Greetings, fandom! Jon @ UnCanny here.
Jon’s lovely partner in crime, Brandee.
First things first – Even as a lifelong G-Fan I have to admit I was nervous for this convention. I’ve been in contact with many wonderful people for years now online (which makes this hobby infinitely more enjoyable)… But what was it really going to be like at G-Fest? For the past several years I’ve been ready to make it happen, then BAM! Something always jumps in the way last minute. This year for my birthday – waaaay back in February, my wonderful girlfriend bought us not only tickets to the Fest but a hotel room at the O’Hare as well. “Well now we have to go, right?” Right! And guys, let me tell you… My first G-Fest was a weekend that far, far exceeded expectations. It wasn’t just that the convention itself was wonderfully organized and orchestrated – or that all the special guests were absolutely incredible – or even that the dealer’s room was a treasure trove of vinyl goodness – It was the people.
If there is one piece of advice I can give to anyone in this fandom, it is to branch out. Join our forums, the many great Facebook groups, share your adventures in collecting with other collectors, post your art online, and above all – Come to G-Fest! Our beloved films are wonderful to watch at home, but nothing can touch the experience of truly sharing in this hobby with others that love it as much as you do. And in that sense, G-Fest is priceless – and justifies the fairly priced weekend ten-thousand-fold.
With that said, where do we begin? Brandee and I (my lovely girlfriend of many years for those of you keeping track) arrived Friday evening around 5pm. We drove in from Nashville, a solid eight hours south of the Windy City. After hellacious traffic and my semi-heart attack over thinking the dealer’s room was already closed for the night, we finally made it to the Crowne Plaze Chicago O’Hare hotel. This brings me to another major recommendation for the fest – Book early and book at the O’Hare! This is where the convention is held, and I will personally guarantee you that your experience will be 1,000% better if you stay at the hosting O’Hare, and not another close by. Anyway, where was I? Ahhh, yes. The Dealer’s Room.
Today, with the internet and what have you, if you have the money you can find and purchase just about any kaiju merchandise you want. I’ve heard quite a few fan’s remarks in the past years along the lines of “I can buy all of that stuff online, why spend all the money to travel to G-Fest?” Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Exhibit A:
This is a humble little Bear Model Milky White Limited Edition vinyl. That alone being enough to make it awesome – here’s where the G-Fest difference really kicks in. This lovely vinyl was bought in person with my own two hands from a fandom great, the always lovely Goji-Girl. Nothing beats buying the collectibles we love in person. The joy of finding a Godzilla item in a local store? Amplify that by a million. Oh, and then there’s the signature – Something that would never have found its way onto this figure unless I had A.) Gone to G-Fest XXI, or B.) Flown to Japan, tracked down Katsuhiko Sasaki myself, and forced him to sign a vinyl and photo for me. Now which one sounds like more fun and waaaay more legal to you? I think I know. All kidding aside, I now have an item signed by one of my film heroes and a Toho great, Katsuhiko Sasaki San, something I could never say if I hadn’t made this trip with Brandee. And for any one complaining that the autographs were $20 extra, I believe this paragraph justifies that pricing tenfold. I had spent hundreds of dollars in the dealer’s room, and then stopped – I could pay $20 to get an autograph that I’ll never be able to get anywhere else in my life – OR I could blow all my money on things I could eventually find online. I’m usually not an autograph collector – but now I plan to get an unpainted vinyl signed every year that I go back to G-Fest, and have no doubt that it will be the new center of my collection.
What else did I buy in the dealer’s room, you ask? Well here, I’ll just show you:
Original ‘Destroy All Monsters’ tagged 8″ Bandai Anguirus, Mechagodzilla, Baragon, Mothra Larva, Minya, Godzilla 1964, and Rodan. Original tagged Bandai Moguera.
I wanted to ‘hunt’ something specific while at the fest, so I didn’t get all sporadic and buy too much random stuff. I’ve been replacing all of my Bandais with the tagged originals, just go give my collection another dose of “Oh lawdy thats nice!”. And it has worked. All of these classic beauts are rocking the original attached Destroy All Monsters tag, or their own respective version of that (Moguera being an example).
Jon and legendary science fiction/fantasy painter Bob Eggleton.
Enough about toys, what else was going on? For starters, I picked up two incredible signed prints from a lifelong hero of mine, Bob Eggleton. Bob is not only an outstanding guy, but a huge G-Fan at heart. I’ve admired this man’s work for as long as I can remember. We’ve been online acquaintances through the fandom for a year or so now, but to meet Sir Bob (as I refer to him) in person, shake his hand, pick up some of his art, and take a photo together was something else I’ll never forget. If you’re reading this Bob – Thanks for everything that you do for our fandom, and please keep up the phenomenal work. Cheers, my friend!
