PyrateCon/PyrateWeek After-Action Report

dsc_3990Unlike previous after-action reports, I don’t need to provide you with full details as to how PyrateCon and PyrateWeek went – you can read about them on my earlier posts from onsite. But, it does seem worthwhile to offer a few final thoughts. Both events have enjoyed (meaning suffered) their share of political BS – some of it perhaps justified, some of it perhaps less so. For me – and I imagine for most readers – none of it adds up to squat. All that matters to me as an attendee is whether these events are worth my time and money to attend. That’s not to say wronged parties shouldn’t seek justice, just that it’s not my concern to sort it all out.

Let’s start with PyrateCon. Perhaps the most drastic shift from previous years was its format. Year one, for all its faults, was a clear convention through and through – goodie bags for attendees, exclusive events (most notably a pre-screening of Pirates of the Great Salt Lake), quality VIPs (The Pirate Guys, ER Nelson, George Choundas, 2nd tier PotC actors, etc), and a wide assortment of pirate vendors in a semi-private setting created a truly unique – and wonderful – experience. Year two followed much in this same format, but year three – this year – was a stark departure. VIPs were essentially nonexistent (I consider this a mixed blessing, as they did add some interest, although I admit to worrying at how long our community would treat every PotC extra or Pirate Master contestant as a “VIP”), seminars were sparse and held little universal appeal, and the smaller (and cramped) assortment of vendors carried loads of great staple items but little that a seasoned pirate veteran wouldn’t have already seen a thousand times before. Basically, this was now a pirate street festival catering as much to the general public as to the pirates. Now bear in mind, this is an observation ratehr than a direct criticism. Although I miss the convention format, I’ll quickly concede that the street festival may well have more commercial merit, and therefore could be a necessity for PyrateCon to carry forward. But it does make one wonder just why it’s worth paying an admission fee to attend – and this, I’m happy to say, has already been addressed.

After PyrateCon 2008, many folks began to speculate that actually paying to “attend” PyrateCon was unnecessary, and that simply showing up in New Orleans dressed as a pirate was more than enough to enjoy the highlights. This year, I believe, many attendees tried exactly this, and were likely none the worse for it. While I applaud PyrateCon’s efforts to make their wristbands more desirable by working out countless drink and otherwise specials and discounts throughout the French Quarter, the simple fact remains that paying to attend PyrateCon didn’t really get you much. Thankfully, PyrateCon I believe has themselves accepted this fact, as they directly expressed to me a hope that next year’s event will be free, with no general admission charge whatsoever. This, I think, will do much to keep the pirate community’s interest and patronage.

l_e318c11a7fc048999ab131ee9d988ea0So what about PyrateWeek? Sadly, as I stated in my live event coverage, I was unable to attend nearly as much of PyrateWeek’s own activities as I’d hoped. The one party I did attend was great fun, and the vendors were few but of high quality. That said, the whole affair seemed just too far removed to add much value. I appreciate PyrateWeek’s interest in highlighting the fact that there is a New Orleans beyond the French Quarter, but when it’s already established that Bourbon Street is where the party will be I think it’s overly optimistic to expect droves of pirates to hop on a trolly a half dozen times to support a non-French Quarter event. Also, I just don’t think our subculture is yet big enough to fully support two separate events in such close proximity. So while I support PyrateWeek’s cause, I’m less enthusiastic about their event’s timing. Even if it didn’t directly overlap, hosting it within so much as a month of PyrateCon is forcing the long distance travelers to choose between the two, which I think is ultimately destructive. But ultimately I’m sure the PyrateWeek staff will do what they think best serves their event’s and its attendees’ interests, and I look forward to seeing how they choose to proceed.

