So where did we leave off with this year’s VegasCon fun? Oh, that’s right – it was almost Saturday night.
Kathy and I had dinner with fangirls, and then it was time for the aptly named “Saturday Night Special.” The Saturday night concert has become one of my favorite parts of the conventions, as I wrote in an article here few months ago. VegasCon was probably the most epic Saturday Night Special ever, with cast member after cast member taking the stage and absolutely owning it.
The stars of the show are the band that makes the Creation Supernatural cons the very best – Louden Swain. I’m not a musician, but it doesn’t take one to realize that it’s not every band that can pull off what they do. They not only play their own songs all weekend, but they compose a little song to introduce all the guests, and are never afraid to play some impromptu music to go along with a guest’s request. That’s talent, clearly. But it’s more than that. The band works harder than anyone at these cons – in Vegas, for four days in a row – and they never EVER lose their good humor or their infectious enthusiasm. Rob Benedict, Billy Moran, Mike Borja, and Stephen Norton are immensely talented musicians, but they’re also versatile enough to provide musical punchline emphasis and are sometimes part of an impromptu onstage joke.
Rob can belt out the hardest rock song and make you get up and dance. He can also break your heart with emotional ballads, many of them auto-biographical and all the more powerful for it. Rob is willing to make himself vulnerable because he says he feels safe performing in front of the SPN Family. In fact, the cast has all said that at one time or another. It’s a special thing for them, just as it is for us.
One of the other things that makes the Saturday nights special is that it’s not only the guests who get up onstage and perform for us. It’s also the people who put on the conventions, which I think is probably a very unusual thing on the con circuit. The Creation gang happens to be a bunch of music lovers who are also musically talented themselves, so we get treated to photographer extraordinaire Chris Schmelke playing bass on Louden Swain’s ‘Overachiever’ and kicking it.
We adore Chris, who took many of the gorgeous photos in Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls and Fan Phenomena Supernatural and Fandom At The Crossroads. Who knew he could play bass like that?!
Later in the show, Creation co-founder Adam Malin joined the band to play keyboards and Stephanie Dizon put her Janis Joplin-esque voice to great use on “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart”. It’s just another way everyone gets mixed together at these cons, blurring the us/them lines at least for a little while.
After an introduction by Mark Pellegrino, Osric Chau kicked it off with “Vindicated” and I was struck by how far he’s come as a performer. I remember how nervous he was the very first time he dared to get onstage and sing; now he’s smiling at Rob and singing with confidence. He had everyone singing along with him – he has a knack for selecting songs that many of us can relate to, and that means lots of enthusiasm from the audience.
Afterwards, Rob said “My favorite versions of songs are the ones that Osric does, so that’s now my favorite version of that song.”
Sometimes I can’t even with these guys. They are just so genuinely supportive of each other, and so appreciate each other’s work. It never fails to warm my heart.
Matt Cohen came out with “Don’t be afraid to have a good time, I already told security we’re gonna blow the roof off this mother–ker!” He then kicked ass with ‘Blister In The Sun’. Like Osric, Matt had to be urged to get onstage and sing, which wasn’t in his wheel house. Now he looks like a seasoned rockstar, jumping off the stage to get the audience going while we all sang along. It’s the perfect song for him, and he’s not afraid to belt it out at the top of his lungs, with Rob and the band singing behind him.
Once again, sometimes it’s the cast’s reaction to each other that makes the Saturday Night so special. Rob watched Matt do the whispery part “When I’m walking, I strut my stuff…” and just grinned so wide, full to brimming with pride for his friend and loving his performance. Seriously, Rob looked as happy as any of us in the audience, and it’s infectious.
When Matt really got down in a crouch to sing in a sexy whisper to the audience, pretty sure most of us were enjoying the view as much as the music.
Rob quipped after the traditional after-song hug, “Did you see the muscles on that guy?”
Rob can’t complain though. He got a lot of screams when he took his overshirt off too, and rightly so. He had my favorite Rob Benedict shirt on, the one that says “Oh My God Becky”. Love ya, Emily Perkins!
Sebastian Roche is never shy about performing onstage, and he loves nothing better than to sing something sultry and sexy so he can shake his hips the way he does so well. Sebastian looks like a panther onstage, slinking back and forth and seducing everyone with his voice and his provocative dance moves.
“Was it good for you?” he asked the audience afterwards, while Rob grinned and I think maybe blushed a little.
“Love you,” Sebastian said as he left, with a pat to Rob’s cheek. Awww.
