Steampunk Out on the Town

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This weekend, I got to party like it was 1899. (No, I didn’t go hang out with the Amish.) As part of my effort to Do More Things, I spent Saturday night at the Midsummer Night’s Steam bash put together by Atlanta’s local steampunk group–the Artifice Club–and my new favorite local startup, Scoutmob.

Given that the event flyer promised dancing, costumes, and a portion of the proceeds going towards the Atlanta Humane Society, I was in. Luckily, it turned out to be a totally delightful (if surreal) experience.

My friend and I were able to find the event by following the trail of folks in brown leather and corsets. There is a joke that steampunk is what happens when goths discover the color brown, and–though it’s not just that–there are certainly similarities. Off-the-shoulder white blouses and ballgowns certainly were present, and there were multiple folks in fairy wings. (Aren’t there always?)

The major difference between this and a goth club seemed to be the average age of the folks involved–my friend and I were on the younger end of the attendees. The thing about subculture folks in their 30s-50s is that they have the money, skills, and time to make some truly great costumes. I suspect that these are the folks who would, in a different time, have become Civil War reenactors.

Despite the fact that my friend and I were only half-costumed (the ticket people greeted us with, “Oh, you came from Scoutmob.”), everyone at the party was uniformly nice to us. Steampunk is nothing if not incredibly polite, as far as I can tell.

After taking advantage of some free drink tickets to grab some wine (we passed on the homebrew IPA), my friend and I circulated the party to admire costumes and greet another group of friends who we had convinced to come. There was a live band (Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands) doing a vaguely gypsy punk cover of “You Are My Sunshine,” because why not.

Once the second group of friends headed back home, we moved to the dance floor with a CDC employee that my friend had started chatting with and started to bust a costumed move. The music was a great (if strange) mix of swing, folk, and the Decemberists–the official band of subculture gatherings. To my delight, the CDC employee was willing to humor me by singing along to “Chimbley Sweep.”

The dance floor quickly separated into people who actually knew how to swing dance and people–like me–who like to fake samba and sort of wiggle their hips. Both sides had fun, and the separation allowed me to avoid getting hit in the back by the bustles of the ladies who had both more impressive costumes and more impressive dance moves than I.

Once the clock struck midnight, the party ended and everyone migrated to the bar next door to carry on drinking and being in costume. There were a few other patrons around, but they seemed to take the influx of corsets and bustles as well as could be expected.

Though I don’t know that I’ll be joining the Artifice Club as a regular member, I had a great time at the event. Since I’m in college, I rarely encounter such unironic enjoyment of anything, and that sort of enthusiasm was present in spades at the party. This is the same thing that draws me back to fandom–whether through Nerdfighteria or AO3. It’s valuable to have spaces where folks can be unabashedly really into stuff without having to defend it.

Thanks to the people at the Artifice Club and Scoutmob for hosting and promoting one of the most interesting experiences I have had in my 9 years of Atlanta habitation.

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