Jacksonville is a great venue for a con, with the vendor room in a gigantic brightly lit room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river. I was fortunate to have my friend Christina with me at the vendor table all weekend, along with other friends who stopped by to chat or bring food and a latte or give me a bathroom break. I always leave conventions feeling so warm and fuzzy about this fandom, and this cast, and this show. Maybe because we all knew this was the last con of the decade, there were even more warm and fuzzy feelings than usual – along with some anticipatory sadness, knowing the end of the show is coming.
The con kicked off, as it often does, with a panel by Rachel Miner. Rachel always makes me smile, so it’s a good way to start the day.
One of the things I love most about Rachel is that she’s a bona fide geek, just like so many of us are. She spent a few minutes sorting her colleagues ala Hogwarts.
About Billy Moran?
Rachel and Rob: Slytherin for sure!
Rachel: I’m a big Dr. Who fan. I’d love to be on that crossover. I feel like that’s why we all connect, because I’m such a nerd.
She’d also love to see Meg team up with Rowena.
Fan: Double sassy!
Rachel: Meg and Dean are also alike in some ways. Snarky and afraid of their feelings.
I also love that Rachel is a proud shipper – of Meg and Cas – but also a vehement supporter of ship and let ship (or don’t ship at all).
Rachel: Everyone should ship who you want, but I ship Meg and Cas and in my fanfic version she would never turn on him.
Rachel l had some kind words for Rob and the work he’s doing as Chuck.
Rachel: I think Rob is doing such a great job. We should all be extra nice to him, because he’s still a great guy – he’s just a good actor!
She also had nice things to say about the Supernatural set, and how special it is.
Rachel: I’ve never had that feeling of being taken care of on another set, and that feeling like you’re doing something important, but not self important, as on the set of Supernatural.
She’s also very excited to have Shoshannah Stern back. Shoshannah has written another project for her and Rachel, which is doubly exciting!
On a more serious note, Rachel acknowledged that life is sometimes hard.
Rachel: It’s okay to feel like life is really hard because sometimes it is, and don’t beat yourself up about feeling that. And then you can move on and notice what joy there is right here. It’s work to find that joy, though. It’s not easy. You’re allowed to feel your feelings, and also take time to find the joy in even moments that are difficult.
How can you describe the SPNFamily?
Rachel: We take care of each other, and that’s a model for the whole world.
Jason Manns did his traditional “quoncert” next, playing some tunes and answering some questions.
Someone asked him how he got Jared Padalecki to sing on his Christmas CD.
Jason: I was up in Vancouver recording Jense, and Jared was hanging out and I was like, well, you’re here if you want to record a song…no pressure…
Toronto is always a special place for the Supernatural gang to come back to. It was the con where long ago Jensen came back onstage after everything had wrapped up and picked up an acoustic guitar and sang a few songs for those of us lucky enough to still be in the ballroom. It was the con where Rob Benedict had his stroke, and his fellow Supernatural cast members saved his life. It was the con where, the very next year, Rob’s friends all put on a concert in his honor as he continued to recover and the Saturday Night Special started to become the emotional thing that it is today.
I love the hotel where it’s at and the hot dog carts and Tim Horton’s right outside and getting to see some fellow fans who I only encounter at this particular con. This year was no exception – and we got more Ackles songs, not exactly laid back and tentative anymore though.
Friday kicked off with Rachel Miner, as always. It’s a good way to start the day.
Rachel: I chose acting because it seemed like the best way to get to magical realms is the most Rachel Miner thing to say ever.
She also had some interesting things to say about the show and about the way in which fans interact with the show, which I always appreciate.
Rachel: I think Cas will be happiest if he feels he’s done some good in the world, so that’s what I want from him.
But she was quick to point out that’s her interpretation, just like the fact that she enjoys the idea of Megstiel.
Rachel: When it comes to shipping, my imagination is not your imagination, and it’s all okay. I like Meg and Cas together though!
And if you ship something that’s never on the screen?
