inside the world of American Hard Dance

I Had originally lost most of this blog, hence it being waaaay late...but just found a backup on my thumdrive so i was able to finish it. enjoy.

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I am so sore, i have no idea how i'm going to teach my bellydance class tomorrow. My feet are still swollen, my ribs are klling me, but as usual with the post-show weekend recovery day i realize it was all worth it. We both sit here, broken, sore and eating iboprofen like candy.

Momocon was a really fun experience for me. Its rare that i am a musical guest at a convention and im not vending. In fact, being able to freely wander about the con was actually kind of strange, not having my assistant, liaisons or panel directors running me into various events and panels rooms. I even woke up at 10 am-ish saturday morning in a panic thinking ' OH MY GOD I NEED TO GET DOWN AND SETUP THE BOOTH!"

Another funny wake- up panic moment was friday morning. Atlanta is about, 7 hours drive for us with no traffic, coming from north of Tampa Florida, so we drove to this show since flying was just way to expensive on the promoters. I got so used to flying for shows, and flying out ridiculous early for shows, friday i woke up yelling that we were going to be late to the airport and tripped over my overstuffed suitcase.

We left at around 11 am Friday, after dropping off our furbabies to their grandparents house for a weekend of playtime. We decided to be adventurous, and try a BBQ place we often stop at but usually when we hit it, its late at night and not open.

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It's attached to a rustic typical Florida gift shop - which has scores of silly themed gifts, which of course i grabbed up for my friends in Atlanta.

I have a funny tradition of bringing people cheesy silly campy things when i travel.

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the BBQ wasn't too bad either, can't argue with an overstuffed pulled pork sandwich in your face, i'd take that over a Mc Donald's Bigmac anyday.

Got back on the road, and continued a search for something which we tried to find our last Atlanta trip, but failed.

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Peach Butter.

This amazing preserve can be found in some roadside tourist traps and farmer stands….and it is worth the hunt.

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Few miles into Georgia and i start seeing signs for the magnolia Plantation house which…is just a very fancy gas station/rest area. Since i had to pee anyway, ( damn coffee) we stopped at this massive place. Expecting to find nothing more then campy Georgia gifts, i was actually really surprised and excited to see rows and rows and rows of hot sauces, salsas, various kinds of gourmet ranch dressings, pecans, and there…..it was.

Peach butter. And Cherry butter, and Pumpkin butter, mango apple …it just went on and on…

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jackpot!

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i blew my dealer room budget for the convention right there.

Got into Atlanta around 7pm, got checked in, and prepped for an awesome weekend ahead.

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The Marriot Marquis hotel, is like staying in something from the Riddick movies. It apparently was designed to emulate the spinal cord, the entirety of the building is hollow and the elevator banks sit in the center. It has a dizzying effect, and makes for one hell of a convention atmosphere.

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I was really glad i brought my cyberpunk ensemble, because i was already feeling really badass pretending i was walking around in a Necromonger's palace. After settling in to one of the most scenic hotel room i've ever been in we met up with Ivan, one of the local amazing Exhilaration duo, and he quickly ushered us around an already buzzing convention.

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Momocon was spread out over two hotels, the Marriot Marquis and the adjoining Hilton. We were getting lost, within minutes of being there. We made it our sole purpose of the evening to find the food court. Took us awhile. We got turned around a few times, nobody on the convention staff could tell us exactly where it was, it was a pretty fun adventure. But we were victorious! It was actually hiding in the Peachtree mall, which was this underground mall complex sitting between the hotels. A few walkways led you there - it was like having a convention party in a giant hamster habitat. I gotta say though, the last few times we were in Atlanta were horrible experiences.

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Leave it to an anime convention to finally show us a good time. I love it.

Ran into plenty of ravers hyped for the show Saturday night. Already feeling the hype surrounding the party was really encouraging, I had no idea what i was getting myself into though -

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I still cannot get over seeing crowdsurfing during my set. Just - what in the hell kind of awesome is that.

At the close of the night, i felt recharged, and reminded of my roots in the rave scene. After having to perform a heavy dose of politically packed corporate sponsored parties - this was just a pure, fun convention shenanigans with my core following, the anime ravers and my fellow nerds. I needed this.

