ConBravo started as general purpose Geek experience, but it stumbled into being a Canadian analogue of Vidcon. While Fanexpo might have the stars of television and movies, Conbravo focuses on the stars of Youtube, and Youtube has sort-of caught on. But to those not immersed in the culture of Angry Critics, there were still ample things to do and people to see. ‘Bravo’ stays true to the original idea of just being a base for anybody who digs exotic subculture and doesn’t need FanExpo’s lines. This year’s ConBravo was held at the Hamilton Convention Centre July 18-20th.
Like the Angry Videogame Nerd was in 2012, this year JonTron was the singular reason why many attendees showed up and barely notice the rest of the convention they were standing in. The number of his groupies limited the time he had to meet everybody in line for him, and I’m sure he was busy every second of his two hour autograph period. When not seeking the attention of guests like JonTron or Linkara or Mike Dodd (he’s cool and you would have had free time since Angry Joe and other Joe were late due to airline complications)… then it’s time to explore the dealer’s area and gaming room.
Art prints, hand made crafts, imported merchandise, and vintage video-games, all for sale. And exhibitors trying to gain enthusiasm for new Kickstarters projects being launched soon. The vendor “Skyfox Games” will be on notice for a while for selling bootleg merchandise as official goods and I wouldn’t be surprised if weren’t invited back next year. Katie Tiedrich sold out of copies of her Awkward Zombie book since it’s awesome, but hopefully she’ll have more at next year’s TCAF. And Megan Carter’s prints were awesome enough to warrant investigation of her “Take Off!” webcomic. With the dealer’s room exhausting your budgets, it’s convenient that most of the games in the gaming area are free to play. Friday’s gaming had some technical issues, but for most of the weekend there was always a console waiting for a stranger to pick up the controller.
There were many cosplayers roaming. Being a general interest con there was much diversity, not as many ponies this year and only a few Home-stucks, but still many princesses, Nostalgia Critics and obscure characters walking around. “Zelda” is always a popular theme but those people outside the convention centre weren’t cosplayers, just hobos :(. For novice cosplayers there were ample panels on different aspects of cosplay construction, from Leather Working to Working With Thermoplastics.
Filling the rest of the schedule were many niche interest discussion panels on popular and classic brands, but sitting down to talk about Paciofic Rim is just fluff for the real ConBravo experience: Performances like Brentalfloss and interactive events like Live Action Mario Party which make ConBravo, without any doubt, more fun than anything going on in Toronto this weekend. Sorry Katy Perry, you’re sexy but you’re not as cool as Super Audio World or Dance Bravo, held in the progressively warmer main stage area. It’s actually possible to easily be bored at ConBravo, it takes some adventurousness to wandering into something unknown to discover a sample of LARPing. If you’re only there to show off your cosplay, it’s not the picnic you need. But if you happen to be in a sexy robot cosplay, that’s really the best way to be dressed for a Nerf gun fight.
There was one exception event which warrants special mention, those who follow YouTube icons will remember when in January when Justin Carmical, also known as “Jew Wario” died in January. In the Sheraton hotel at ConBravo, there was a memorial ceremony for Jew Wario that brought up emotions in everybody in attendance, including his personal friends and family.
A lot of my friends group are major components in running ConBravo. They book guests, book the venue, run the schedule, arrange the layout, market, register attendees, keep the place secure, and hundreds of other tasks involved in running a convention and improving it every year. Their own experience of the convention is a stressful ordeal pulling them all in ten directions at once while I interupt them to marvel at their new hair styles. And once it’s done they plan how next year they can be pulled in seven directions at once. The crew changes, the convention grows, the system is refined. It’s gone from an experiment and it’s become a model fusion of convention and party. Everybody who went to Dashcon was hoping it would be something like ConBravo was, and next year they should just come to ConBravo instead.
–Michael Ryan July 23rd 2014