Rachel: If you don’t like the way writers take something, you have the creativity to imagine the story the way you like it. When I was younger, I’d get very emotional about characters I loved, and that helped me.
My phone was on the wrong setting so I got absolutely no decent photos of Rachel, which makes me sad
Next up was Jason Manns. He and Rob and Billy did some Station Breaks, but at first Jason was oddly reluctant to hand over his guitar to Rob – turns out it was to cover up the sweat spot!
That threw Rob into a fit of laughter, which was adorable.
Rob and Jason were so pleased that some of us sang along to the “three ibuprofen headache” line in “Gone”, which was also adorable.
Then we had some Jason “quoncert”.
Jason on picking the songs for Covers With Friends: I keep a running tally of songs I think would be fun and who might sing them.
Next up were the OG Friday fluffers, Chad Lindberg and Gabriel Tigerman.
New Jersey is my “home con”. That means I can load a bunch of boxes of books into my car and drive there – and then hope I can find someone to help me get them all up the long long ramp and into the convention center!
I didn’t really need to worry, because as always, fandom comes through. I was on my own in the vendor room officially, but dozens of people came by on a regular basis to check on me and see if I needed a bathroom break (to the ONE bathroom for the entire convention center….don’t get me started about how much I hate this venue…) or a hot dog or another bottle of water. Two of the nicest women ever helped me wrangle a luggage cart from my nearby hotel and load and unload the boxes of books to and from my car. Another lovely woman delivered my photo ops right to my vendor table so I wouldn’t have to go grab them at the end of the con. The entire weekend was full of the best of SPNFamily, honestly. I met so many people who have read Family Don’t End With Blood and been inspired by it. I got to have dinner with my friend Trish from Attitudes in Reverse (one of the charities that the book benefits) and with a fellow acafan who’s teaching a course on leadership and Supernatural and her inspiring student.
As we got ready for the final season of Supernatural to kick off, everyone seemed to want to just relish our time together while we have it.
Friday kicked off with Rachel Miner, who always starts the con off with smiles and sparkles and words that inevitably make me feel better about people and life in general. I love the chapter that Rachel wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood, and the way she looks at the world.
Rachel on what it’s meant to be part of the SPNFamily: Everyone in this group are abnormally good humans.
Rachel advises to keep reminders of whatever it is that inspires you. She keeps pictures on her computer, some of them from fans.
She also talked about the importance of finding community and being able to help each other, something that Random Acts has done for many fans.
I love when Vancon is in August, because that means I can head up there a few days early to just have FUN. My first flight was cancelled and it took five hours to get it straightened out and get off the ground, so Wednesday was pretty much a no go, but I did get there in time to have a nice dinner with my friend Betty (who was kind enough to pick me up at the airport). After we’d indulged in lots of good pizza, we drove by the filming location for that evening, a nearby school. Due to our prioritizing of food (okay, it was my prioritizing, tbh) we arrived just as they were wrapping filming for the night – but in time to wave cheerily at the vans and trucks as they pulled out. Oh well.
Betty dropped me off at the Air BnB I was sharing with my friends Alana and Illy, who had spent the day braving the Vancouver rain and searching for past filming locations (all captured on Alana’s @_KingBooks_ Wednesday blog if you’re curious). We had the tiniest little Air BnB ever with a portable air conditioner that required us to leave a window open so its flexible tubing could protrude when we ran it but the shower was lovely and there was a fridge and two beds so we were happy fangirls.
Thursday we got up (relatively) early, walked to the little shopping area a few blocks away to a) get Lynn a latte before she gets too cranky and b) drop off clothes at the laundromat. The laundromat made me picture human!Cas stripping down to do laundry and that made me smile. The latte helped too.
The three of us then piled into the car (Kansas plates, and yes that made us giggle) and hit the road, armed with Alana’s list of past filming locations thanks to a generous fan on LiveJournal who has painstakingly logged them all for going on fifteen years. Fandom, y’all.
