Artist Alley: Guest Artist
Masquerade: Performance Judge
Sketch, Shiva (x4), Damon Loucks
PortCon Maine is New England's oldest anime and gaming convention, held annually in South Portland, Maine. For its eighth year, PortCon Maine returned to the newly revamped Wyndham Hotel and Convention Center in South Portland after spending the previous year downtown. In attempt to control crowds, an attendance cap of 2,000 was enacted and a large outdoor tent was erected in the hotel's parking lot to house Main Events, including the cosplay masquerade, live band performances, Anime Unscripted, Extreme Geek, and the Saturday night rave. This arrangement was met with mixed success; although an improvement from the horrendously cramped main events rooms of years past, the weekend's perpetual downpours mixed with the lack of ventilation in the tent made for a toxic mix of wet floor coverings, sauna-like heat, and con funk. By Saturday night, the air inside the enclosure was barely breathable. Also, the tent's roof slanted sharply at the edges of the enclosure which caused difficulties for performers on the stage as their heads and props routinely hit the ceiling. Other creative uses of space were more successful in improving traffic, however, as the dealer's room, artists' alley and gaming rooms were easy to navigate. Despite these improvements, PortCon has outgrown its space at the Wyndham and would benefit from a new location.
Sketch and Shiva's Weekend Breakdown:
We drove up to PortCon Thursday night after work, and the weather was not looking promising for the weekend. We were both staying at the Day's Inn down the street, which is a great way to save money but not the ideal location if facing a several block walk to the convention in a downpour. It was already raining by the time we all met up at the Wyndham, grabbing our badges and joining up with Crazyflower, Steve, Jeni, and the rest of the crew. The rain was light at the time, and we all decided to walk across the street to Sebego's bar for some Thursday night drinks, only to find out it had moved locations when we got there and we all were caught in a surprise deluge as we walked back. Soaking wet, we decided to head back to the Day's Inn for a Thursday night party in Sketch's room.
Friday morning Sketch and Shiva were up bright and early despite the pouring rain to grab some breakfast at the hotel. Shiva got into her new Miku Hatusne costume from Vocaloid and we both drove over to the con since it was too miserable out to walk. The poor weather made the inside of the Wyndham darker than usual and it made the light-up parts of the Miku costume really stand out. While Sketch manned his art table, Shiva filmed around the convention center for AnimeCons.TV and met lots of Vocaloid fans, including a cute Rin cosplayer who had made a giant leek out of a swimming noodle! PortCon normally depends on attendees enjoying socializing outside, but the horrible weather had forced everyone indoors and every nook and cranny of the Wyndham was exceptionally crowded. Many of the panel rooms were standing room only and it took a lot of patience to get a turn playing anything in the game room. Eventually we managed to elbow our way in and play a few rounds of Uno.
That evening Shiva and the rest of the crew braved the wet, stinky main events tent to catch Anime Unscripted. Jekka and Sketch were joined by voice actors Tiffany Grant and Samantha Inoue-Heart for the show, the highlight of which was a new game entitled "Slideshow Roulette." The topic, as suggested by the audience, was "Kabuki Theatre in the Soviet Union," and featured random slides displayed on a large screen that included photos of cats, Neil Patrick Harris, and random graphs which the performers had to use to ad-lib a presentation about the chosen topic. One of the funniest lines of the game was Jekka's response to a photo of a brain scan: "Kabuki has been shown to stimulate the areas of the brain related to things Soviets find most pleasurable, such as warmth, vodka, and overseas marriage." We were practically crying we were laughing so hard.
Later that night they had a concert in main events which would have been fun if the wet, humid atmosphere of the tent hadn't been so oppressive. Sketch and Shiva both got a kick out of how Shiva's Miku sleeves lit up in time to the music, but everyone agreed it was too uncomfortable in the tent to enjoy the show. Sketch was not looking forward to performing in Extreme Geek once the concert wrapped, but it ended up being one of their funniest shows yet, including obtaining a late-night breakfast sandwich from Tim Horton's even though the restaurant was closed. Later we all returned to the Days Inn and the crew enjoyed cocktails while playing various games in our rooms all night.
Saturday the rain FINALLY let up though the overcast air was hot and humid. At least we all felt comfortable walking to the convention for the day instead of having to drive. Sketch spent the morning in the artist alley while Crazyflower and Shiva got into their masquerade skit costumes - Princess Tutu and Chiyo Mihama from Azumanga Daioh - and walked over to the Wyndham for judging. The craftsmanship judges liked Shiva's tutu construction and were very impressed by Crazyflower's mascot-style outfit, which included an under-suit stuffed with cold packs to prevent her from overheating. That afternoon, Sketch judged the masquerade while Steve and Jekka hosted as Syaoran and Sakura from Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle to much success. They made excellent co-hosts and kept the show entertaining and moving right along.
Shiva, Crazyflower, Ellystar, Gale, and several of the other crew were competing, and thankfully the masquerade contestants were allowed to line up outdoors outside the tent rather than being crammed into the disgustingly small, hot, and poorly ventilated green room as they had been during PortCon's last stay at the Wyndham. The downside, however, was it was almost impossible for the contestants to watch the show. The sloping angle of the tent's ceiling also interfered with several performances as once onstage, contestants were right up against it. One of the best skits of the day featured several anime and video game characters at a McDonald's. The script was clever, the dialogue was well acted, the jokes were funny, and they executed the whole thing really well! Shiva and Crazyflower ended up with a judges' award for their performance, and the McDonald's skit deservedly won Best in Show!
After the masquerade wrapped up we took photos of each other in our costumes before changing our clothes and going out to dinner. That night we all hit up the rave in main events; we hoped maybe the fairer weather had allowed the tent to dry out a bit and that wearing regular clothes would make things more comfortable. While the music was fantastic, the atmosphere, unfortunately, was unbearable. The dampness from the rain had soaked through the high traffic carpeting and was combining with human sweat to create an unbelievable stench. The flaps to the tent had been closed to keep the music noise from traveling too far outside the parking lot, but this also prevented air and moisture from escaping and making the inside a humid, slick, disgusting-smelling mess. We wanted to enjoy it so we tried several times to tough it out, but it was just too disgusting. Instead, we went to Jeni's 21+ Mixology panel. The panel was a blast and the maturity and humor level was refreshing. We learned a lot about alcohol and mixing and swapped infamous party stories into the night.
Sunday morning we packed up our cars and drove to the Wyndham; Sketch went to pack up his table and Shiva went to catch Ellystar's panel on buying anime. Everyone met up for lunch and then hung out for a bit with Tiffany Grant whom we'd become friendly with at various conventions. Tiffany noticed the rather large bald spot Shiva had right above her forehead that she was trying, unsuccessfully, to cover up by parting her pair to the side. "What happened to you?!" Tiffany asked. "A wig," Sketch and Gale responded. We ended up telling Tiffany the whole story about Shiva's JunJun wig at Anime Boston and how it pulled out a chunk of her hair and she'd freaked out for weeks until she saw signs it was growing back. Tiffany was dying and we all had a great laugh about it. Soon enough we said our goodbyes, hoping for a less rainy weekend next year.