Elgin’s ‘Nightmare’ returns with zombies — and steampunks
By Mike Danahey email@example.com @DanaheyECN on Twitter October 7, 2013 10:22PM
The band V is for Villains and lead singer “The Agitator” (Nicholas Santiago) will be playing their steampunk-influenced music at Elgin’s Nightmare on Chicago Street Oct. 26. | Submitted
A successful ‘Nightmare’
ELGIN — The city’s annual Nightmare on Chicago Street celebration has been zombie-centric thus far.
As for adding steampunk to the mire, Barb Keselica, Elgin’s special events and community engagement coordinator, said, “Every year we want to build upon the success of the year before by enhancing the stuff that worked and tweaking the stuff that didn’t.”
The first incarnation of the event drew about 4,000 fun seekers in 2011 and last year about 6,500 people came downtown for the Nightmare.
This year’s budget is $85,000 — or $5,000 more than 2012 to pay for a second stage and some additional marketing. The event also has close to 20 businesses sponsoring it.
Last year, “between sponsors, vendors, merchandise sales, and tickets we brought in $60,000. This does not include the sales tax from the businesses or any additional revenue they brought in that night. So, overall, the city’s investment was $20,000,” Keselica said.
As elaborate as the event is, Keselica said it “simply could not be put on without the help from the community. We have a committee of 10 that has dedicated a full year into making this year’s Nightmare a huge success.”
Since May those involved have been meeting on Sundays for build days to create new props. More frequent building sessions are taking place this month to make sure all the items are finished in time for the event. Volunteers also have been making costumes out of donated clothing, while others have been creating videos to put up on YouTube to promote the Nightmare.
“Over the past two years the Nightmare on Chicago Street Committee — aka Zombie Defense Initiative — has done a spectacular job in building a foundation. Internally we refer to this foundation as Elgin’s Great America. In our Elgin Great America we are creating a new ‘ride’ with steampunk,” Keselica said.
Things planned for the steampunk area of the festival include be a stage, a hookah lounge, steampunk vendors, and an absinthe lounge.
“Our overall goal is to grow the event over the next few years so that it would require eventually shutting down the entire downtown area,” Keselica said. “As we take over real-estate, we will develop new rides. That way, if zombies or steampunks are not your cup of tea, we find something that is, because we know everyone has a nightmare out there. Our advice — continue to dream them so we can build them.”
“We are always in need for living bodies, especially in the next few weeks to help with poster and postcard distribution, set-up, event security, and take-down,” she said.
If interested in helping, contact Keselica at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nightmare on Chicago Street runs from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. Oct. 26 in downtown Elgin, with admission of $7 if paid online and $10 at the gate. For more information, visit www.nightmareonchicagostreet.com.
Updated: November 9, 2013 6:03AM
ELGIN — Nightmare on Chicago Street — Elgin’s biggest city-sponsored event — will be back downtown on Saturday, Oct. 26 with its array of zombie-related activities to entertain a crowd organizers think could be as many as 8,000 Halloween season revelers.
And among the living dead this time will be a smattering of steampunks.
If you’re wondering what the heck a steampunk is, well, think folks dressed up as characters from an H.G. Wells or Jules Verne sci-fi novel, where the future was decidedly steam-powered; or from the old TV show, “The Wild, Wild, West;” the 1999 Johnny Depp version of “Sleepy Hollow;” and from this century, the cult TV sci-fi drama “Firefly” and the Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey, Jr., with their hyperkinetic sort-of Victorian era plots and characters donning shades of gray and brown, with gloves, masks, leather, lace, and a corset or two thrown in for good measure.
Steampunk also is a niche of the post-modern past time, costume play, or cosplay as adherents call it. That’s where people get together — frequently in a rented hotel ballroom, a wooded area, or a park — to dress up and take on personas from whatever imagined universe or era they enjoy, from ancient Rome to the Renaissance to “Lord of the Rings,” “Star Wars,” or “Star Trek” — sometimes all in the same place.
In the case of steampunk, it’s entered the popular culture enough to become the backdrop for an episode of the ABC TV detective show “Castle” and was sent up on AMC’s “Portlandia,” a show which pokes gentle fun at all things quirky about Portland, Ore.
Back here in Elgin, the band V is for Villains will offer its take on steampunk, playing industrial-strength electronic music with a stylish twist at Nightmare on Chicago Street.
“I love the Victorian style and its eloquence. At the same time, it can be a dark look,” V is for Villains lead singer Nicholas Santiago — aka The Agitator — said.
Santiago said he began noticing more and more “little pieces here and there” of steampunk out and about two years ago while in an industrial band and looking to start another project. Some of what he saw were events put on by Steampunk Chicago, whose website describes as, “founded in 2008 by The Lord Baron JCR Vourteque IV and Rev. Cpt. Samuel Flint, the RL&GEMS is a collective of artists, thinkers, musicians, performers and just en generale strange folk with a Steampunk bent.”
Sam Perkins-Harbin — aka Rev. Capt. Flint — maintains the aforementioned site, which he said gets about 1,600 hits a month.
“It’s aesthetic had been something I was more or less always interested in — film, art, prop making. I got together with friends and realized we all had similar interests in dress, antiques and the science fiction. Since then, I’ve furthered my character building, prop making, art and fashion and turned the gears up to eleven,” Perkins-Harbin said.
According to Perkins-Harbin, “In the last few years steampunk has absolutely exploded into events, conventions, outings, and has somewhat boiled over into the mainstream. It’s not uncommon to find the sci-fi/neo-Victorian visuals and themes of steampunk influencing fashion from Prada to mass produced Halloween costumes to the Sherlock Holmes movies.”
He noted that a musical genre called electro-swing “shares roots in the big band era and has electronic beats mixed into it from today — a perfect complement to the anachronistic nature of steampunk. There are even bands, rappers and punks that are genuinely steampunk.”
Feeling that “you can only go with the goth look for so long,” Santiago worked to incorporate elements of steampunk into the new, V is for Villains project. Each member has a persona and a color tied to his or her character. There’s a comic book on the band’s website, and the band’s seamstress is in the process of starting her own steampunk clothing business.
“There is a costume appeal about this. It’s fun to run around the city with a dual identity, to wear a mask and a hat and get crazy,” said Santiago, who lives in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood.
“Being yourself as a performer is relative. Nobody really gets on stage and says ‘I am me.’ It’s playing to what the audience expects,” Santiago said. Adopting a persona is more liberating for a performer, according to Santiago, and wearing a mask allows him to be a spectator as well as a music-maker.
The band has played comic book, fantasy, cosplay, anime and steampunk events and conventions including a midnight set at the Steampunk World’s Fair in New Jersey in May 2012. Santiago said about 8,000 people attended that fair and the band went over well.
“Most steampunk people are pretty relaxed and accepting,” Santiago said.
Locally, Sin Van V of Huntley said, “I love steampunk. I choreographed a dance piece influenced by steampunk a couple years ago. I also know of a team that just flew in the National Red Bull Flugtag a few weeks ago that did the whole steampunk theme.”
That five-man crew, led by Jeff Smith of Crystal Lake, launched its self-made, human-powered flying machine that it described as “part Prohibition, part steampunk” off a pier into Lake Michigan on Sept. 21.
“We were looking for something a bit out there so we would stand out and be chosen to compete so we went retro and tied it to Chicago’s past,” Smith said.
Smith carved steampunk-inspired pumpkins last Halloween. And showing how steampunk is popping up in mainstream places, Smith noted that a steampunk styled giant mechanical flying pig that three years ago was an entry in an event called Art Prize — held in Grand Rapids, Mich.