All told, PyrateCon remains the imperfect king of the hill when it comes to a weekend of true pirate partying for the non-reenactor sort. No other event – to my knowledge – enjoys such a splendid mix of pirate debauchery and modern hotel and bar-hopping convenience. This remains PyrateCon’s greatest single strength, as you just haven’t lived until you’ve moshed to the Pirates Charles in a nightclub and then grabbed a nightcap or several at the Pirates Alley Cafe – no festival experience comes even close in my book.

condo23423One last thing before I finally shut up – I’d like to humbly thank my hosts for the week who put me up in their rental condo, conveniently located just on the quiet end of Bourbon Street (about three blocks past Laffitte’s Blacksmith Shop.) You can check it out for yourself at www.vrbo.com/167750, and I would highly recommend staying there next time you’re in New Orleans. It’s small, but classy and comfy – and the semi-private courtyard can’t be beat. Had I been in better health I’d hoped to have grilled out with some of my radio listeners – alas, maybe next year!

Comments (18)

  1. The Quartermaster

    Was still an ass load of fun, bilge. You may have been sick but you didn’t show it much. Thanx again for the helping hooks through the event. Yaaaaar, am I still hung over?

  2. Norrington

    Mr. Bilgemunky;

    Where might I find your previously reported articles on these events? I have attempted to attend Pyratecon the last two years and have failed….but there’s always hope for next year when I have the chance to bring all pirates in attendance under the heel of the East India Trading Company!

  3. Bilge (Post author)

    Just scroll down a bit on the main page. Or click the “PyrateCon” tag at the bottom of this page and they’re sure to pop right up 🙂

  4. Sir Black Fox

    Thank ye sir for the wonderful recap. Your unbiased opinions of events, music, and even magazines is widely regarded and of any reviews, I hold yours in highest regard accordingly.

  5. Iron Tom

    Bilge, if it were possible, like the founding fathers of our nation , I would nominate you for Pyrate President. Before I finally met you at PyrateCon I appreciated your refined taste for all things Pyratical and deftly steering me clear of some truly foul tasting rum. Now I call on all those who read this to also lead by example. Like the buccaneers of old, we are outcasts of every nation united in a common cause. WE ARE PYRATES DAMMIT! We dress up in clothes that are outdated by hundreds of years and say things like Argh and Avast! We are the scourge of the straight-laced authoritarian and source of the smile of the eight-year-old child when he exclaims “Look Mommy, A real-life pirate!”
    I don’t know how long this pirate craze will last. For me it began as a child in a darken cavern with a pirate skeleton moaning to me that “dead men tell no tales!” Irregardless, I will continue to be pyrate-centric no matter what, but what I like so much now, what I liked so much about PyrateCon and even the little Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival in Pensacola is the opportunity to hang out with other Pyrates. My daughters loved the Parade at PyrateCon, loved dressing up and taking pictures with all the other pyrates. I would hate to see it end. But really, can it continue? Is it just a fad or fashion that will be soon forgotten. Do people have the interest to keep it going year after year. Almost 40 years ago a three season TV series went off the air never to be heard from again, or so everyone thought. Several movies and tv spinoffs later Star Trek is about to go full circle because of it’s fans. It could be the same with us. Like one of those founding fathers I metioned earlier said, “We should all hang together, for if not we shall surely all hang separately!”
    Argh!

  6. Capt. John Swallow

    Glad to hear yer feelin’ better, Bilge…thanks for droppin’ in on some of our NOLA Pyrate Week events (and a nice photo of our parade there)…and the mention(s) herein.

    Being a locally organized and sponsored event – and as ye know, very prominently helping out, NOLA Pyrate Week is already moving forward with plans for next year.

    Mar. 26 – Apr. 4, 2010 will once again showcase the city of New Orleans and it’s Pyrates as well as all “Pyrates Of The New World”…we already have events booked with the Leukemia Regatta on Lake Pontchartrain (Pyrates commandeering a ship or two along the way) and at least TWO parades!

    Make sure yer healthy this time mate and we’ll all share a grog!

  7. pyrate seika

    “That said, the whole affair seemed just too far removed to add much value.”

    We had a wonderful event, raised lots of money and did what we do best throw PARTIES… as for not adding much VALUE, I guess that depends on what you consider VALUE.
    We certainly added value to the charities we worked with and the Lowernine who benefited from the volunteers who signed up. Comparing NOLA Pyrate Week to the CON is like comparing Apples to Oranges, there are no similarities outside of the Pyrate Theme. NOLA Pyrate Week is a not for profit event (currently awaiting 501c status) that benefits our city by running fund raising events over a 9 day period and offering an opportunity to volunteer with lesser known rebuilding projects in the city, along with showcasing the amazing hospitality this city is known for.