We got incredibly lucky at our first attempt, finding the iconic fence by the river where Dean famously told Sam that their father had said that if he couldn’t save Sam, he might have to kill him. If you’ve read ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’, there’s a chapter in which Kathy and I and some friends also try to find this fence, but have a lot more trouble (without the benefit of any directions). We finally found it at midnight that time, only to be stopped and questioned by flashlight wielding police officers who were sure that a bunch of women scrambling down an overgrown bank in a wooded area at midnight could only be up to no good.
The place has changed a bit – the overgrown banks are now just grass, with a lovely park bench, and there’s now a paved pathway along the fence. The fence itself, which was just a couple of ramshackle boards on posts, is now four new-looking boards. It’s an incredibly beautiful, peaceful spot – which made such a striking contrast when Dean has to say something so horrible to Sam.
The posts were still there so we could use those as a reference as we did what we’d come to do – reenact that iconic moment, of course! Illy set up the camera and she and Alana took their positions while I got to play director.
“You need to be on the other side of the post, Alana. No, I don’t care if there are a bunch of stink bugs there, move over!”
“Lean in more, Illy. Now look at the bridge, be somber. You’re tormented by this. Alana, you look at Illy.”
I kinda liked playing director, can you tell? I think the results speak for themselves.
Alana left her video camera running the entire time we were there, so god knows what other footage she has of us being total idiots – and having the time of our lives. It’s what fandom is all about, after all.
A man and his wife were sitting on a nearby bench and came over to compliment our ‘work’, which was such a Vancouver thing to do. They are the nicest folks!
Our next search missions weren’t quite as successful. We found the field where the gigantic boat from the Wayward Sisters episode is run aground, but it’s on the most forbidding sort of private property you can imagine. I wanted to just get the hell out of there but Alana and Illy are more intrepid, so we got of the car and walked a ways down the gravel road (which WAS a road, so it was technically okay – the private property signs were on the cornfields all around us). But as we passed by a few sketchy looking guys and foreboding looking farmhouses – think The Benders – (were they glaring at us or was that my imagination?) and more signs, I got more and more anxious. Finally we reached a sign that in big letters said “PRIVATE PROPERYY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.” And then said something about trespassers being violated!
That was it, I was outta there. We later found a vantage point where we could at least see the ship and take a few photos from far away, and that was as close as I was getting!
Next we found the river bank where the Wayward girls skipped stones but – you guessed it – another private property sign. Oh well.
After that we had more success, finding the school where the 200th episode was filmed. The Russ Hamilton set tour earlier that day had been able to go inside to the auditorium and even sing “Carry On” on that same stage, and of course we couldn’t do that, but just seeing where the Impala had been parked and the entrance where the Supernatural sign had been was a thrill. We are nothing if not easily amused.
Our final stop of the day was a complete success, and SO much fun – the field where the climactic fight scene of LARP and the Real Girl took place (which, by the way is adjacent to a little swim club). We found the exact place, which is much smaller than it looked in the episode, and decided to reenact that wonderful moment when Dean, painted and bedecked, gives his Braveheart speech – and gets interrupted by a non-LARPer playing Frisbee. You see, the field is a real life Frisbee course. And what happened just as we were setting up the camera to film? A real life guy tossed a Frisbee right onto the field! I was freaking out about how perfect that was, and immediately directed Illy or Alana to go convince the two young guys that they needed to be in our film. (This whole director thing is hard to let go of, tbh…)
They did – and the two nicest guys ever were happy to help. They threw the Frisbee, Illy channeled her inner Dean, Alana her inner Sam, and me my inner Felicia Day – the results are frankly hilarious. If Alana hasn’t posted that video yet, be sure to check it out. Just so you can laugh your ass off at us. We don’t mind.
(Sincere apologies, Felicia Day, if you ever see the video…)
After that we headed to the con hotel for pre-reg, but every so often I’d remember what we just filmed and just burst into laughter.
I met up with my friend Alicia for a late dinner and lots of catching up and reminiscing, and then it was time to get some rest for Friday.
