Dragon Con 2016: Come for the Party, Stay for the Music

One of the most underrated aspects of Dragon Con is the diverse and fun music line up that manages to happen every year. Most people know about The Cruxshadows and Voltaire, for better or worse, but there’s a whole host of bands, singers and DJs that make their way down for the con every year and put on a great show.

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Probably the bands you’re most likely to hear about are the ones who get to be on the main stage once during the weekend. I only got to see two of those bands in full this year. The first being Florida Steampunk outlet The Cog Is Dead. The Cog is Dead have been around for about ten years, but didn’t actually start touring until a few years ago. If you get a chance to see them live though, I highly recommend it. Much like a lot of other bands in the Steampunk genre, they play around a lot with their sound and songs. The Cog is Dead in particular, have a very rock sound along the lines of Automaton, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing and The Extraordinary Contraptions, but weave in a certain folk and sideshow element as well. Probably the most fun part of their show was the extra video segments they used in between songs to help create the story of the band, one of which explaining why their usual bassist was gone for the weekend. Spoiler alert: he got sent back in time and was being chased by dinosaurs.

The other mainstage band I got to see was the fabled Here Come The Mummies, a funk band based out of Nashville composed of “5000 year-old Egyptian Mummies with a one-track mind.” They got to play Dragon Con last year, but due to personal issues, I ended up missing the show. I made it a point to see them this year and from the beginning where they entered in the Centennial Ballroom parade style with horns and drums until after the show where one of their mummified members was dancing on the merch table while signing people’s CDs, Here Come The Mummies were a funky awesome time to have at midnight. I mean, when a band dressed as mummies opens with a song that declares “you’re free to be a freak among freaks,” you know you and they are in the right place to play. After a more than an hour of funky undead grooves, innuendo, signs that say ‘wooo,’ beat box flute, and even an errant string of white confetti hanging from the ballroom ceiling, I think it’s fair to say that Here Come The Mummies are easily one of the best bands I’ve seen at Dragon Con.

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Of course, the main stages aren’t the only places to see live music. The concourses are also a hopping location, with many of the smaller acts playing several times in a weekend or even some of the bigger acts playing smaller and more intimate shows. This year, the concourse brought the return of Unwoman, the gothic Bay Area cello player known for her haunting voice and looping cello. Performing several months pregnant this year, Unwoman didn’t miss a beat as she went from song to song about divorce, how Mr. Rochester is the worst, falling in love in Chicago, her song ‘The Heroine’ that was The Weather in Night Vale once, and even a fantastic cover of Peter Gabriel’s ‘In Your Eyes.’ For a couple of songs, she was joined by ex-Abney Park member Nathanial Johnstone on guitar, adding an extra layer of awesome to her set.

New to the concourse this year was Orlando outfit Geekapella, a cosplaying nerdy acapella group composed mostly of women. Out of all the acts I’ve seen at Dragon Con before, I had never seen an acapella group in the past ten years. They were super fun, picking extremely nerdy songs from Hikaru Utada’s ‘Simple and Clean,’ ‘Stronger Than You’ from Steven Universe, a mash-up of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme with ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark’ by Fall Out Boy, and the ‘John Williams is The Man’ mashup from a few years ago. However, the real highlight of their performance for me was their rendition of ‘Actual Cannibal Shia LaBeouf.’ It was a song I would have never thought to work for acapella, but I enjoy being hilariously proven wrong.

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Easily the most emotional moment on the concourse this year came with the final performance of the weekend. After nearly two decades together and playing shows at Dragon Con, Emerald Rose had their final concourse show on Monday. While they were a band I didn’t actively follow, there are still members of the band I consider friends of a sort, so it was still an emotional hour plus. With songs like ‘Urania Sings,’ ‘Caledonia,’ ‘Penny in The Well’ and ‘Summerland’ mixed with funny stories from over the years, it did really feel final for the elder statesmen of the Dragon Con Concourse. I was glad that I got to be there for it, remembering how reviewing one of their albums was my very first freelance gig.

While the live music of Dragon Con is always a good time, there are certainly no shortage of awesome DJs playing music to dance your butt off to. There are a lot of parties and raves to choose from over the weekend hosted by many different tracks, but for my money, the best one is The Mechanical Masquerade. Perhaps I am personally biased towards my friends and my years in Steampunk, but DJ Doctor Q and the Alternate History Track go out of their way to put on a party that is a never miss. With grooving mashups and fantastic go go dancers from the Atlanta burlesque community, it’s easy to lose yourself in this party and go all night long, no matter what your costume is.

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If you ever find yourself at Dragon Con, take time to check out the musical performances and DJs at the con. There’s a huge variety and you’re sure to discover something or someone you like. Maybe even walk away with a new CD or two.