Blerdcon 2019 Review “Black Magic”
TL;DR: 8.6/10 Back with a bang, this con started off right by selling out three hotels, continued by hosting happy attendees and feeding them right, and ended with nights of dancing, fellowship and partying. If you’re looking for more than a convention, you’ll find an all-out cultural experience here, the likes of which are extremely hard to find anywhere else. Their mission is diversity and inclusion. Their promise is safety and acceptance. Bust out your dancing shoes and head on up for some barbecue, because you’re bound to have a blast here, no matter what your background.
Blerdcon year three truly broke the mold by taking constructive feedback from the first two years, and providing an unforgettable experience unlike any other convention! That being said, there’s still room for it to improve. Here are a few of the cons I experienced for this event:
A/C Issues: This was not a problem at all in individual hotel rooms, but in the main areas of the hotel and in panel rooms, the damaged system really reared its ugly head. Combine that with temperatures over 90 degrees for the weekend, and you have a more fatiguing experience overall, especially for the many who cosplayed
Cell Reception: There’s not much to be done about this, but I have to mention that on the area of the hotel with the most convention specific activity taking place, service / wifi continues to remain terrible, making it that much harder to meet up with friends or to convey important messages
Photo Locations: This hasn’t changed since last year either, but there aren’t many varied locations to shoot at during this convention, taking into account the poor indoor lighting, and the city around you outside of the hotel. For cosplays outside of the general superhero aesthetic, it can be a challenge finding appropriate backdrops to use without resorting to compositing photos
Separate Burlesque Ticket: I perfectly understand supporting troupes and performers as well, but this has been the only con I’ve ever attended where you have to pay a separate charge outside of weekend admission for a burlesque event. That ticket was in the ballpark of $25 additional dollars, in addition to the courteous etiquette of tipping performers inside. Because of its inclusion in the VIP ticket price, it seemed marketed as a VIP only event, which again, is disheartening to general attendees who may want to attend and to tip some of their favorite performers. The 21+ designation rather than an 18+ one was a first that I ran into as well
Water Stations: For the upper levels of the con explicitly, I would have liked seeing more water stations given the heat and the A/C issues. I remember on Sunday looking for water on the lobby level, and having to go down two additional floors just to get a drink, and I know there were others that were suffering the same fate as well
Small Food Gripes: Food at the maid cafe was not very good, so don’t walk in with the expectation that the luxury prices are for quality meals. Know that you’re paying for the wonderful maid / butler experience provided by some pretty fantastic guests from Luna Cafe. With regards to the food truck options, they were all marketed as being available 24 hours a day for the weekend, but later during the nights the selection became extremely limited to only one or two trucks rather than a wider or full selection. I know that food supply issues were rampant due to the overwhelming number of attendees, but I would have liked to have more options available for late night hunger trips when the hotel and surrounding food places closed
Panel Spacing: Panels that were created with dancing in mind unfortunately were assigned smaller rooms, which coupled with A/C issues dampened the experience a bit. Because they are usually popular to the point of filling up, I hope in the future that these panels get proper spacing to allow more guest seating, or more instructional space overall
Elevators: Something that again, is not the fault of the convention, but is a concern to be mentioned, are the elevators. I found out later during the weekend that they are designed to go all the way up, even if empty, and then go all the way back down to the lobby or lower levels, rather than stopping on levels in between during the descent. I found this experience to be true, but that didn’t make check out any easier for most. In fact, sometimes it was worth walking from the main convention floor up to the lobby to return to your room, because you could catch one of the six elevators much faster there even with the travel time
Now that I’ve talked about the cons and have them knocked out of the way, what makes this convention an 8.6? Check it out:
Cosplaying: I returned to the cosplay scene all weekend at Blerdcon and it was very fun! I wish there was a fallout group there for Friday’s Three Dog, but Saturday’s casual 9S and Sunday’s full 9S cosplays went extremely well! I had pictures taken with a family, and ended up being in a convention video by Legend of Micah, hell yeah!
Parking: I paid $36 for Friday-Sunday and that was only because I stayed later into the afternoon on Sunday. I was right at the host hotel and it didn’t require reservations or succumbing to $45 a night valet charges
Registration: One of the smoothest processes next to Magfest in terms of speed, accuracy, and painlessness. I purchased a weekend pass directly at the event on Friday and it took all of one minute. I noticed that even with pre registration, the area was never full for longer than ten minutes, and that is worthy of praise
Family Friendly: Blerdcon isn’t just a safe space for adults and teens, but it’s a great place to get your kids involved in the community as well! With informative panels, a great selection of food, and plenty of games to play, Blerdcon provides an excellent space that you don’t have to be afraid to bring the kids to!