That brings us to the rest of G-Fest XXI’s incredible special guests. Among us in Chicago were legends like Tomoko Ai (Cyborg Katsura of Terror of Mechagodzilla fame), the aforementioned Bob Eggleton and Katsuhiko Sasaki (of Godzilla vs Megalon, Terror of Mechagodzilla, Godzilla vs Biollante, etc), the ever-awesome Don Frye (Godzilla: Final Wars) and Robert “Scott” Field (Godzilla vs King Ghidorah), master kaiju sculptor Hiroshi Sagae, Shinpei Hayashiya (Director of Deep Sea Monster Reiga and Gamera 4: Truth), and guest of Honor Koichi Kawakita, the legend behind all of the Heisei era’s masterful designs and special effects. Other honorable attendees such as the fan-favorites and ridiculously talented Kyle Yount of Kaijucast and Matt Frank of IDW, among others, were present .It was, to say the least, a year of fantastic guest’s and incredible panels. Don Frye let us know during his panel that Godzilla is his favorite monster (“and should be everyone elses, too”) as well as King Kong being his second favorite “because he’s American”. Classic! Frye also told us a hysterical story about having to convince Toho writers to change one of their english lines, as it required him to say “Here’s the G-Spot”. Hah! These sorts of wonderful interviews and tidbits took place with every single special guest, and it was all so wonderful and unique – Where else would you get to hear such things from the stars we admire so? Tomoko Ai, in particular, was so energetic and bubbly. She was truly appreciative of her fans and their love. I have to mention and thank Robert Scot Field as well. He’s been to every G-Fest for the past sixteen or so years, and does an incredible job of translating and hosting. He’s a hell of a guy and an integral part of the Fest.
I’ve been writing all morning and this entire article so far is just the tip of the iceberg. I could spend another day writing about the fantastic Tokusatsu Room, or the Art Gallery (filled to the brim this year with incredible prints and originals), the screening of classic kaiju eiga at the Pickwick theatre, and all of the amazing exhibitions at the Fest. But everything keeps pulling me back to the people. I don’t want to throw names out into cyberspace – you all know who you are. Long nights of hanging out, drinking, deep dish pizza, sake, too many incredible times to name. But one name I will throw out, and have to, is one John DeSentis. What is Mr. DeSentis responsible for, you ask? Oh, just the single most mind-blowing thing any of us G-Fans could ever hope to experience. And that, my friends, is the Ifukube 100: Legacy of Monster Music.
Earlier this year, John and co. put a team together to organize a Kickstarter. This campaign was to bring a live orchestral event of legendary composer Akira Ifukube‘s music to the attendants of G-Fest, and the Chicago public – and obviously, they succeeded. The entire fandom pitched in (I wrote up and promoted an article for the concert here on Skreeonk during the height of the campaign) and John was able to bring his dream to life – something he’d been working on (and attempting) for many years. The timing was perfect, and we were all treated to something not a single one of us in attendance will ever be able to top or forget. The concert didnt just happen – it went off without a hitch. John masterfully conducted an orchestra of brilliant musicians who brought Ifukube’s music to fevering life. The music brought swells of joy and even tears to all our eyes. So again, if you’re reading this John, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. From all of us.
Jon with acclaimed Japanese actor Katsuhiko Sasaki (of Godzilla vs Megalon, Terror of Mechagodzilla, Godzilla vs Biollante, etc)!
Now I’m sure I’m leaving a lot out, but I feel pretty confident in this recap. If you’re on the edge about making the trip to G-Fest, dont be. Just go. Do it. Make it happen. Save up all year and throw yourself into it. It is, for a lack of better words, so very worth it. This year’s was the biggest yet (with somewhere between a staggering 3 to 4,000 attendees) and its only going to keep growing. With the release of two more Legendary Godzilla films on the horizon, I foresee this fandom continuing the growth its experience these past few years, and that is a wonderful thing my friends.
I want to end this article by extending a personal thank you to J.D. Lees, Jeff Horne, and the countless other staff and volunteers who tirelessly make G-Fest happen, year after year. You gentlemen (and ladies) bring so much more to this fandom than we could ever thank you for. Cheers!
A lot of exciting things are happening for Skreeonk post G-Fest. I’m sure you’ll notice in the photos, but we sold a ton of limited edition Skreeonk T Shirts at the fest, and its amazing to see people enjoying them. We may do another run since these sold out quick and seem to still be in demand. And its been a long time coming, but expect to see me on FRESH VINYL LIVE with my good pals Rich Eso, Kyle Yount, and David E. Dopko as often as we can make it happen – more exciting news on that front in the near future. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank my dear friend David E. Dopko for this phenomenal photo documentation of G-Fest XXI, which I will be posting a full gallery of here on the site. The original plan was to feature his photography here in this article, but its all so damn good I firmly believe it needs a gallery all its own. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that you’ll be seeing much more from David here on Skreeonk.com in the near future.
If you can’t tell, G-Fest 2014 was an immense success, and a weekend I will never forget. Most importantly to me, I not only had an incredible weekend – but so did Brandee. If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, I dont know what else will. We’ve never felt so enthusiastically welcome somewhere before in our lives, and will be back next year, and every year after that if we can. I encourage each and every one of you to make it out next year. There is something for everyone, that I can guarantee. Above all, I’ve never felt so welcome in my entire life. I can’t say it enough – its the people. Its you guys. G-Fest firmly drove home what I’ve always said and truly meant – We are the best fandom on the planet. Period.
You can view the superbly talented David E. Dopko’s G-Fest XXI Gallery below this article. Thank you all for your continued support of this site and all that we do. All of this means nothing without you. One last Cheers for you, fandom. And as always…
Until next time, true believers!
Jon @ UnCanny.