    For those who don’t realize it…New Orleans is a city of many neighborhoods and the Quarter is but one them.

    The idea behind NOLA Pyrate Week was to break away from the Quarter (events that took place were a mere 10 minutes on either side via streetcar or taxi) Truth be told most locals wouldn’t be caught dead on Bourbon Street. Our event is an opportunity for those from out of town to come together with our local Pyrates in some of their places and experience the REAL New Orleans.
    For the Pyrates that did make it out to the Lower Garden District … and those that made it to the Marigny and Bywater for the St. Roch Spectacle, the YO HO at The Hi Ho and other events have told us they they had a blast.
    Is it not in our best interest to explore and expand our horizons for those hidden treasures that offer VALUE to ones life?

    After all dressing up and getting sh!t faced on Bourbon Street is old news, we invented it.

    I think those who made the effort and fully participated in our event felt it was a great experience. and something different from other Pyrate Celebrations or gatherings.
    If we have succeeded in doing this then we have done what we set out to achieve with NOLA Pyrate Week. Showcasing our city, raising monies for charity and sharing the hospitality of it’s wonderful people.

    As New Orleanians we are happy to celebrate and share what New Orleans does best… throw parties, roll parades and contribute to general debauchery! You may consider us to be the Dark Ship here in the waters of Pyrate celebrations but we will grow and foster all sorts of new parties, parades and fund raising events over the next several years and for those willing to accept a new adventure offer something different in a city that is steeped in Pyrate history.

  8. Bilge (Post author)

    Seika – PyrateCon and PyrateWeek are hardly apples and oranges. Certainly Week has a more charity and locally driven efforts, but both feature pirate evening events, bands, vendors – even parades. So suggesting that the two can’t be compared would seem a little misguided.

    As to adding value, I speak from the perspective of an out-of-towner looking to attend a pirate event. Certainly there’s value for the charities, the businesses that benefited, and for those that chose to attend PyrateWeek instead of PyrateCon. But for anyone looking to hit pirate events in New Orleans over a long weekend, and who accept that PyrateCon is the established entity for this location at this time, PyrateWeek – even at only a ten minute trolly ride away – was just a bit too far removed from the default hub of the festivities to conveniently frequent.

    I’m pleased that PyrateCon and PyrateWeek aren’t scheduled to overlap again next year – I think this will better allow each event to distinguish itself independently of each other. However, I would still stress that by being within only a couple of weeks of each other, long distance pirates will still be forced to choose one or the other. But being as PyrateWeek prides itself on its local support, maybe that won’t be a problem.

  9. Hawk the QM

    Iron Tom,

    As long as there are pirates like us that just find it as old fashioned fun, the craze will always continue. As bilge said before, the Con isn’t the fun part, it’s all the crazy drunk pirates that get together to have fun. I don’t expect anyone to stop having fun any time soon.

    Yaaaaaar

  10. pyrate seika

    I hope people enjoy whatever event they decide to attend. Laissez lez bon temps roule!!!!

  11. Bilge (Post author)

    I don’t speak Frenchie enough to understand the second part of your last statement, but the first part rings true enough!

  12. pyrate seika

    Hehehe… Ce serait pas français Frenchie… it’s a well know phrase in New Orleans.. it means “Let the Good Times Roll!”

    Hope to see you again next year!!!

  13. Captain Sharkbyte

    Before I went ta NOLA Pyrate Week I looked at me options an’ it were that or tha Pirate Con. NOLA Pyrate Week appealed ta me cause it be a chance ta be a pirate fer ten days not just a weekend, it also appealed ta me cause it be about helpin’ those in need. All ta often I be goin’ ta festivals and faires an’ it be about tha same things, as fun as they be this was somethin’ different an’ I be likin’ that idea. An’ I be makin’ tha right choice fer me as I be havin’ had tha time o’ me life!