So Fresh and So Clean: Have you ever heard people in droves praising an event for lack of B.O. and general convention stank? Have you heard those same things with a con that also had noticeable air conditioning problems and 90+ degree temperatures for the whole weekend? Well you’ve found the mecca. Outside of the elevators and the raves (which, let’s be real, having hundreds of people crowd or come through them routinely is bound to produce some smells) I didn’t have any problems with excessive body odor the whole weekend. Big win
Support: In the way of dealer’s room/merchant’s hall and artist’s alley, I was very pleased to see tons of support and diversity in the way of small, but also local businesses. Writers were well represented in addition to independent artists, clothing and prop vendors, print sellers, and music representatives. There were also good games to pick up at different booths that showcased the importance of supporting small local businesses. This is not even mentioning the epic in house barbershop or the food truck rally, neither of which I ever saw unoccupied. I think it’s awesome that this con showcases such a great level of support to local small businesses and wish that more conventions would follow Blerdcon’s example
B.B.E: That’s “Big Badge Energy” if you didn’t know. One of the greatest things that I will continue to write about Blerdcon is that when wearing your attendee badge, there is a tangible feeling of belonging that extends into feeling safe and supported during the convention that’s so much greater than with the larger conventions focused on the nerd community. You don’t just feel like someone who paid to attend an event, you truly feel like part of the event, and a contributor to the cultural significance of why a convention like this is so extremely important. You feel compelled to talk to and meet new people, to show love and respect for other cosplayers and guests, and to simply be yourself, because the badge, along with the atmosphere, is completely inviting
Card Games: I got to kick back and enjoy “Black Card Revoked” and “UNO” with friends new and old, and it served to create some of the best highlights from the weekend. Enjoying the laughs that came, the finger pointing and accusations made, and the occasional shot or two worked its wonderful magic to keep a smile on my face
Elitism? What’s that?: I could write a whole dissertation on the evolution of the cosplay community even in the last 5 years discussing the mainstreaming of cosplay and the exceptionally large divide between newcomers and professionals when it comes to it, especially at the east coast giant events like Katsucon and Otakon. Yet, one thing I can say separates Blerdcon, is that this rift, which is most often an issue of perception than actual animosity, does not exist at this event. People are welcoming, accepting and open, whether they’re an award winning masters-level cosplayer, or if they’ve just put together their first cosplay. People don’t judge you for having a different skillset, or being in a different place when it comes to cosplay, whether you bought or made, spent 5 hours or 500 on your final piece. Because of that, it is much easier to feel involved in the community, and not stuck behind a wall of fear when it comes to approaching, or feeling accepted by those who have been in the cosplay community longer than you, and I think that’s important for attendees to recognize. I myself stepped back into the cosplay scene for this event, and wasn’t treated any differently than my many brothers and sisters who also took a chance to look their best and have some fun in cosplay
Showing Out: Blerdcon has things that I haven’t experienced or seen offered at any other event I’ve been to on the east coast. I mentioned the most notable examples already, but to recap, there was a convention barbecue, with some extremely delicious offerings, a food truck rally that held it down with cold desserts for the heat, a variety of different styles of cuisine, and had vegan options that served as excellent alternatives to walking ten minutes for food and disengaging from the con. They also had in house barbers that showcased years of talent and style, to help you look and feel your best during the event. I’m going to cover this more in a minute, but in addition, there was so much dancing here that if you weren’t blasted back to the family cookout of your younger years at least once during this con, then you weren’t doing something right
Alcohol / Party Availability: Plenty of fun to go around this year. From what I saw in the dances, things seemed to be much more controlled when it came to open drinking, and that made things safer for everyone. I think it was cool how the “afterparties” which was the titling of the late night dances, were praised for being fun, worthwhile, and all the way lit. This is excellent because even if you weren’t VIP, or room / bar hopping to find some nightlife, that the convention itself did a good job of making you feel included with plenty of fun for after sundown
Prop Check: They had the brilliant idea of using gaffer’s tape rather than tight zip ties later in the weekend, and while thicker, it is also much easier to remove without damaging fragile cosplay items. They were attentive and friendly, and steadfast at enforcing the convention policies. These are the kind of staff members you want at your event
Dancing and More Dancing: We wobbled while waiting for the Merchant’s Hall to open, hit the electric slide in the arcade, salsa’d in a panel room and swag surfed until dawn. There was so much dancing at Blerd. The energy was always there, and the atmosphere was completely perfect for it. If that wasn’t enough, Otakus with Attitude DJed on Friday night and shut it down with tracks that had the entire room shaking. Stayed for the whole set and had a blast. Even when in cosplay I felt like busting a move or two, and there was never an inappropriate moment to do so
Value: For the weekend pass, one of the greatest strengths Blerdcon has is that it is completely worth the value of attendance. Whether you’re into top notch panels, cosplaying and competing, partying and dancing, or buying a variety of merch at the merch hall, Blerdcon is definitely for you. If you’re fortunate enough to snag the early bird rate for the host hotel and register early, Blerdcon could be the best con for your money that you attend all year, and it’s backed by an inclusive environment focused on being welcoming and providing a safe space for all people, delivering a unique, cultural experience that raises the bar for convention culture, and that will hit you with a few surprises along the way that you will no doubt enjoy
To sum up, last year I went to the second (but my first) Blerdcon with a mindset solely focused on taking the best pictures possible, all weekend long. This year I knew that instead of that, I should focus on enjoying the cultural experience, and simply having fun with my friends. I turned more towards the social aspect and spending time with people from near and far, playing games and hanging out, and dancing until I had no energy left to do anything but grab some food from a nearby food truck and pass out. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Blerdcon is a con with a very pointed mission that it accomplishes extremely well. That is to promote diversity and inclusion, and provide representation for those in the nerd community that are far too often overlooked simply because of their race, sexuality, disorders and more. They support locally owned businesses, provide opportunity for upcoming artists and creatives, provide a non-elitist or fame driven cosplay space, and stand out in their own way that keeps it extremely fresh when compared to other conventions. Even when it comes to the negatives that I mentioned above, most of those were at no fault of the convention itself, and had more to do with the building and its location, which is not set in stone forever, especially at the rate of growth the con has been seeing. So if you’re looking for a great con to kick back, enjoy some barbecue, and have a great party after the itis is done with you, then Blerdcon is the place to be, and you will certainly be welcomed. You already know that my room for next year is booked at that early bird rate 8.6/10
Thoughts? Sound off in the comments below and let me know what you think!!