Gil McKinney took the stage looking handsome and a little bit Henry Winchester in a gorgeous suit, and belted out some Ed Sheeran. I can’t hear a Sam Smith or Ed Sheeran song on the radio anymore without wishing Gil was singing it. He’s that good.
Gil has a background in music and voice, and it shows. I like to watch first-time con goers in the audience when he hits his first high note and their jaws drop. I’d stack Gil’s voice up against just about anyone’s, in all seriousness. He can make you cry with a ballad, and then rock out with “Can You Love Me Again” and have everyone on their feet clapping along. How did we get so lucky, that everyone cast in our Show is so incredibly talented??
Believe it or not, Gil was nervous too when he first decided to sing in front of the Supernatural fandom. In fact, it was the acceptance and encouragement of the SPN Family that got him back to singing. Gil’s headed to NYC soon to try his hand at Broadway. I hope the SPNFamily will support him, because I can’t imagine anyone better suited. I just hope that doesn’t mean giving up cons!
Rob afterwards: We’ve just been McKinneyed!
Clearly a good thing.
We also got incredibly lucky to have one of the most respected and versatile genre actors of all time on our Show — and he’s an amazing drummer too. That would be Mark Sheppard, of course. Gil’s not the only cast member who has a background in music – Mark had a band, and so did Richard Speight Jr. (and Adam, Chris and Stephanie from Creation too).
I love watching Mark play the drums – he looks like he’s in his element, so into it and so in sync with the rest of the band. And so damn good!
We got Richard and Mark playing together onstage for ‘Wagon Wheel’, which was awesome. Richard brings a bit of country to the Saturday Night Special, with a sexy drawl and a great voice too. Seriously, how DID we get so many talented singers and musicians on one Show??
Richard and Mark in many ways are the masterminds behind the magic of the Saturday Night Special, and all their hard work and innovation has really paid off in making these concerts one of the high points of the entire convention.
Richard grabbed his guitar next, so I figured they were going to sing ‘Seven Bridges Road’ and my stomach started to flip nervously. This is the song that Jensen joined them for in Phoenix, you see. In that article I wrote a few months ago about the Saturday Night Special, I pointed out that Jared and Jensen really needed to start joining in – at the very next con in Phoenix, they did just that. (I didn’t mean at that one, guys, I wasn’t there!)
So my fingers and toes were tightly crossed that maybe, just maybe, Ackles would join in again.
Rob said “I feel like we need one more voice…” and I could barely contain myself.
“Who are we gonna get?” Richard asked, playing along.
Rob: “Mr. Ackles, are you in the house?”
Audience: goes crazy.
Yes! While Jared was unfortunately a bit under the weather and wisely got some needed rest, Jensen listened to my article (don’t disabuse me of my illusion) and took the stage at Vegas Con.
The five part harmony on Seven Bridges Road is beautiful, even more so with Ackles making it six.
Once again, it’s the reaction of the rest of the cast that often makes me emotional; this time, Sebastian Roche stood to the side filming them singing. Jensen waved hello, grinning when he saw what Sebastian was doing.
Afterwards, Jensen looked out at the audience with a lopsided smile, sort of like Dean Winchester’s boyish six year old grin. I think I melted.
He attempted to fix the mic stand, cracked a dirty joke (“That’s what she said… What?”)
Then he coyly asked if he could bring someone onstage and see if they had a request for “this amazing band”.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan came onstage and the crowd went absolutely ballistic. The screams were – literally – deafening. The level of excitement in the ballroom was off the charts, with fans staring open-mouthed or screaming their approval.
But perhaps the best part was how joyful Jensen was seeing the reaction his friend was getting. He stood behind Jeffrey beaming, like the proudest son or brother or friend. You could see how much it meant to him, to watch Jeffrey take in the fandom’s adoration. I swear, this cast – they care more about each other’s reception than their own. Because they really seem to care about each other that much.
When Jeff and Jensen threw their arms around each other and hugged, the cheering got even louder, which didn’t seem possible. I mean, holy shit, people – a Winchester reunion, right there before our eyes!
Excuse me while I get emotional all over again.
JDM requested the 1984 classic ‘Sister Christian’ and Rob said sure, we can do that. Jeffrey left the stage – but Jensen didn’t. And then something unexpected and utterly amazing happened. Jensen stepped up to the mic and started to sing it.
The thousands of people in the ballroom went from screaming to total silence in a heartbeat as Jensen began to sing. Soulful and emotional and captivating. He doesn’t like to admit it, but he has a beautiful voice – and just like with his acting, he puts his heart and soul into singing.
