Hanging with the Convention Crowd

DSC_0116 My daughter is a bit of a TV addict, at least with regard to certain types of shows. She has, over a period of 2 or 3 years, bought and/or watched via Netflix, all the CSI, X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Doctor Who, Sarah Connor Chronichles, Stargate SG1 and Atlantis…series. There doesn’t seem to be much she’s not shown an interest in! Add movies to this, in particular The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which she can almost recite!), and you get a picture of someone who likes a good yarn! A couple of years ago, she went to the London Film and Comic Con, in the hope of getting autographs and signed pictures of the stars of some of the shows she liked. This year, she persuaded me to go with her to this years London event (#LFCC2014), which was held at Earls Court.

I was a little reluctant, but decided to give it a whirl. The attraction of these events for many, is the chance to see the stars of these shows up close, and to buy merchandise from the hundreds of stalls to be found inside. For some, the opportunity to dress up also must not be missed – which works better for some people than for others! As we were riding the District Line tube towards Earls Court, it was obvious which passengers were going to be getting off the train with us! But that was nothing to what you can see when you actually arrive at the venue!

First of all, I was glad we’d bought tickets in advance; the queue was immense and was in effect being marshalled, not by a shaven headed chap in hi-vis vest, but rather by a Tuskan Raider…and much more impressive he was too! Guarding the entrance were various troops from Stargate, plus Bumble Bee, an Autobot from Transformers, and some others I didn’t recognise.

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Bumble Bee (Chevrolet Camaro)

Once inside, it becomes clear that this is a popular event; it was heaving. Even Darth Vader was struggling to get through the crowds with his Jedi powers, but considering the queues outside, it was going to get a lot busier. I was struck by just how many people were dressed in character, and frankly perplexed as to why they would do so. I am a fan of Sci-Fi and all sorts of other genres, but I actually felt a bit like a fish out of water; I couldn’t imagine dressing up as they did (although I did once pretend to be Col. Steve Austin when I was at primary school. I got picked on for that, so I stopped).

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A couple of ‘Jedi Knights’

I wondered what these people did when they weren’t dressing up. I saw a number of Khaleesi’s, several Cersei Lannister‘s (she’s just a bit misunderstood); some really good, others not so much. There were also some over-weight Jedi’s, a Spider Woman, a Black Widow, some Smurf’s, a couple of Doctor Who’s, an Edward Scissor Hands, a Predator (he was very good!) and many more I didn’t know. Some managed to achieve really convincing replicas of the costumes, others looked like they’d thrown it together the day before, although I suspect all were a labour of love for the wearer.

I mentioned the ‘stars’ who were in attendance to sign autographs (for a small fee); actually some of them were stars to be honest, although I didn’t actually see them. Initially, I wondered what would get these people to come along to such an event, but when I saw what they were charging, it’s a no brainer! The big hitters, were John Hurt, Ian Macdiamid (Star Wars and many others), Carrie Fisher (perhaps more icon than a star in the true sense), and Stan Lee co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men, and many other fictional characters, i.e. a legend. These were justifiable draw’s but correspondingly expensive for squiggles and photos (c. £120 each for both)!

There were lots of others though, none of whom we paid to meet, but who could nevertheless be seen, and who doesn’t like a bit of celebrity spotting?! To meet them, you’d have to part with a minimum of £15, but more usually it was around £25 or £30, depending. Kind of a ‘star league’ based on price I suppose. In no particular order, these are those we saw in the flesh:

As you can see, quite a mishmash of genres covered and you might expect this to be unutterably boring for them, but from what I could see, the celebs really seemed to be making the effort to engage each person they met, which impressed me. I reckon there must have been about 100 ‘celebs’ there, some memorable, with queues a mile long, others sitting alone and waiting for someone to come along and get an autograph, and that looked a bit sad to be honest.

We stayed for a couple of hours, and on the whole, I rather enjoyed myself, watching the celebs, browsing the stalls and all that. I’m glad that I went although I’m not sure I’d go again; I think for now I’ll probably leave that for the future. There is something slightly alluring about the whole thing… ‘Whatever floats your starship’, as they say.

A Tuskan Raider marshalling the crowd

© Richard Debonnaire

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Star Trek Live, Royal Albert Hall

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Now there’s a thought. How would one go about producing Star Trek in a concert setting? In this case Star Trek – Into Darkness live, performed at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday. Thats easy…you play the film and get a live orchestra to play the music.

I wasn’t sure how this would work, and I was amazed at the result! The hall was packed for the performance, which was the final show of a 3 day residence. It was an interesting mix of people too; some were dressed as people often are for concerts at the RAH, smartly, there were people like myself, a bit more ‘smart/casual’, a lot of jeans and T’s and then there were the Trekkie’s in Star Fleet uniforms, some with pointy ears, carrying ‘Tri-corders’. Not that surprising perhaps, and fun to observe.

An enormous screen had been set up in front of the pipes of the famous organ which forms the usual backdrop to the stage, with the orchestra set up beneath it. The orchestra, the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and chorus, from Lucerne, Switzerland is one I’d not come a cross before and they were top notch. They seem to specialise in doing this kind of thing, having previously perfomed The Lord of the Rings with Howard Shore.

The music for this film, is composed by Hollywood film composer Michael Giacchino, and he was there on the night to set the scene, getting proceedings off to a good start by taking a selfie video with his iPhone and getting the capacity crowd to join in (for the benefit of his kids back in LA).

Orchestra getting ready to start...

The 21st Century Orchestra getting ready to start…

For the performance itself, the music was very much centre stage. It was good to have Giacchino involved on the night, which it gave his music a focus (and got the Trekkies quite excited), but then he handed over to Ludwig Wicki to get the show on the road.

The music starts gently, and quickly built as the the film joined in and rather than play the dialogue at a volume that would impinge too much on the music, subtitles were added so that punters could follow in the louder bits. As the evening progressed, I found myself torn between concentrating on the orchestra, who were superb and watching what is a very entertaining film. I found a happy medium though and loved the effect. As a film and home cinema buff, I would like to have had a bit more of the films actual sound effects and subwoofer slam, as their absence left a few holes in the soundstage at times, but you can’t have everything.

Action films of this type always provide a workout for the brass section of orchestras. Special mention has to go to the low brass section of the orchestra, consisting of 2 tenor and 2 bass trombones, and 2 tubas. Team, that was awesome! (Trombones: Pirmin Rohrer, Andreas Mattle, Daniel Ringgenberg and Anita Rohrer. Tubas: Markus Hauenstein, Remo Capra)

Even if you’re not into Star Trek, if you like great music played live, this would have hit the spot. Even my mate Howard, who suffered a Sci-Fi bypass at an early age would have enjoyed it!

So, Transports of Delight? Absolutely..! Music, movies and the USS Enterprise 1701! What’s not to like?

Er, Live Long and Prosper 😊

© Richard Debonnaire