MS. REBECCA SHEIR
The D.C. region has a rich history so it's pretty easy to be a real history buff here, whether you're dawning uniforms and reenacting the Civil War battles or just visiting any of the areas ga-gillion museums.
MR. ROB SACHS
But the folks in the steam punk movement immerse themselves in history in their own special way, by dressing in period clothes and putting on funky eye ware. I'll let Brian Wendell Morton, AKA Desmond Pinchbeck Devorou, explain.
MR. BRIAN WENDELL MORTON
Steam punk really is imagining an alternate American reality, such as the era of Jules Verne where instead of going in an electricity-based future, imagine that all power was generated by steam and so everybody would require goggles or some sort of eye protection because there'd be a mass of particulate matter in the air so you got to protect your eyes.
Sounds kind of like "Back to the Future, Part Three."
Exactly. So Desmond, or Brian, is an illusionist and was the first act at a recent event in Takoma Park, Md. It was called the Steamtopian Cavalcade and during Brian's performance I slipped outside to speak with the cavalcade's organizer, Brad Howard, AKA Professor Fulbright T. Moone.
I am so digging these alter ego steam punk names.
Pretty cool, right? And as I talked with Brad, or Professor Moone, we were joined by the other performer on the bill that night, musician, Eli August.
Eli August AKA what?
AKA Eli August, he just goes by that.
But that's cool in steam punk because there's not really hard and fast rules, more just kind of like guidelines. Here's Brad.
MR. BRAD HOWARD
It's all based on the what-if proposition. What if there were airships flying around in the 1820s? What if we had electrical power well before its time? What if time travel were possible?
MR. ELI AUGUST
For me, I think it's -- steam punk has a great nostalgia to it because clearly we would not basically going through this, even if you were never alive, but a nostalgia for a place you've never -- well, what nostalgia is, you know, you've never been there, you can't go back. And for me, I think that's more of a mental place to come from of, you know, missing things that were or were not or ways that I had wanted them to be rather than necessarily the content of the music, for myself. And I like that, you know. Tonight it's going to be upright base acoustic guitar, ukulele and two vocalists and we can play on the same bill as somebody who is, you know, electric-based instruments and it still fits in the same genre.
Do you see our audience have shown up in all of their individual costume interpretations? Steam punk events are reasons for like-minded people to gather and share ideas in how they interpret this and just enjoy the fellowship of it.
I think it allows for a lot of individuality and creativity. Some of the things that I've seen people build or come up with, like, it -- beyond my capabilities and it's another outlet for art. Another, you know, an art scene that you can wear.
And a community and a culture and a way of thinking, so it's all those things wrapped into one.
Now, I noted some people, you know, were talking in Victorian speak and I know you have an affiliation with the Renaissance Fair. Is there a correlation between people who are into Renaissance Fair type things or people who are into Shakespeare? I don't know, people who are into speaking in different tongues and steam punk?
All that. People who enjoy science fiction cons, comic cons, people who enjoy renaissance festivals, folk festivals, people who do historic reenactment, people who do costume work, people who just like to dress up to the nines and look fabulous in a style that's not like everyone else. All of these people are attracted to steam punk.
Now, someone might say, okay, who are these nerds? How do you feel about that use of that word?
Nerddom and geekdom is a badge of honor as far as I'm concerned because nerds and geeks are basically people who don't care what general society thinks. They live by their own rules and they enjoy what they want to do.
I don't know when it started, but there's been a certain, like, empowering of the nerd and geek. You walk into, dare I say it, like Hot Topic and, you know...
...you're bound to find a shirt that says I heart geeks or, you know, a nerd. Look at all the Twilight stuff. I know there's a lot of, you know, quote/unquote pretty faces, but that is super nerdy. So I agree, I think it's a good thing to be called. It's not a four-letter word.
If you want to just dip your toe into steam punk, what's the first thing you can buy? Is it the glasses, suspenders?
It's kind of a joke that the uniform of the steam punk is a pair of goggles and a top hat, but -- if that floats your boat. I've got five pairs of goggles and three top hats myself and several boulders. I'm a geek.
And, well again, that's a good point. Like, I don't own any goggles nor a top hat. You don't have to be dressed up in the garb. That's another thing, if you're just curious, just go. Yeah.
It's a welcoming environment.
That was Brad Howard and Eli August speaking to me outside the steam punk cavalcade which took place in Takoma Park. To learn more about steam punk and to see photos from the event, you can visit our website, metroconnection.org.
And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Sabri Ben-Achour, Kavitha Cardoza and Cathy Duchamp and reporter Lauren Hodges.
Jim Asendio is our news director, Tobey Schreiner is our audio engineer. Julia Edwards produces "Door-to-Door."
Thanks to Jonathan Charry, Andrew Chadwick, Margo Kelly, Timmy Olmstead, Bill Redland and Sylvia Carignan for their production help.
And special thanks to Dana Farrington and the WAMU digital media team for keeping our website up to date.
Our theme song, "Every Little Bit Hurts," and our "Door-to-Door" theme "No Girl" are from the album "Title Tracks" by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings record company. Check out our website, metroconnection.org, for a list of all the music we use each week.
We hope you can join us next time when we go underground, from underground railroad stops in Baltimore to prohibition era speakeasies in D.C.
Until then, I'm Rebecca Sheir.
And I'm Rob Sachs.
And thanks for listening to "Metro Connection."
A production of WAMU 88.5 news.
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