Portland, ME, USA. June 22nd-24th, 2012
PortCon Maine is thus far the only anime convention I’ve managed to attend. My last visit was in 2006 and going back again six years later was a nostalgic experience. I got there at about noon on Friday, and it was bustling with people. The convention was located at the Double Tree hotel in South Portland, right across from the Maine Mall (which meant there were a lot of EXTREMELY confused mall-goers all weekend. I got asked more than once “Why is everyone dressed up so weird?”). The con was surrounded by various venues for food and drink, so getting refreshments wasn’t too much of an adventure. I was happy to finally be able to break my six-year con hiatus with my second outing to PortCon.
Friday, my friends and I didn’t do much as far as events and such go. We basically spent the day learning the layout of the convention and scoping the vendor room. This was my first real issue with the con. It was crowded, severely crowded. Convention staff had to continuously walk through the convention asking people not to loiter in the halls. It made moving from one end of the convention to another a daunting task. It was almost easier to just go outside to avoid the cluster of people, except the heat outside made the trek unbearable, especially for cosplayers. Given the circumstances, the staff handled the overcrowding well, but a new, more open venue should definitely be considered for the future. The size wasn’t even the issue, just that there were so many narrow hallways between points of interest. I don’t have any other experience with cons to compare with this, so it’s an opinion based solely on my observations here.
Friday night they held a concert in the parking lot. They set up a tent for their larger events, and Friday’s concert was one of the events I was REALLY anticipating: Jim’s Big Ego. It’s a rock band out of Boston whose lead singer, Jim Infantino, is the nephew of Carmine Infantino, Comic Book Hall of Famer and longtime artist of Flash comics. One of itsbiggest songs, the Ballad of Barry Allen, was written due to this association (and it’s also the first song by them I ever heard). The thing I loved about how PortCon handled this concert was how small it was, making it a more personal experience. The concert ran for an hour, and it didn’t disappoint. The small tent setting allowed them to do what they call a “napkin song” which basically had them handing out papers for people to write little blurbs on that they would then turn into a song. That left us with classic lines such as “dicks” and “The average woman only has one ovary.” It was a time that won’t be soon forgotten.
Saturday started about the same for me: scoping, vendors room, and stuck in crowds. Then we went to our first con event: Apples 2 Apples. I felt like the way they organized this event was superb. Everyone was assigned a group, which played against one other while one judged. It worked like a well-oiled machine and was a ton of fun. The next event seemed slightly less organized but still turned out amazing: Paint your own Mini Pony (it was my girlfriend’s idea, I swear). This panel ran into one issue before the event even started: there wasn’t enough room where it was suppose to be held. They didn’t anticipate that so many people would want to paint ponies. However, they handled this in stride by moving everyone outside (and let’s face it, when paint is involved that was probably the best idea anyway. Hotels don’t appreciate painted rugs). Issue two arose as everyone was getting their ponies (which were mini My Little Pony figures): with such a huge turnout they ran out of ponies. They took care of that with a quick trip to Toys R Us and soon everyone had their ponies. Then there weren’t enough paint brushes but everyone settled to share. Overall it was a successful panel, and I now have a red and blue pony (not Superman pony).
After a nice little break from the festivities for an hour or two, we went back for our next panel: Costume Building How-to with The Mandalorian Mercs. Now if you don’t know who The Mercs are, its a costuming club for Star Wars based on the Mandalorians (Boba and Jango Fett being the most famous of these). Its members holdstringent standards for their costumes because they are affiliated with LucasArts, which means that they must have costumes which you could actually imagine seeing in the films. The Maine Clan of the Mercs, Wampa Clan, were outstanding. They held the panel as a general do’s and don’ts of costuming and the requirements for joining the clan. With the Q&A session after their presentation I feel like I know a lot more about at least semi-professional costuming.
Saturday we ended our day with a screening of Red vs. Blue: Relocated. Aside from the stray person wandering in and blinding everyone with a random light switch, it ran very smoothly. Saturday was personally my favorite day of the batch.
Sunday didn’t have much going on that I personally was interested in. My girlfriend was excited for a taiko band based here in New England, Odaiko New England, so we planned our day around that. This, like the Jim’s Big Ego concert, was located in the tent outside the main convention. We filed in, and the concert started. For those who don’t know what taiko is, it’s the large Japanese drum you often see in different anime and such (taiko means “drum” in Japanese). This concert was amazing. I’ve never watched a taiko group perform previously, and I must say it was an amazing performance–I recommend you see a taiko group if ever presented with the opportunity.
After the taiko band, we bummed around the convention center a bit, hit up the vendors one last time, then decided to call it a day. We all had had a long weekend , and we were exhausted. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the convention. It was a lot of fun and I really look forward to going back next year (but I do hope they work on the overcrowding issues).