the opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of any of the other Anime Hell participants or organizations.
Last May in Chicago we were at ANIME CENTRAL and on Friday night we ran the CENTRAL HELLFEST for the, what, fifth year now? I had a big list of stuff to show and lots of tapes and DVDs and stuff, and it pretty much all went out the window, because the whole thing started so late.
Apparently the Japanese band showed up late for their sound check, and that made the other events in the room late, and that made the Japanese band's gig late, and they played their entire set, and then SWEK, a band made up of American anime fans, played THEIR entire set, and by the time they were off the stage and the equipment had been moved off the stage and the chairs had been set back up and the projector had been put back in place and all the VCRs and soundboards had been rewired, well, it was time for people to start asking me when MIDNIGHT MADNESS was going to start. Literally, I was supposed to go on at 9 and instead I went on after 11.
Three times during their "performance" I went to SWEK, or people lounging around the stage fingering their instruments anyway, asking when their set was going to end. Three times nobody could tell me. THAT'S PROFESSIONALISM, GUYS. Not only was there nobody -no events director, no room manager, no MC - with the authority to get these people off the stage, there was no desire on the part of SWEK to do anything but play their entire set, including encores, to a thinning audience of their friends and roommates. This may have something to do with the fact that SWEK is made up of people on Anime Central staff, and henceforth with the power to play as long as they damn well please. This may also have something to do with the fact that at the 2003 Central, when SWEK ALSO went over their time slot, I was hollering at them to get their untalented asses off the stage, so they probably have every incentive to make things as difficult for me as possible.
The real problem is, of course, that you have 100 people INSIDE the room listening to SWEK, and you have 1000 (count 'em, one thousand) people OUTSIDE the room standing around for two solid hours waiting for Hell to start. Now, do the math, what's larger, 100 or 1000?
Regardless of their ability to stall Hell, I'd like at this juncture to just come right out and say it. SWEK stinks. I can't say whether the band itself is untalented or the sound reproduction in the main events room is bad, but for whatever reason, they are not an entertaining listening experience, and I speak as someone who has seen arena rock shows, club venues, outdoor festivals, house parties, and bands set up and play entertaining sets in hotel lobbies. SWEK is a lousy act. They sound like vegetable soup. Either they don't have the talent to supercede inferior equipment, or they don't know what they sound like, or they know what they sound like and don't care. Whatever; they aren't entertaining.
It's a waste of Central's time and resources to allow SWEK access to the room, the equipment, and the booking time slot. They're not worth it. It's an even BIGGER slap in the face when SWEK is allowed to noodle on and on while hundreds of cash-paying badge-holding Anime Central customers cool their heels waiting for the next event. I saw a constant stream of people wander into the main events room, stand with their fingers in their ears, shouting questions to each other as to when this lousy band was going to get off the stage, and then ultimately give up and go outside again, where it wasn't so noisy.
It's easy enough for me to bitch and complain on my own account; I hauled most of my crap 800 miles, I scheduled my entire Friday at Central around the fact that I needed to be in the main events room at 8:30 so I could be ready to do Hell on time, and all this went out the window because musicians won't dare trim a moment from their vitally important musical endeavours (I blame both the Japanese band and SWEK for this). But I was invited to Central and knew that this sort of thing is endemic to conventions, and I can handle it. What really pisses me off was seeing the lobby jam-packed with people who were essentially being told "We don't care what you want, we're going to ROCK AND ROLL ALL NIGHT, BADLY."
What's even worse is that Ryan has to go on after me, and he really DOES have an all-night slot. Every hour I delay means an hour Ryan delays, which means an hour Ryan doesn't get to sleep because unlike you or me, Ryan actually has to get up on Saturday morning and do Acen work. Not to mention the hundreds of people who will also stay up all night for Midnight Madness. It's disrespect to all of us, is what it is.
I don't mean to criticize Central or any of the people who were so helpful and instrumental in getting me there, like Issac and Ryan. But you need to have somebody in that room with the authority to start kicking people off the stage when they run long, and that includes Japanese bands, American bands, anybody. I'm a guest at Central (meaning they asked me to come, not that I have "guest" status. Nobody ever paid to come to a con because they heard "Dave Merrill" was going to be there) and I didn't feel I had the right to go backstage and start yanking plugs. Next year will be different; I make no promises as to my behavior. I played the nice guy this year and it turned out to be a bad decision, so look out. There are one thousand people waiting in the hall who will back my shit up.
So Hell finally got started, and then we had more equipment problems, and out of a three-hour slot I managed to show maybe 90 mintues worth of material, to an audience that was increasingly clamoring for Midnight Madness, since it was long past midnight. Ryan got to start around 1:30 and I hauled my stuff upstairs and tried to go to sleep, and then around 3:00 I realized that I'd left my Heino autobiography in the main events room, so I had to go back down there and secure it. Ryan's DVDs went well and made things a lot simpler, even though the time lag involved in hitting stop, ejecting DVD, inserting DVD 2, watching it spin up, selecting menu, selecting feature tends to eat away at the rhythm. And you have to be very careful to not let the menu show on the main screen, because then everybody knows what they're about to see, and that's just not good. I guess the wave of the future is 2 DVD decks along with the 2 VHS machines and the cuing deck.
Some of the material went over well, some of it didn't, and a lot of stuff I didn't even get to show, so we'll find out at AWA whether it's crowd-pleasing or not.