help Claudio and Maurizio transfer their smaller, more fragile gear out of my van, and by the time we were finished they wanted to join us for a bite as well. I even convinced Claudio to try a Bloody Caesar if the eatery the group had found made a decent one.
Alas the restaurant was actually a noisy club so Claudio, Maurizio and I quickly left in search of something quieter and fast, as Claudio had to make the Q & A portion of the evenings’ Demons screening, an extension of the Shock Stock experience.
So we settled on a small shawarma/falafel joint which was actually pretty good but unlicensed so my grand Caesar plan was downscaled to an ice-tea.
It was a microscopically small sacrifice to make, as I was able to sit and listen to Claudio speak of his musical influences, and opine on several of the composers responsible for film music today, which made for a pretty special evening.
From there we zipped over to the theatre and strolled in just as Demons stars Geretta Geretta and Bobby Rhodes were heading down the aisle for the pre film Q & A. Our timing was uncanny. After the entertaining Q & A we watched about 30 minutes of the film until Claudio and Maurizio decided it was time to head back to the hotel. Thank God, I was beyond tired, but it was pretty amazing watching the opening sequence of Demons featuring Claudio’s music with him sitting right in front of me. (I’d forgotten how good that theme was) It was also a charge listening to the audience howling and clapping in delight at everything badass Tony the Pimp said and did, not to mention Rosemary, transforming into the first demon. It’s so much more fun and energetic watching with the performers in the audience sharing the experience. (I just hope that someone explained to the guests in advance that it’s customary for the audience to yell out alcohol-fueled bon mots at these screenings)
And that was the end of a fantastic Friday, day one of Shock Stock 2012. It went by in the blink of an eye but contained more entertainment, oddities, and good times than a month of weekends. My expectations have already been met – and it was about to get even better.
But now …time to shutdown and recharge. See you at 11:00AM.
More to come, the conclusion of Shock Stock 2012 will be hot on the heels of this one.
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