Dark Side of the Con 2017: A Rundown of America’s First Goth Convention

Last weekend I went over to the Dark Side, at Jeff Mach and VampireFreaks’s newest convention, a three-day event designed specifically for goths. Dark Side of the Con came right on the heels of another brand new convention, Glimmerdark, which I attended and posted a rundown of last month. In my overview, I noted that Glimmerdark hit a few snags trying to figure out what kind of convention it was and what audience it wanted to cater to. Dark Side of the Con, I felt, had no such problem. The convention was geared toward a very specific audience—goths—and with VampireFreaks helping to run the show, it was an audience that the organizers knew well. A few weeks ago, I posted a preview of which aspects of the con I was looking forward to most. Overall, my expectations fared pretty well against reality, despite the fact that a poorly timed sore throat and headache prevented me from getting as much out of the weekend as I wanted to. Read on for some highlights of the convention.

The spooky DJ stand for Dark Side’s Friday and Saturday night parties

As I predicted in my preview, the DJed dance parties were at the center of this convention. I had been most excited about the pool parties, and made getting out to the pool my top priority Friday night. Unfortunately, not many others shared my priority. After I check into the hotel, changed, and dashed over to the pool for the 8:00pm DJ set, I was surprised to find the place deserted. The poor DJs were all nicely set up in the adjacent exercise room, playing an awesome set to an empty pool. Undeterred, my two friends and I decided to start the party ourselves. We spent a lovely evening lounging in the hot tub, watching the spinning party lights, and listening to some goth tunes spun by one of the VampireFreaks DJs. Luckily, the Saturday pool party was much more lively. I made some new friends as we rocked out to My Chemical Romance and Simple Plan during Jet’s emo and pop punk set.

Saturday night pool party

There were also dance parties on dry land Friday and Saturday nights. I didn’t catch much of the dance on Friday, but I made sure to be there for the Villains Ball costume contest at midnight on Saturday. The contest was a bit chaotic, with over a dozen entrants and the not-very-empirical method of applause volume being used to decide the winner. Nonetheless, it was a great opportunity to see some amazing costumes. My favorites were the Gotham City Sirens who were dressed as Cat Woman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn in evening dresses. There was also a very well-dressed trio of Disney villains. Ultimately, a particularly convincing Dr. Frank-N-Furter took first place. I turned in relatively early Saturday night, but I heard that the dance party went until 4:00am.

The Creepy Bard and Mini-Creepy on the bodhran

I didn’t catch nearly as many of the bands as I’d been hoping to—there was just so much going on! I did make time for the acoustic set by V. Nigel Taylor, lead singer of Platform One, and loved the relaxed atmosphere and his commentary as he played. I also went to Psyche Corporation’s performance right at the end of the day on Sunday, which was the perfect way to wind down the con. An old ren faire favorite, The Creepy Bard, was wandering the convention playing random busking sets in the hallways throughout the weekend. Thanks to him I’ve had “The Mariner’s Revenge” by The Decemberists stuck in my head for a week. I also managed to poke my head in on the symphonic metal band Infinitus Mortus just in time to hear them cover Rammstein’s “Du Hast” and meandered into a set by the amazing opera singer Nicole Oliva when I heard the sounds of a Nightwish song wafting through the lobby. Next year, I’ll definitely have to schedule in more time to sit down and listen to some bands.

I found the panels at Dark Side to be a little lackluster. The one I’d been looking forward to on Corporate Goth seems to have disappeared from the schedule, which was disappointing. I tried creating a literary track to follow, as I did at Glimmerdark, but pickings were much slimmer. I did get to meet one author, Brian McKinley, at his panel on “Vampires: From Folklore to Literature to Film,” which I found to be quite informative. Though this was a topic I’ve spent many hours researching myself, Brian still had a few new things to teach me. Unfortunately, the second panel that he was on together with demonologist Kevin Meares wound up being rather redundant with the first and with another earlier panel on the “Dark Side of Romance in Graphic Novels.” I meant to catch a few more panels, but ended up shopping instead, which I found to be much more productive. There were so many great vendors, and it was way too tempting having all of the pretty goth things right in one place. I spent a bit more than I probably should have, but was very happy with my purchases.

My Dark Side haul: three necklaces, a bat hairclip, a leather wand holster, and a pair of bloomers.

My favorite part of the con, though, was an activity that I had not had on my radar in advance at all: the Traveler’s Trunk Escape Room! I’d never done an Escape Room type game before, but have been meaning to try one for a while. So I signed up for slot in the Escape Room late Saturday evening with the three friends I was sharing a hotel room with. A room in the vendor hallway was set aside for the game, and everything needed to escape the room was contained within a single locked trunk. We had an hour to solve all of the puzzles, unlock the trunks within trunks, and find what we needed to escape the room. The game really strained my brain in new and interesting ways and got my adrenaline pumping, but with the help of my teammates I finally figured out the answer to the final riddle with just 39 seconds to spare! If it hadn’t been for my friends, I would have easily overlooked this activity, but it’s definitely not one you want to miss.

Dark Side of the Con more than lived up to my expectations. It was the perfect gothy getaway weekend, and a great opportunity to hear some great music and get your dance on. And the good news is, they’ve already announced that they’re doing it again next year! Dark Side of the Con II will take place at the same hotel in Piscataway, NJ, on March 16–18, 2018. The earlier you buy your tickets, the cheaper they are, so check out the Dark Side website and get yours now! I’ve already booked my hotel room for that weekend, so you can be sure to see your favorite Gothic Librarian there. I’m considering applying to do a panel of my own next year to liven up the panel scene. If I did, what would you be interested in hearing about? Are you planning to go next year? Did you go this year? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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