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I laid there, looking out the window at the glistening skyline. I missed Manhattan, i used to live not too far away from New York City in my hometown in New Jersey. On clear nights the skyline gleamed over the high hill in town, reminding us all to get the hell out of there and make something of ourselves, or rot in that small suburban town, which was loosing the battle to urban sprawl and decay very fast. I think growing up there, we all had a sense of urgency, the City loomed in the distance telling us there were far bigger places outside of our own bubble, to explore, and adventure. I would take every chance i could get to go to Manhattan - and as i got older i would venture in with friends all the time. I forgot what it was like to stay in a city, and reflecting on my beginnings as i kept the curtains open all night, glistening Atlanta lulling me to sleep; i reminded myself that this was just the start of my summer show season, and to enjoy every minute of it. This is what i do, and all i know, looking back i wouldn't see any other outcome but this life.

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Saturday i got up early, the light was juuuuust right for some great photos. I dragged out my two favorite Spacepod ensembles of mine, and we got to work. My super neon getup was a good 9 pieces all layered over each other. I honestly wasn't sure how it would all look together, i had a concept in my head and a quickie sketch, but didn't have the time to try it all on for any adjustments before we traveled up there. The micro mini skirt and plastic green top ( which was actually at one point a halloween shopping bag) were the newest and star pieces in this collection, so i figured as long as those two fit right, everything else was just accessory. It worked out very well, and my lime green hair was a last minute decision - i thought it would be all too much with the same colors everywhere but, it worked out great.

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instead of worrying about what editorial or company we were promoting for or had to throw these too...this time, i did these pictures for me, the fact the outfits were all my handmade creations was just a plus. I realized, you just gotta sometimes do shit for YOU. It looks better, feels better, and was way more fun without the political pressures of having to think of the end results. Where it would be going, who would be seeing it, who would be touching it and turning it into gods knows what; It was just me, my husband, and the Atlanta skyline.

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I'm not a huge fan of wearing PVC, but i love sewing it. I love plastics, and weird wacky materials. My reflective outfit was originally a tribute to my shufflers. At many of my shows, i see shufflers in their badass lit up reflective phats keeping up to our 175 BPM sets and its amazing. I once joked after meeting a big group og them " you know one of these days im going to be able to match you guys". I can't shuffle for the life of me. What i meant by that was match their reflective clothing. Since the reflective material i had, was a vinyl backed sticker, i needed vinyl to adhere it to. So i had to make most of the outfit, out of PVC vinyl. I added different pieces to it over the years, switching out this for that, the newest addition being the micro mini over the plastic clear hoop skirt. Again, getting the Micro Mini pattern down for Spacepod's summer run, i was curious if it would work in vinyl and it did! so as usual, i kept the prototype for promotional wear and tear product testing. It worked out great on camera, and layering it with the Lip Service plastic hoop skirt looked really cute.

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the laser head piece is a way older accessory, going all the way back to my 2008 "Chernobyl dragonfly" costume which later came to be called the 'cyber dragon' costume by the fans because its known for its massive metallic wings. I ALMOST brought that beast but, its needing alot of maintenance. Being so old, the main part being a cut out one -piece bathing suit, the cutouts have rolled into string looking sections that are VERY skimpy. I'm not sure, how i could fix those without completely redoing the main piece and if i don't, if i have the resolve to wear it. Last time i did, i caused a photo traffic jam at Metrocon to the point they had to usher me through hidden walkways back to my booth. There was no way in hell i'd fit into any of the elevators at Momocon either; and with the crowds and a 6 ft wingspan behind me i wouldn't have made it through any of the hallways either. So i was relieved, that the Cyber Dragon for now, is still in my sewing room.

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After the early morning photo fun, i changed back to my comfy phat pants and tees and went down for my Campfire mocha from Caribou Coffee.

ohh myy gooddddd is it goood.

Seriously, if you've never had it - GET IT. S'mores coffee??? doesn't get any better.

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After checking out some of the panel rooms, vendor area and visiting some tables in the artist alley, i went back to the room for awhile for a good nap, it was going to be a long night. I needed all the strength i could get. It was weird at first to even think of having a nap on a Saturday - i can't even walk away from my Metrocon booth for a few minutes without chaos erupting.

