ConBravo 2017 – One Step Closer to Greatness

For four years in a row now I’ve gone to the one and only convention I’ve ever gone too, ConBravo in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

This is due to many reasons, the main one being the idea that I can’t afford to do a the crazy convention runs that the area offers with other notable conventions like Fan Expo and Anime North, both in Toronto. With the budget I have and what conventions like these offer, it’s hard to be able to go anywhere other than just one and for me ConBravo has been the easiest choice.

There’s multiple reasons for this:

  1. It’s a much smaller convention compared to the other two I previously listed. Fan Expo averages around 100,000+ every year and Anime North averages 30,000. ConBravo however hovers around 5,000, which while in the Hamilton Convention Center is quite a few, it’s a much more manageable space. I’m not claustrophobic or anything, but I however do hate long wait times and shuffling in and about groups of people who aren’t paying attention to what’s around them. At ConBravo, I can comfortably move around and get to whatever I want with minimal issue. It’s nice not having to stand in line for 3 hours just to get into something let alone near the front.
  2. It leans to a specific niche audience that I fall into. While Fan Expo covers pretty much everything from TV, film, gaming, hell even pro wrestling, there’s so many different things going on and a lot of it doesn’t interest me. ConBravo on the other hand gravitates to gaming and more specifically YouTube gamers, channels that play games, talk about games, review games, all that jazz. Granted, the convention has started to branch out quite a bit over the past few years, inviting the voice actor of Dragon Ball Z’s Vegeta in Christopher Sabat and even WWE’s Austin Creed, who granted is also a gamer, so there’s stuff outside of just YouTube and gaming now to interest people. But I don’t feel it branches too far out that I get lost in the shuffle.
  3. Hamilton isn’t nearly as difficult to traverse through. I’ve never enjoyed finding my way around Toronto, which frustrates me because there’s so many cool things going on over there. When I see any event in Toronto, I essentially take the train to Union Station and just walk in a straight line to my end location. Hamilton though? I could comfortably drive down there and not feel like I’m going to get lost, or be hit by some crazed lunatic in a taxi.

So this is my fourth year and every year seems to get better and better. I was definitely excited to see Austin Creed get brought into the fold, what a surprise pick up that was for the convention, I never would’ve guessed such a name would’ve come to a convention this small, but yet again this convention continues to surprise me with the names it’s brought over like the aforementioned Chris Sabat, JonTron, ProJared, Angry Joe and many more.

However I will admit a little frustration on my part. Once I learned that Austin Creed aka Xavier Woods was going to be at the convention, I knew that this was the year to get a community panel set up for the topic I’ve been wanting to gush about for a while now: professional wrestling. This was my third year doing panels at the convention and all three I’ve tried to get wrestling in there, because every year a bunch of the major stars they book to show up, they end up talking about wrestling at some point, just ask the big guests of the last two years, the members of TeamFourStar, they’re massive wrestling fans. So I figured this year had to be the year to start, I mean you brought in a professional wrestler to your convention, surely that means you’re looking at expanding into that topic as well, which clearly has a following within the mainstay of fans that come every year.

But alas, it was for not and another year goes by. Though it was nice to see people asking for more wrestling guests and such now that Austin has broken that mold. I really hope that next year, or sometime soon that the convention at least gives us one outlet, one panel every year to gush (but mostly vent our frustrations) about the sport we love, whether it’s WWE, New Japan, UK wrestling, lucha-libre and everything else in between.

So how did I enjoy this year’s event? Overall, it wasn’t my favourite ConBravo ever, that still goes to my first year, just from the sheer value of it being my first year and having a ton of people I wanted to see. However, this year’s ConBravo does have a very positive distinction, in that this year I had the single best day at the convention, hands down!

…And I’m about to tell you about my entire weekend, so come along with me!

FRIDAY

I was really worried at the start of the convention, the main culprit being my first of two panels, a 2017 Gaming Discussion panel. It was at 5:30pm, what I view as the time slot of death at the convention. It’s literally a half-hour after the convention starts, so you’re literally being put in a time slot where no one’s there because they’re either getting their tickets, wandering into the marketplace for the first time, or they’re at the Opening Ceremonies for the convention, which usually goes from 5:00pm-6:00pm. So in my head, I thought it’d be a miracle if we got 20 by the time we were through.