I didn’t know the song, so what happened next was even more unexpected. To me anyway. The band went from playing a slow ballad to amping up and suddenly Ackles went full on f–king rockstar! He stripped out of his overshirt and down to a rock n roll tee shirt and I felt like I’d been transported back in time to my rock and roll days, but holy crap, even Bowie wasn’t as hot as this!
Richard and Rob and Billy were jamming out on guitar and Jensen looked like he’d spent half his life onstage as a rockstar and the audience was going nuts every time there was an instrumental break.
I think I went into a fugue state during the performance so I don’t remember many details, but I know that at some point I gave up on trying to tweet or take photos and just sat there gaping. I grabbed Kathy’s hand on one side and that of my hapless neighbor who I don’t even know all that well on the other side, and probably squeezed them hard enough to leave nail imprints. (Kathy is used to this behavior when Jensen is around, but sorry, hapless neighbor!)
At the end of that epic performance, Sebastian ran around the ballroom applauding wildly and exhorting the crowd to do the same – as though we weren’t already clapping harder than we ever had in our freaking lives!
Rob: Wowza! Right? Whatever song follows Jensen is a tough road, but….we can do this.
When Jensen took a bow and left the stage, I was so overcome with emotion that my heart was beating triple time, and for some reason I found myself tearing up too.
Rob sang one of my other favorite Louden Swain songs right after, “She Waits” – which made me even MORE emotional! It’s a song about his dad leaving his mom, and his way of urging his mom to stay strong. It’s Rob at probably his most vulnerable, and it never fails to get to me.
Gil and Mark came back onstage for ‘Carry On’, with every single person in that room singing. Gil hit the high notes and brought the house down. Jensen returned to the stage in the middle, and seemed as blown away by Gil’s singing as we all were, hands over his heart in admiration for his friend.
Jensen leapt into the air at the end, and even Rob seemed overcome at that point.
“I feel like it’s my birthday,” he joked, beaming.
Everyone in the room: ME TOO!
They ended with ‘Mama’s Jam’, but of course nobody was ready for it to be over. We got a surprise Jason Manns and Rob Benedict duet of Hallelujah for an encore that kept the emotion running high.
Jason: There’s so many people!
Jason and Rob had just toured Europe together, another example of the SPN Family. Jason was friends with Jensen, now he’s playing with Rob and entertaining us with his beautiful voice. Both Rob and Jason put so much heart and such gorgeous harmonies into this song – watch the video, if you haven’t already.
And then, as though we weren’t already in emotion overload, everyone returned to the stage. I mean, EVERYONE.
Rob: This is a song that means a lot to me. And this is an especially special night because of everyone here. My life was saved by this family, and by you people. I literally would not be here.
Mark Pellegrino, Sebastian Roche, Matt Cohen and Stephen Norton sang backup on one side, and Gil McKinney, Chris Schmelke and Stephanie Dizon on the other. Mark Sheppard played drums and Adam Malin played keyboards.
Everyone else came back onstage too, and suddenly it was SO MANY WINCHESTERS onstage. Samantha Smith and Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jensen Ackles and Gil McKinney and Matt Cohen. It was the first time Samantha and Jeff had seen each other since filming the pilot!
You could barely hear “With A Little Help From My Friends” through fans’ screaming and cheering.
By the time they took their final bows and the lights came up, my emotions had gone into overload. I still couldn’t believe Jensen Ackles had turned into a rockstar before our eyes, and having Carry On and then everyone onstage for the final song only amped up the emotion. It was too much; I was overwhelmed. And I wasn’t the only one. All around me, other fans were reacting the same way. My friend Amy and I reached for each other from across the aisle, sweeping each other into a hug and clinging to each other like we might fall down if we didn’t. It struck me, as I looked around the ballroom and saw similar scenes everywhere, that it almost looked like the images after a historic event – like after the Berlin Wall came down, and people were just screaming and crying and holding onto each other. I’m aware it sounds ridiculous to compare the two, but that’s what it looked like. That’s what it felt like.
Pretty sure I didn’t stop smiling for days – I went to bed with a grin on my face, and woke up the next morning saying OMG did that really happen, and then smiling all over again. In the words of Tim Curry, my face ached.
I hope these photos show up, as I’ve seriously overloaded poor wordpress. Thanks to our super talented photographers!
And VegasCon STILL wasn’t over!!! Stay tuned for the final installment of our epic VegasCon post, and an exclusive chat with Metatron himself, Curtis Armstrong.
Links for our books on Supernatural, with lots
from Jensen, Jared, Misha and the rest of the
cast, are at the top of the page!