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Woke up to rob chatting on the phone, and my stomach was also starting to growl a bit. We had one plan for dinner: Gladys Knights Chicken n Waffles.

This is the Gem of Atlanta. In many cases, its the dealbreaker to going. ITS THAT GOOD.

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it's all about THE MIDNIGHT TRAIN BABY!!!!

We discovered this place, as most of our favorite eat stops, on Tvfoodmaps.com. YOU WILL BE WAITING FOR AWHILE to get into Gladys Knights. It is always packed, and you cannot call ahead or reserve seating so be ready to wait an hour or more at times. But its worth it, your patience will be rewarded, i promise you. We usually show up with a large number of people, which doesn't help the wait, but it is always great to go out with a group of friends to experience the deliciousness and welcome them into the cult of chicken and waffles.

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My favorite dish is the Smothered Chicken. MMM perfectly cooked roast chicken on top of a bed of rice, with two amazing southern sides ( i get the grits and collard greens) literally SMOTHERED in gravy.

Momocon performance fueled by chicken and waffles. literally.

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By the time we got out of Gladys Knights, we had about an hour until soundcheck was going to start, so it was go time. A happy, full excited bunch of ravers stumble out of the establishment, into the dark night. Confusing the multitude of locals down Peachtree street as we head back towards the Marriot Marquis covered in kandie, bright clothes and even brighter hair.

When night falls, and i know i have about an hour or two until soundcheck, my mentality switches to a really frenzied, but focused state. Will soundcheck go ok? what setup will i be dealt this time? monitors maybe?

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Its quite terrifying being the only vocalist on a lineup with DJs. Most of the time, nobody even thinks to setup the stage for a live act.

So doing a convention, which is used to live acts and multiple rounds of performances on that main stage , are always amazing. The sound crews know what they're doing, and often even have fun with our set.

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Momocon was no different - as we got loading into the main room i met with the sound director, a veteran at live sound. Yay! He was actually excited to see a live singer on an all DJ lineup - we sat there chatting for awhile about tech stuff. As the flurry of DJs getting ready erupted onto stage, i just meandered around it calm as can be, focused and ready as me and rob setup. I was so relieved knowing sound was going to be spot on tonight. With a professional behind the soundboard, we were so golden.

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a Funny thing sometimes happens at soundcheck. There's always a few people who are still really confused about what i do understandably. People know about live Mcs, but a vocalist? its a rare thing, and even rarer that its a full concert set, not just a two song feature. Its not an unknown concept, used to happen all the time in the mid to late 90's. Its just something that didn't take off big in america. So soundcheck not only is crucial for me to spot what im dealing with that evening soundwise, but a fun way to introduce myself to all the confused people straggling about in the room wondering what the hell is this chick up to. Sometimes, you just got to do what you do to prove yourself.

The party kicked off at 11 pm, to an instantly packed room. There were still people waiting to get in and it was just the first half hour.

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First up was Exhilaration. I LOVE these guys. So so much. Anthony and Ivan are SO good, its a rare thing to see a DJ duo who actually bounce off each other musically, have fun on stage, genuinely enjoy each other's company onstage, and each of their mixing style and song choices actually come through the set. Most Dj duos will play the songs they either produced together and just go back and forth with similar sounding tracks. Not Exhilaration - Anthony who is the producer of the duo will drop an Exhilaration track from time to time, but you can hear Ivan's mixing, and harder edge come through still. They go back and forth in a true audio battle which goes from fun to fierce and back again all taking the crowd along for the ride. Its amazing to witness, im glad i got to see it.

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It was a great night, for both Exhilaration and us, because we FINALLY got to see each other in our element at our best - not hunting down promoters for money or chasing down some asshat who ran off with the decks ( yes that actually did happen ) We've both been on a few horrendous shows in Atlanta together - neither one of us really being able to see each other perform fully until now.