I wasn’t wrong at the start, we only had 10 walk into the room when the staff opened the doors to let people in. So we were moments from starting and I had it in my head that this was going to be a quiet hour of a panel. But then people just started coming in, in droves no less! We went from 10 people, to 30 in a matter of minutes! As it turns out, the opening ceremonies didn’t run that long, we were getting the blowback! By the time we started and the clock struck 5:45, we had around 40 people, double what I thought we were going to get. Now I’m not going to say 40 is something to go nuts about, but given my expectations at the time slot, you bet your ass I’m taking it! Even better, they weren’t a quiet 40 people, we had at least a quarter of that group talking away once we opened up the second half of the panel to the fans to shoot their opinions out as well. The panel I thought was going to be a dud ended up being a better panel that the same one was last year, not in numbers, but in the quality of those who showed up.

So me and my two friends who were on the panel with me, we left at 6:30pm in a hurry, as we had a half-hour to rush across the street to the hotel where Austin Creed would be, doing autographs. It was scheduled from 5:00pm-7:00pm, so we should’ve had plenty of time to go from one building, down the street to the other. We were there at 6:37pm and the doors were shut, a staff member telling us the autograph session was over. It can’t be that Austin had to leave early, he showed up for another event at the convention a couple hours later. We weren’t really given a reason, not that it really would’ve mattered to me honestly. I mean come on, you promised a two-hour time slot! We couldn’t get there because you scheduled our panel during that time period and even further than that, what about people who showed up late? How fair is that for someone who because of something out of their control showed up at 6:30 with a half-hour left in the session and you turned them away? Extremely unprofessional move and it took what was a great start to the convention and completely buried me under the ground.

It didn’t get better. Sure, I had some fun exploring the marketplace for the first look-around of the weekend, but from 6:30pm on, the day sucked, it just sucked. We showed up to Super Feud, what would be a 4-team Mario Party 2 match between Austin and another wrestler (Brennan Williams), TeamFourStar, Arcadea and the Super Best Friends. Seemed like fun on paper and it started as such, all four teams coming out in professional wrestling style entrances, it was awesome! However, there was a major problem…

You hear it in the first 10 seconds, it sounds like someone intro-ing TeamFourStar as they entered the stage. However, this guy was not the convention-appointed announcer for the event, he was not the host. He was just a guy in the crowd trying to play e-Sports announcer. Now myself and my two friends, we figured whatever, he’ll knock it off soon, he’s just getting a little carried away. Then we saw him get moved from the front to near where we were sitting and he even acknowledged they kicked him out of the front, but in a tone more like “they don’t like how I’m a better announcer”, rather than he’s just being super loud and the microphones were catching him. But again, we thought he’d get the message after being moved from the best seats in the room.

He didn’t.

Not only did he not stop, he started doing it more once the Mario Party game started. He continuously called out “AND YOSHI ROLLS A THREE, WHAT WILL HE DO NOW?!” and other lines like this. Again, the three of us dealt with it because we were sure it would only be a matter of time until he’s told again to knock it off, or even kicked out of the room completely. A half-hour later not only did no one approach him, but he was getting worse and worse and worse. We saw people directly in front of him move because he was destroying the hearing in their ears and nothing was still being done. He was constantly shouting how he was doing a great job announcing and they should let him up on the stage and there’s no way that you couldn’t hear him. So after 30 minutes, we gave up, we had to leave, because when one of my friends, who is one of the most patient people I have ever met, he says this is too much, that’s time to go!

The rest of the night was okay at best, we had fun running through a “Riddler” game around the convention, but lost because we suck at actual riddles. We’re good at puzzle solving, but riddles are really fucking hard, especially getting three in a row. But the entire first day I left extremely pissed off and worried that the rest of the convention would be a sore spot. Thankfully, I was wrong but the day raised a lot of questions that while no one disclosed any details, the look of stress on their faces and the couple of people who when I asked if they were under a lot of stress and challenge this year that “they couldn’t tell me”, it definitely raises some concerns:

  1. There weren’t enough volunteers. This seems the most obvious based on the lack of people on the community panel areas, the lack of people dealing with the big lines, in fact I’m pretty sure I saw one of the co-founders doing this more than anyone else this year. Honestly, this is a pretty easy problem to solve, just reach out to agencies or hell, just put up flyers around downtown Hamilton saying you’re looking for volunteers for the weekend, there will be people more than willing to get in some work. But yeah, it was obvious there weren’t enough people, not for safety, not for security, not for anything that could’ve moved things along faster, better and dealing with any problems that arose during the events.
  2. More people showed up than they anticipated. This is also quite possible and I’ll know when the number of tickets sold comes out for this year’s convention. It’s very possible that they underestimated how many people would come to a convention that starred a professional wrestler and a bunch of returns, as the vast majority of guests this year were. I wonder (assuming more tickets were sold this year than last year) if they thought that a major voice actor in Chris Sabat would’ve easily outdrawn a current WWE wrestler, which wouldn’t surprise me, the wrestling fanbase has been underestimated since the very beginning.
  3. There was a MAJOR change in the convention. Whether this is in terms of major roles in the staff, sponsors pulling out, several guests pulling out last minute, forcing them to jumble together a list of guests, certain things not be delivered on time, something big that threw things completely out of proportion. That’s always possible and it can completely change the vibes and enthusiasm in a group of people. But this is the one with the least amount of weight, because I have no information to back that up.

Okay! Enough about that, onto what ended up being the best day at ConBravo ever for me!

SATURDAY

I honestly walked into Saturday not expecting much after my experiences from the day before. I worried that every single major panel I went to, that announcer guy could be there and ruin it too. Even further, the other main reason I was stoked for this year’s convention, was to see FamilyJules9x and Jonathan Young playing in the string of concerts and I was sure that with my second panel of the day keeping me from half of the entire concert, I’d miss one or even both of them.

But it started off very well. I kicked off the morning seeing Doug Walker, aka the Nostalgia Critic. His Q&A panel was fantastic and because of that, I got back into watching his content, which I haven’t seen since he really started years ago. I’ve never met the man in person before, goddamn is a quick, witty son of a bitch! The character is what you see in Doug Walker, if anything he’s just playing a slightly exaggerated version of himself. If I had one thing to nitpick, there was one fan who made the mistake that someone always makes at these panels, he/she takes too long, asks too many questions, can’t get the words out half the time and even ignores the guest they came to see when he/she asks them that they’re done, because other people have questions they want to ask.

This is something that while I’d love to excuse people for, whether it’s nerves, ignorance or even mental disorders, I will not do that when it comes to this sort of thing. It’s a Q&A, you are not the only person there and there’s a limited amount of time. I know it might be the only time you ever see this person, but that doesn’t mean you get to stand there and ask him every question you’ve ever had, narrow it down to two at most. If you’re nervous, that’s cool,we all get nervous, but if you’re so nervous that you can’t ask the question, I’m sorry but if you can’t get it out in a timely manner, you need to step aside so the next person who can ask their question can do so. It’s wrong to treat anyone special in this situation, so why would we do it just because you couldn’t get the words out? Sure, we’ll give you some lee-way, but if it’s been a full minute and you can’t do it, I’m sorry but your time’s up. This guy took 11 minutes. One of my friends timed him after it started going downhill, so it was likely more like 12 or 13 minutes. The panel was an hour and a half. That’s almost a sixth of the entire Q&A and we’re not even counting that it started a few minutes late and there was a brief introduction as well. I’m sorry, but I won’t give any sympathy to you if you waste that much time.

And buddy, Doug told you two questions from the start and you tried to ask a third after it’d already been 8 or 9 minutes. Even worse, when you started that third question and he told you no, that it was time to move on so others could ask, you ignored him and asked the question anyway. Here’s my problem, if you’re really a fan of this guy, if you’re really that into his content and what he does, if you follow the person, not just the character, then how are you not listening to him the one time he talks directly to you? That makes me feel like you think you’re more important than the guest you idolize so much to need to ask him so many questions.

But yeah, a minor annoyance. I know it sounds like it was much more since I put such a large aside for it, but it’s not necessarily due to the guy who did this at Doug’s Q&A, it’s just more something I see often in situations like this that drives me nuts.

After that, it was back to food and marketplace hunting, which wasn’t too much, but it was just fun times with friends, which is never a bad thing. Later in the afternoon, we attended an improv segment where TeamFourStar and Doug Walker and Malcolm Ray went against each other in what was a decent showing in a kind of comedy that could’ve gone terribly. Granted, was it the best improv? Not by a long shot, but these guys who don’t have massive experience in that sort of comedy, they pulled some real funny stuff out of their asses and they should be applauded for it.

