Report on ConBravo!

ConBravo!’s name does not immediately make clear what the convention’s focus is, what niche it tries to appeal to. The con’s promotional material markets it as an all-purpose convention for things colloquially regarded as ‘nerdy’. But, as last year’s convention proved, there is one unique flavour that brings hordes of people out to the Burlingtron Hotel and Conference Centre: the self-made celebrities of the YouTube generation. With that success in mind, the third annual ConBravo!, taking place July 27th to 29th, took all the fun of last year’s event and doubled it.

The bill was topped by James Rolfe, more frequently known as the Angry Videogame Nerd, whose claim to fame is a series of videos examining classic electronic entertainment with sensationalized rage. Alongside him was a returning guest, That Guy With Glasses himself: Doug Walker. Known on his most popular online show as the Nostalgia Critic, Doug who takes the media of yesterday and evaluates it without the rose-tinted perspective of memory. Supplementing these online superstars were characters like Linkara, Spoony, and (crossdressing?) Birdman Dodd. ConBravo! is Canada’s best chance to get to meet the people behind the personas they act out on the internet.

While TFcon can make claim to operating especially smoothly as a convention, ConBravo! had a few last minute crises. Nostalgia Critic and his Channel Awesome sidekicks reportedly had some major car trouble while coming over the bridge into Canada. Although, that was a minor issue compared to the Angry Videogame Nerd’s flight being cancelled. Nonetheless, with determination and creativity both guests managed to get to the convention by Saturday and fulfill all their special guest duties. Angry Videogame Nerd’s autograph session was popular enough that his Q&A panel was cancelled to spend more time meeting fans in a grueling marathon of signatures, photos, and affection. Thankfully, neither of the main guests spent the whole convention in-character and were actually very pleasant during their interactions.

While many conventions, like last month’s Atomic Lollipop, have little to do for those who aren’t into their specific niche (in Atomic Lollipo’s case, the Anime Raver lifestyle), ConBravo! hosted a diverse set of panels with lots of alternative programming. There was an AMC contest, a bad fanfic contest, and more or less something for everybody. Like at many other conventions, time could also be killed looking at Pony Prints in the artists alley or hunting hard to find Super Nintendo games in the Dealer’s Room. If none of that entertained, then outside one would find live-action roleplaying and similar sports like Quidditch. Once the panels and dealer’s room have sufficiently amused attendees, you can still meet a plethora of cosplayers.

   

  

Like at the anime conventions which were a model for ConBravo!, there are plentiful cosplayers. These included multiple Dr. Holocausts, an Autobus Prime who managed to make this his second convention of the weekend after putting in some face time at TFcon, and one lady dressed up as the convention’s mascot, Connie Bravo.

Saturday night after the sun had set, DJ Janos did his magic and anchored the most excellent convention dance party since Con-G. At ConBravo!, his set had everything except a pyramid stage, and the playlist was custom built to cater more to the gamer crowd. Soon a circle was formed and individuals took turns in the spotlight. The champion dancer had to have been Kenny McCoy and his dance-kata, refined at The Kaze Hatsu Dojo. Ten minutes short of the event’s planned end, the electricity vanished and the music stopped, so everybody gave the DJ big applause. Then there was a bit more dancing thanks to Louis Frost’s magical boom box.

Despite huge energy and excitement all over the convention, the general atmosphere was still a mix of intimate and casual. Crowds were guided instead of herded like the masses at Anime North, everybody had time for conversation, and it felt like a convention that’s the product of passion rather than something purely profit-driven.

(Left: DJ Janos, Linkara, and two of the 404s Improv Comedy group)

The only gripe I had with the convention itself is that the gaming room was a bit weaker than last year, although the tabletop gaming room had lots of laughs coming from it. While I had feared the convention would fall victim to overcrowding and fire code violation, there was always room to breath thanks to extra panel rooms and the use of the whole atrium. However, the hotel’s restaurant still struggled to accommodate the crowds – they forgot to provide utensils with my dessert! Next year there are plans for a bigger venue, most likely in Hamilton.

As a reporter, I’m very biased, since ConBravo! is put on by all my friends. I feel like half the people on staff are people I regularly see at parties and half the volunteers are people I don’t see at parties nearly enough. But I’m proud of all my buddies for the successful culmination of a year of planning and excited for how, as internet culture develops, ConBravo! will grow in size and excitement. Fanexpo is in their cross-hairs.

August 23-26 Fanexpo begins it’s four day all-brand, all-genre marathon of a convention.
September 9th, the Burlinton Toy Con is a fun way to find some pieces of nostalgia and other collectibles.
For more events in the GTA, check our event calendar. If you know of any events we aren’t listing, please leave a comment below or e-mail us.

-Michael S Ryan. So you guys did read my TFcon article, right? If I’m going to do two significant conventions in one weekend you bet I’m going to tell everybody I meet.

Related posts:

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love HypnoToad
Burlington Toy Show: Spring 2012
Report on Fan Expo 2012
Calendar Building 2013