Friday I got to sleep in and have a nice breakfast, then the con kicked off with Rob Benedict holding down the fort (Richard Speight Jr. was busy with directing Supernatural). Poor Rob ended up introducing himself when there was no one else to do it, but all the props because he played all his multiple roles seamlessly.
Rob: (sheepish) Don’t hate me too much, I know I took a turn last season…
Before I get started with the recap of the Saturday Night Special in Dallas, I’d like to say a few words about concert photography. It is, in fact, its own very complex skillset. Not only do you have to anticipate the musicians’ movements, waiting for just the right moment, but you also need to feel the emotion, and then find a way to frame it, to capture it in a way that translates that moment in time. On top of that, there’s the challenge of stage lighting. (insert appropriate gif of me screaming here) Listen, I love the stage lighting for these concerts, I really do. Essentially the center of the stage is well lit, with normal lighting, but the sides of the stage are darker and the lighting is more blue, even purple. It lends to the energy and passion of the music being played on the stage. But let me tell ya, it does prove quite difficult when editing the photos. I could’ve spent days trying to color correct, but alas, I did not. Instead, I just went with the blue and purple hues cast upon the faces of the performers. I actually kinda like it, and I hope the photos in this article will somehow bring you into the moment with me.
I have written many, many recaps/reviews of Louden Swain’s Saturday Night Specials. Sometimes I think that I have exhausted my vocabulary of adjectives and adverbs as I try to explain to you just how much I love Louden Swain. But it’s summertime, so…
When I was a kid – just a few years ago LOL – I loved amusement parks and all the rides: the slower rides, like the bumper cars or the carousel; the water rides, which often left me drenched, a welcome relief from the heat of a summer day; and the thrill rides, like the ones that spin you around to the point of utter dizziness, to the rollercoasters that slowly carry you up the hill then send you flying down the other side, often turning you upside-down and sideways and all of it at heart-stopping speeds. At some point, a waterpark was added, and I loved that too, especially the lazy river… it was so relaxing to just float along the path, to have a quiet moment away from the loud hustle of the rides.
And, of course, I went to the park with friends, often part of a large group, so it was also nice when we’d all meet to eat some lunch, and share stories about having good times with good friends, laughing and screaming and riding the rides.
That, my friends, is a Louden Swain concert. These concerts are an adrenaline-filled thrill ride, with all the energy and excitement of an amusement park – from speeding rollercoasters full of heart-stopping thrills, to lazy rivers that slow things down and soothe one’s soul. These concerts are good times with good friends, from Borja, smiling as he plays bass or keyboards, to Stephen pounding away on the drums in time with the beating of our hearts.
These concerts are Billy, meticulously, methodically, melodiously fingering that guitar, filling us with wave after wave after crashing wave of emotion. (hashtag allthegasms)
These concerts are Rob, playing that guitar, singing those lyrics, taking us on all the rides, leading us upward on the rollercoaster and filling us with anticipation and excitement… speeding downward, knowing the thrill that comes with the speed… then walking with us as we settle into the lazy river, slowing it down with lyrics full of heartbreak and heartache and pain and love. And at the end of the night, Rob is there to light the fireworks and take us through one last moment of excitement and awe. Yes, these concerts are Rob, the true Master of Ceremonies.
I won’t keep going with these metaphors. Instead, I’ll say sit back and relax, and just enjoy this ride.
Louden Swain came onto the stage before the lights came on. They were shadowy figures up there, moving into position. The first chords were played, chords I knew oh so well. Slowly, the stage lights came on, Rob and Billy and Borja softly playing their guitars, Stephen tapping the cymbals. Then Rob began to sing, “There is just one bottle left to open…” And it begins! The song is called “Reunion” and it is one of my favorites! It’s a high energy song, one that builds slowly and erupts into a full out rock song. On top of the music, it has great lyrics. Whenever I’m struggling, these words seep into my mind, into my soul, a constant reminder: “I’m alive and I’m still tryin.” #LifeMotto