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It was hard to not dance my ass off during Exhilaration's set. I was up next, and i needed to conserve all my strength. I do admit though backstage i was bouncing like an excited toddler as i sat on the floor chilling by the staircase. It must have looked hilarious, caught a few interesting glances shooting my way but fuck if i cared. There's something magical that i relish in, sitting backstage before my set just taking in the subtle things, and mentally preparing for the physical marathon i'm about to throw my body into. Road cases everywhere, cables running in all sorts of directions lined up and taped down like a circuit board. Lucky VIP ticket holders staring wide eyed at their heroes from backstage, bored DJ girlfriends staring at their phones sitting against the wall. The lights peering through the break in the curtains, and the roar of the crowd, which at some point becomes almost its own kind of music, constantly there but rising and falling like its own chorus and verses.

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I wanted to start my set with "Bring Me Down". a Track that me and Anthony of Exhilaration worked on together. I scooped him up for the project after discovering them at one of these horrible Atlanta club shows. Momocon is their home convention, and what better a way to end their set and start mine, then to blast out to their hometown fans with the track that is soon to be all over the world.

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It was an excellent start to the set and fun as hell to jump on stage with the guys who brought that track alive with me. There's nothing like featuring for the artist you write tracks with.

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This crowd was the most alive, excited, interactive crowd i've EVER been in front of. They were jumping, screaming, nonstop dancing. Reaching over the barrier it was just a line of hands from one end of the stage to the other. At a certain point, out of the corner of my eye in a blur i saw someone on stage with me. Usually, that signals to me to get ready to be grabbed, so i moved away mid verse preparing myself to kick or do something in case this turned ugly - but no she just stood there, looking at me with a blissful smile arms outreached and then ..she fall backwards . I thought OH MY GOD SHE FELL OFF THE STAGE!

But then i saw her feet hovering above the crowd…then she waved at me with tears in her eyes laughing. Then i saw another person float by….

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THEY WERE CROWDSURFING.

i have NEVER seen that at a rave. EVER. How amazing! i looked down at the security detail in between the stage and the crowd, thinking they would be putting a stop to these awesome shenanigans but no…instead…they were encouraging it. hyping the crowd, making sure people who were going to surf were able to do so, a few obviously drunk dudes got the boot - But most of these insane amazing fans got to crowdsurf and nobody was groping anybody, or getting hurt. I've seen and heard horror stories from metal and rock shows about crowdsurfing especially for females…but not here. Not at a happy hardcore show. Not for my show.

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It continued like that for the whole set. Not a moment did the crowd thin, or the excitement lesson. It was just a nonstop push of energy at me. Don't stop, don't stop. ONE MORE! ONE MORE! and even WHOOMP THERE IT ISSS!!!!! they shouted to the beat.

It was incredible. Fun, and interactive.

"Rena" live at Momocon

"Find A Way" live at Momocon

And i don't care who you are or how big you are - if you EVER get used to the feeling that occurs when a massive crowd sings back your lyrics at you - then just fucking quit right now.

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That happened for both "Bring Me Down" , "Rena" and " Eye Opener". And it gets me close to sobbing right there like a baby every damn time.

The crowd was SO LOUD, about halfway through i started getting the dreaded condition known as ' earbleed'. Djs and producers experience it all the time, its when you start to not be able to decipher the levels in your music accurately. In a live sound setting, it means you cannot separate your monitor mix from the room mix, vital to be able to hear yourself and it can cause you to go off in pitch or in timing. "Fades to Light" which is usually a strong song for me, was absolutley terrifying and a struggle. With the lead taken out but two harmony backtracks to keep up with - if i'm off even a hair on that performance it shows. And it did. Im sure it was way more noticable to me then the crowd but i signaled to rob to do a few songs, often in the set i take a breather and he busts out a few tunes of his own. Thats the purpose of it. To give my ears a break and readjust. Ever see a vocalist at a concert rip out or futz with their earplug monitors? That's what that is. Either they're getting earbleed, or the monitor cut out or is too loud.

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Rob did a few songs, and i eased myself back in with our sing along rendition of "Could be Real". At some point seeing that the security detail were a bunch of fun loving badasses i reached out to them, and they helped me stand on the pile of chairs against crowd barrier so i could sing into a few peoples faces who were kinda stuck on the far end of the stage away from the main action. I love doing that - it rare i get to do that, especially at a large show. So when i see the chance, i definitely take it. As the crowd pulled and swayed me with them i felt safe with the guard there steadying me on that pile of unsteady chairs ( in retrospect it was a recipe for disaster but, you ravers make us do crazy shit sometimes) , i even heard her say " yeah you get it girl go get em girl!"