Last year, I did an anime panel for the entire year of 2016. One of my co-panelists was the first and only major name I’ve ever shared a panel with, Arkada of Glass Reflections on YouTube. The panel itself went well, but I left feeling like I had made a bad impression on Arkada, that I had wasted his time, that sort of thing. So when I saw he was a surprise addition to my panel, I was a little worried that it would just be Round 2.

It turns out I had completely misread the entire situation. Tristan showed up early to join us in preparation for the panel and we just hit it off as we talked about so many different things anime-related whether it was Gundam, the current streaming situation with Netflix and Amazon, all that jazz. I eventually asked him about last year and how I felt like I maybe rubbed him the wrong way and he thought I was crazy that I’d come up with that, as he absolutely loved doing last year’s panel. So I was far more relaxed going into this year’s anime panel and it showed.

This year’s 2017 Anime Discussion panel was easily the best panel I’ve ever done, it’s not even a close battle between all the other ones. We hit so many good shows, got a ton of funny jokes in there, the crowd was lively, the questions were good, we even got some serious talk in with the Netflix/Amazon stuff along with all the gushing about our favourite shows. I left the room afterwards on such a high and now I want to do nothing but panels at the convention, I have so much fun just sitting down with a bunch of fans and just shooting the breeze on everything we love.

So I left the panel on a high and I rushed over to the main room where the concerts had already started. Along the way, my heart sank as I saw Jonathan Young walking out of the room. I went “please tell me you haven’t gone yet!” and he assured me he hadn’t, so my heart rose back to its original spot and I happily entered the room. I walked in just as FamilyJules9x was starting his set, so I couldn’t have made it at a better time. Both sets were unbelievable, Jules had a 4 or 5 song streak of Persona 5 music, so I was fanboying the fuck out then. My girlfriend who hadn’t really heard of him, she was a fan instantly, mostly due to his epic haircut and EXTREMELY EPIC guitar face. Then Jonathan comes out and rocks so many Disney songs I’d forgotten. Lion King, Hunchback of Notre Dame, hell even a Goofy Movie track! Seriously folks, if you haven’t checked out Jonathan’s channel (here), you are missing out!

So to cap off the entire day, I had the best panel I’ve ever had in the three years I’ve done them at the convention, but I ended the entire awesome day with easily the two best concerts I’d seen at the convention as well. Also getting to meet both Jules and Jonathan and getting two of Jonathan’s CDs and getting them signed as well by musicians, it was just a great way to end my day.

SUNDAY

For most people, Sundays are a bit of a throwaway day when it comes to conventions. The best content usually isn’t on the last day, most use it as a day to get all their purchases done, especially when artists are doing 2 for 1, 3 for 2 kind of deals just to get all their stuff out. It was about the same for me, except I didn’t actually buy anything at all. I find that because I have so much art and other things now, it takes something a little more special to get me to make that purchase. The first year, I spent way too much because it was all new to me, all the art, the figurines, everything.

The lone real cool thing I saw was another anime panel featuring Arkada, but also with Mother’s Basement and Brennan Williams, the lone wrestler still at the convention. I gotta say, watching a 6’7″, 280 lbs professional wrestler talk endlessly about anime, it was probably the coolest thing ever. And apparently they’re going to feature anime segments on Austin Creed’s YouTube channel, UpUpDownDown soon! So you know I’m in for that!

After that, it was mostly browsing in the marketplace, an okay Quiplash session with multiple guests that were left over and then we decided to head out before the closing ceremonies. It wasn’t the most eventful day, but generally for me Sundays are a little bittersweet since it means the convention is ending.

Overall, like I said before this convention is a mixed bag. On one hand, I had one of the most frustrating days I’ve ever had at a convention, but then the next day I have easily the best day I’ve ever had at a convention as well. I don’t think this was my favourite ConBravo out of the four years I’ve gone so far, but it’s certainly been a very memorable one and one that I’ve taken a lot away from.

The convention’s still got a long ways to go, but man oh man are they showing some real promise now. The guests are getting better and better, the concerts keep getting better, the panels keep getting better, it’s just a matter of time before people start really putting this small convention on their radar.

So if you’re living in Southern Ontario, if you haven’t checked out ConBravo yet, take a look at them next year when the summer rolls around. They’re always in July, usually in the middle of the month and they’ve been at the Hamilton Convention Center for a while now, it’s a nice, small venue and you still get to meet some cool people, see some cool things and make some really cool memories.

Keep it up, ConBravo!

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