    I be arrivin’ in New Orleans not knowin’ a single person thar personally, only through online contacts. Not one of me crew could make tha journey, not even me girlfriend, who had just got a new job after bein’ laid off, so couldn’t get tha time away. After tha ten days I be spendin’ thar I be havin’ friends that be not only Pyrates but locals whats not be Pyrates but welcomed me with open arms. I met local artists, pub owners, New Oleaneans, and volunteer workers that I could go back tomorrow an’ be knowin’ I be welcomed by these fine people. I be havin’ fantastic new friends from Canada, California an’ elsewhere cross tha Pyrates domains.

    It bein’ tha first year, tha events didn’t always come off as planned errr expected but they all be fun. Tha first night thar was spossed ta be an event at the House O’ Blues but thar were a power failure in thar grid an’ it couldn’t happen as planned. The Cemetery tour ended up not havin’ a tour guide but we Pyrates be wanderin’ the Cemetery on arrr own an’ be havin’ a great time tagether. Tha camaraderie be just as good if not better than a guided tour, an some graveyard humor did result (see me pics).

    Other events be comin’ off even better than expected, such as tha parade through tha French Quarter startin’ at the R Bar (where else). The Paint with a Pyrate party outside the St Roch Tavern be followed by a Pirate gatherin’ that night for music by the Pyrates McKenna and the Pirates Charles. Jonathan led us on a haunted pub crawl, an’ despite a downpour that soaked us pretty good, it was a great tour. The rain went away and we continued tha tour an’ Jonathan be enjoyin’ us sa much he did na even charge us for tha tour. Tha musical an’ burlesque performances at the Hi Ho be as good as advertised. Tha paddlewheel trip be great, I only be wishin’ it had been durin’ tha day so’s I could be seein’ more but tha night be purty on tha Mississippi River.

    Tha most satisfyin’ part o’ all o’ this was helpin’ those in need, see me report on Bessie Montgomery fer an’ idea what I be talkin’ bout (it be followin’ as soon as I be gettin’ confirmation on me facts). I spent a mornin’ in tha communal living room o’ Lowernine.org listening to tha assignments bein’ given ta these selfless volunteers, helpin’ those in need as a result of Katrina. It made me feel good ta be a part of somethin’ that gave back ta a community that were givin’ me so much in return. We also be benifitin’ NOLA Rising, tha family of Detective Tommie Felix, WAIF NOLA etc.

    Plans be in tha works an’ thay be learnin’ from this years events, sa next year be even better an’ I plan ta be thar mates. I even be askin’ ta be involved in tha plannin’ fer next year cause I be knowin’ it be bigger an’ better than it be this year an’ I be lookin’ forrard ta seein’ me new friends agin’!

    Me special thanks go out ta these great people who befriended a lone pirate in a city what be new ta him. Pyrate Seika an’ Captain John Swallow fer takin’ me round an’ showin’ me places I not be seein’ otherwise. Ta Mardiclaw fer doin’ tha same. Ta Captain Michael an’ Jamaica Rose, Bart an’ Henry of No Quarter Given fer all their fierce kindness. Ta tha Pirates McKenna an’ both Amy’s fer their friendship an’ camaraderie. Ta Polly owner of the Avenue Pub, to the people of the St Roch Tavern, to J’anitas an’ Mothers fer great food an’ to many others who were so good to me, fergive me fer not namin’ ye all. I look forard ta seein’ ye all an’ many more next year if not afore then.
    Thankee all,
    Cap’n SharkByte of tha Pirates O’ Tha Black Diamond

  14. Iron Tom

    That is what I am talking about! Pyrates finding common ground. Being local, I plan to attend BOTH events next year. (My Wench is going to keel-haul me.) I just hope down the line we could all get on the same page to promote and support all Pyratical events and activities. YARRR!

  15. The Quartermaster

    Yaaar I’m with Iron Tom. I know they are separate events with completely different objectives but they just look like they belong together. Help out N.O. for an entire week and as a thank you to yerselves, you get tanked on bourbon street with everyone else. Yaaaar!