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Its a blast to see even the security team have a good time.

My finale was "Eye Opener" , which is the usual finale i cannot think of a better track to go out on then me and Synthwulf's version of the classic which got so many of us into wanting to Dj or produce hardcore. I had wacky idea planned for this song. I have a set of big iridescent wings that i use for my Bellydance shows. With the theme of Momocon being a circus, i thought why not go a big glitz and glam for this one, a bit over the top. My outfit was already mostly sequins, so why not a big pair of wings to finish it off?

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I thought maybe they would be too campy, but actually, it became a really awesome ending. The tricky part was finding a mic stand right before the song, since the wings are folded behind me and need two hands to open them fully, i couldn't hold the mic and do it at the same time. So i made sure they left a mic stand there, and i was able to throw the wings on in time, and bring the stand around front and center.

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There was only one other time i've sang locked to a mic stand. It was a very strange but awesome booking 5 years ago which was a Metal fusion show, and i actually opened for the band Crossbreed. The sound engineer on that show refused to turn my wireless mic on right as i took the stage, he made it clear to me earlier he was 'insulted a dance artist was on the lineup'. Well, the show was called the Crossbreed X-Mas Rave so….im not sure what he expected. Since the show is all backlined ( meaning the headliner's gear is on stage setup already and everyone else has to setup around them) i knew one of the mics would be live. so i put my wireless down, ran up and grabbed one of the mics and i was lucky it was actually on otherwise i would have looked like an ass when my harmony backtracks kicked in and there were no lead vocals.

After that experience i always veered away from it, the feelg of being ' locked' to a certain point on the stage annoyed me. But this time, as i dragged the mic stand out, a cape ( as the wings look as they are folded behind me) appearing on my back as i did it, it created an element of " SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN WOAHH" and the crowd went nuts. For me, it created an intimate space, i'm not exactly sure how. There was 700 people in that room but when i held that mic stand and started to croon into it, suddenly i felt as i was back in my rehearsal room, or at the local hookah lounge in town debuting a song for a few friends.

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It created a much needed visual break in the set as well, after an hour of me jumping around like a nut singing at the top of my lungs…i'm sure it looked nice to see me relax for once.

"Eye Opener" live at Momocon

As the chorus for "Eye Opener " kicked in and i reached my arms out the wings following me, the room exploded. It all became a blur, one fantastic blur of lights, faces screaming at me and hearing an entire room of people sing along.

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Momocon 2014 was indeed a huge success. The rest of the night was just as energetic, the crowd sticking around dancing until well into the wee hours of the morning. I tried like hell to dance it out with them but I didn't make it till the very end of the show - i was so exhausted, after walking around for some meet and greet love outside the huge ballroom and taking some pictures with ravers outside, i started feeling dizzy, and rob decided to call it a night. Dragging myself back to the room, through the already sore muscles.. it felt so good to do a show for the sake of just doing a show for people. No sponsors to worry about, no planned agenda or interviews, no set of outfits to be worn or gifts from corporate entities to be seen lavishing in.

Just the music, and the crowd and my wacky sense of living in this scene. Thats what its about.

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Sunday i got up and dragged myself down to the food court to get my last delicious taste of Caribou's Campfire coffee. Ohhhh i miss it. So much. There, seated in the foodcourt also was our amazing sound guy from last night. We sat down, talking about the show and how much fun he had with our set. He gave me some excellent advice for future shows, and even recommended some gear to look out for.

I asked everything, and listened intently. just soaked it all in. Loved it, was a great end to an already great weekend. Coffee, advice, and exchanging both amazing and horrendous show stories amongst a flurry of cosplayers and hungover partygoers shoveling their faces full of breakfast.

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We got a late checkout ( THANK GOD) and hit the road around 7pm. On the long haul on I75 southbound to Florida I felt mentally recharged, and refocused. Metrocon looms ahead, an EP project looms ahead, and now i had re-discovered my source and my love for it all over again.

Thank you amazing anime fans, cosplayers and party monsters of Atlanta, for showing me a wonderful time, and turning " Headlining in Atlanta" from a terrified negative feeling into a proud, excited and positive one.

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Just takes the right crew and the right crowd.

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