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Steampunk Con Has Musical Focus

The new steampunk convention emphasizes entertainment, but also includes panels and more

Wednesday, June 5, 2019
Stabbing Westward

Stabbing Westward, Rasputina, Victor Sierra, and a host of other musical acts will take the stage as Steampunk Con debuts June 21-23 at the Radisson Hotel - Piscataway in Piscataway, New Jersey. The convention will also feature panels, parties, vendors, and a costume contest, but “we are indeed putting a big emphasis on entertainment,” says Jet Berelson, founder/owner of VampireFreaks, the organization that’s producing the event.

Berelson launched VampireFreaks in 1999 as a social network for the goth community. The organization also produces Dark Side of the Con, a “Dark Alternative” convention most recently held March 29-31. The new event is VampireFreaks’ first major foray into steampunk.


Stabbing Westward (shown above) is an industrial rock band whose albums Wither Blister Burn & Peel and Darkest Days were hits in the 1990s. The band broke up in 2002 but reformed in 2016. Their performance is scheduled for 10 p.m. on Friday night.

Rasputina is a trio led by cellist and vocalist Melora Creager. Much of their music has themes related to the Victorian era. They’ll be the headline act on Saturday night.

Victor Sierra is a steampunk trio from Paris, France. It has released four albums, including The Manchurian Pass (2018) and Go for the Strange (2015). They take the stage at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, preceding Rasputina.

The convention’s musical lineup also includes The Long Losts, Holly Brewer (Humanwine), The Amatory Murder, Chmcl Str8jckt, Valentine Wolfe, The Eternal Frontier, Infinitus Mortus, The Mary Lous, Dust Bowl Faeries, Aunt Ange, ADORNS, Captain Zorikh: The Time Traveling Bard, and Dark Reverence. Also taking the stage will be Coveilance Dance Project, magician Jeffrey Jene, and carnival sideshow performers Karnevil.

Victor Sierra

Convention panels will cover a range of topics, including time travel, Victorian history, Victorian science, 19th century literature, Irish folklore, historical photography, historical weapons, steampunk makeup, horror in steampunk, medieval martial arts, and copyright/contract issues for artists. See the website for panel descriptions.

Author G.D. Falksen was set to appear as a special guest, but won’t be attending due to a scheduling change. The convention was originally scheduled for June 7-9 but announced a date change in February.

This is an all-ages convention, but some activities are off-limits to kids.

Other Highlights

• A “Cabinet of Curiosities” exhibit with “scientific anomalies, ancient relics, old texts, primitive contraptions and more.”

• The Museum of Interesting Things will have a table in the main hallway on Saturday, offering ongoing presentations.

• A Steampunk Costume Ball, maker competition and costume contest on Saturday night. The costume contest will offer $1000 in prizes.

• A facial hair contest on Friday night.

• “The Ghost of Sherlock Holmes,” an interactive murder mystery hosted by Vince Wilson.

• A “Steampunk vs Goth” dance party on Friday night with DJs Mighty Mike Saga, Jet, Swabby and guests. This is an age-restricted (18+) event.

• A Steampunk Tea Party on Saturday afternoon. This will require an extra ticket ($25).

Jeff Mach Controversy

VampireFreaks announced the new convention in June 2018. Shortly thereafter, it was beset by allegations on social media that Steampunk World’s Fair founder Jeff Mach was involved in producing the new event. In response, Berelson has stated that “we are not affiliated with Jeff Mach / JME [Jeff Mach Events] or any JME employees. . . We have no interest in working with Jeff Mach or JME or any subsidiary companies.”

He recently reiterated those comments, stating that “Steampunk Con is 100% run by VampireFreaks and has no affiliation with Jeff Mach.”

Mach became persona non grata in the steampunk community due to allegations of sexual and business misconduct that became public in January 2018. Those allegations eventually led to the demise of the Steampunk World’s Fair, which at one time was among the largest steampunk events in the U.S. Prior to the allegations against Mach, VampireFreaks produced Dark Side of the Con in conjunction with Jeff Mach Events. In February, 2018, VampireFreaks announced that it had severed ties with JME, and it now produces Dark Side of the Con on its own.

Hours, Tickets and Location

The convention opens at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 21 and runs through 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 23. A three-day weekend pass costs $35. Day passes cost $25 for Friday and Saturday and $10 for Sunday. The organizers are also offering VIP packages with exclusive access to special events, plus meal tickets for Saturday and Sunday. Get the details on the Eventbrite page.

The Radisson Hotel Piscataway-Somerset is located at 21 Kingsbridge Road, Piscataway Township, NJ 08854.

See the convention website and Facebook page for more info.

Photo of Stabbing Westward (top) by Jax 0677 [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Rasputina by Byron Dazey.

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