  16. pyrate seika

    For the record we organizers of NOLA Pyrate Week made an attempt this year to put forth the idea of cross promoting (nothing monetary… or infringing strictly as a joining of Pyratical fun in NOLA) to PyrateCon organizers, but they declined.

    We will continue on as planned and remain in the same time slot every year-last week of March first weekend in April and tie in with all the Easter fun in the city for 2010. Pyrates & Bunnies & Rum…OH MY!!!
    It will be loads of fun!!!!

  17. mardi claw

    when looking at times of the year, and looking at costs of hotels, we at pyrateweek went with an early nine days, during “spring”. spring lasts maybe,( if we’re lucky), about two weeks to three, depending on mother nature. Once new orleans hits french quarter fest, the cost of hotels jump, and by the time we get to jazz fest, they REALLY jump, and so do the temperatures outside. Keepin an early springtime date, and KEEPING it the same date, is in line with New Orleanians… (people refer to jazz fest, as first weekend, or second, or both?) That being said, keeping it early, will make a much better time of year for those who donate time and hard labor to rebuilding. I hardly see someone from the north, wanting to rebuild anything, when the temps outside are near 100, with humidity to boot. So we chose a springtime date. Keeping us well away from any confusions with french qtr fest or jazz fest. With cooler temps, pyrates are more comfortable with the layers of clothing worn…
    Being a new orleanian myself, and knowing that once I stepped into the REAL city, beyond the quarter, I knew I had found home. I oblige anyone who comes here to spend money, but I can tell you, that there are many neighborhoods in nola that have more BANG for the buck, and these neighborhoods are the ones who are struggling, and fighting to come back. The Quarter never flooded, and most of those business’s haven’t suffered nearly as much as the surrounding city that drives her. The best dime you can spend in the quarter, is the TIP you leave for the underpaid staff of any given bourbon street pub.
    Next years pyrateweek, given the non profit status we await, will have many surprizes, and will bring even more locals out of the woodwork. If you have experienced Mardi Gras, or Jazz Fest, you know that the potential for a week of pyracy is there, but in order to turn an entire city, into a pyrates dream week, you have to open up to new adventures… and an open mind.
    Being Lafittes stronghold, and being surrounded by swamps and bayous, is a beautiful thing in itself. Imagine a day re-living this lifestyle, and seeing with ones own eyes, what those men and women went through.
    I look forward to seeing this grow. with mardi gras pretty much paying the rent for everyone in the city for a year, and then st paddys day, and st josephs day, pyrateweek pulls in with a week off in between these huge holidays… we DO get tired of Parading constantly, believe it or not. AND its hard to follow parades of these magnitudes, and really impress anyone after mardi gras. The spirit of the parades is what locals see, and getting them involved, is what makes for a good parade. I can see down the line, MANY parades throughout the city, not just small ones in the quarter. Already, pyrateweek has two parades formed. TWO for the price of one, and many sub krewes from new orleans have now committed themselves to pyracy…
    Laissez les bon temps rouler, is our mantra… and with that, let the good pyrates roll with the local ones…

  18. Capt Red Eye

    Greetings All,
    First I want like to mention many thanks and to raise the tankers high to all me mates that help put the biggest and the only Worlds Pyrate event together, this year has proven that Pyratecon has taken a life of its own ! Second, Me lady Seka, Not knowing who ye be talk’n to about cross promoting with Pyratecon,but it not be me mate, ye might be talk’n in the wind ! Pyratecon has always cross promoted ! we do business with Where Ya at,Louisiana Road Food Festival and the largest website information in NOLA, New Orleans.com as well as NOLA .com all have sponsored Pyratecon as well as cross promoted ……..its good business ! or it be piracy ! Ye all know me number ! Third, this years parade was much larger then last years number, and will be featured on Travel Channel for ” Extreme Parties and Conventions” the film crew was there for 2 days ! so watch the site for the premier ! Pyratecon 2010 will be April 16th to 18th ! be much bigger with larger sponsors and So ye be warned to keep a weathered eye on site for updates in the near future !

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