The iconic five-day pop culture convention Dragon Con is coming to downtown Atlanta Labor Day weekend — Aug. 31 to Monday, Sept. 4 — with over 3,500 hours of comics, film, television, cosplaying, music, art and gaming activities for its expected 65,000 fans. While Dragon Con’s daytime offerings are family friendly and designed for all ages, the convention’s nightlife routine takes a more 21-and-over approach.
From Monday’s “The Late Night Puppet Slam” at the Westin Peachtree Ballroom to Saturday’s “Georgia Philharmonic Orchestra Presents” at the Hyatt Regency Centennial Ballroom, Dragon Con 2023′s nightlife events are each unique offerings in their own right. Burlesque dancing, cosplaying, modeling triple threat May Hemmer will host “Dragon Con’s Pin-Ups by the Pool Party” on Friday — a poolside pin-up competition at the Courtland Grand Hotel.
Guests can enjoy food and drinks while getting an after-hours view of aquarium galleries at “Dragon Con Night at Georgia Aquarium” on Saturday. On Sunday, May Hemmer’s “Dragon Con Burlesque: A Glamour Geek Revue” production will take place in the Courtland Grand Hotel’s Grand Ballroom.
While Dragon Con’s many nightlife events are all showstoppers in their own right, it’s the convention’s nightlife music offerings that set it apart from every other convention in the country.
From the “circus punk” vaudeville-inspired musical offerings of Bella’s Bartok to the video game-themed classical group Triforce Quartet, the musical offerings of Dragon Con 2023 are a diverse and creative bunch. Locally, Carrollton’s Mahaley’s Grave, Cornelia’s Taj Motel Trio, Athens’ VisionVideo and the popular Atlanta Swing Orchestra will also be performing this year.
Playing Sunday Night in the Hyatt Regency Ballroom, Rogue of the perennial Dragon Con performers The Crüxshadows spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to break down the uniquely festival-like Dragon Con musical experience.
What kind of band is The Crüxshadows?
Often described as goth, rock and dark wave, the truth about The Crüxshadows’ music is somewhere in between. Offering lyrical storytelling steeped in mythology, the band’s music focuses on spreading a positive message — best incapsulated by The Crüxshadows motto “Live, love, be, believe.”
“My intention with Crüxshadows has been, from the very beginning, to make a difference in people’s lives,” founding band member and songwriter Rogue told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I made Crüxshadows to be the band that I wanted to hear when I was dealing with various issues, at various points in my life. I wanted Crüxshadows to be what so many other bands have been for me. I want to effectively give something to people’s lives, as much as I can through music.”
Bringing new music to Dragon Con 2023
The Crüxshadows released two new singles, the moody and rhythmic “Kingdom of the Moon” and the dance-worthy and catchy “Tomorrow Girl,” on Friday, Aug. 25. As a special treat to their loyal Dragon Con fanbase, the band will be playing the tracks during their set at Atlanta’s convention this Labor Day weekend. The convention is often a place for bands to announce or release new projects, adding to the festival-like experience for music lovers.
“The first one, ‘Kingdom of the Moon,’ in a lot of ways is everything you expect from a Crüxshadows song,” the Bowie-esque songwriter said. “I have been kind of experimenting with going in little different directions here and there. In terms of the brand new songs, ‘Tomorrow Girl’ and ‘Kingdom of the Moon’ are very much everything you’d expect from a Crüxshadows song. It’s danceable. It’s fairly dark, and it borrows from mythology.”
The two new tracks are not the only treats in store for Dragon Cons’ The Crüxshadows fans, however. Rogue has also been working on a book.
“It originally came out of the mythology of Crüxshadows, and we built it into this world that we called ‘After All,’ which strangely enough is also the name of a Crüxshadows song,” he said. “This year, at Dragon Con, we will be releasing a piece of the novel in an illustrated format. (It is) along the lines of a graphic novel, but not exactly.”
“So we have this thing called ‘After All: Into the Void’ which is going to be available at Dragon Con,” he later added. “I’m really excited about that, to get a lot of the fans of Crüxshadows interested in what’s going on there — and obviously the new singles. There’s a lot going on for me at Dragon Con this year.”
Fans can download the new tracks and donate to the band at cruxshadows.org.
What makes performing at Dragon Con so special?
The Crüxshadows have been performing at Dragon Con since the late 90s, a feat few other performers can match. According to Rogue, it’s a unique place to play.
“I love Dragon Con, and I love the people at Dragon Con,” he said. “I love that Dragon Con is kind of the perfect storm of a convention. It brings together so many fans. It happens in just the right place, and it’s just the right people running it. At the end of the day, there are very few places that are like Dragon Con. I think that’s also the reason that it’s been such a runaway success. The truth is that it’s really powered by its fans and its supporters, and you look at some of the competing conventions with Dragon Con and they really are more what I call a corporate entity.
“I think the thing is that Dragon Con is special, and you’ve got to support that kind of thing while it’s there — while it’s available. Because when it’s over, it’ll be one of those things like ‘remember when,’ like you’re talking about Woodstock or something.”
For those that haven’t experienced Dragon Con’s nightlife music offerings, the longtime performer suggested giving it a shot.
“It’ll be the classic thing that happens once upon a time,” Rogue said. “And so the people that are not familiar with Dragon Con, I would say go to it now and experience it. It’ll be something that you remember, probably 20, 30, 40 years down the line.”
Dragon Con is secretly a music festival?
With Dragon Con’s bounty of one-of-a-kind musical guests performing each year, Dragon Con’s nightlife has days worth of performances for music junkies to enjoy — certainly enough to compete with some smaller festivals.
“Other conventions are not so built on music as Dragon Con is,” Rogue said. “There is nightlife to other conventions for sure, but Dragon Con makes it a part of the convention. In some regards, it’s really a music festival contained within the broader spectrum of a convention.
“There’s dancing. There’s raves. There are musical artists from so many different genres. It’s a lot like its own music festival held inside hotels.”
The convention’s musical performances take place in each of the five hotels’ grand ballrooms, ensuring a spectacularly unique performance is within earshot for guests spanning across downtown Atlanta.
A full breakdown of Dragon Con 2023′s nightlife music offerings can be found below
Filk: The Blibbering Humdingers, The Brobdingnagian Bards, The Faithful Sidekicks, Harlequin’s Shadow, Hawthorn & Holly, Tom Smith, Foot Pound Force and The Gekkos, Mikey Mason
House Bands: Nathaniel Johnstone, Land Loch’d, Dust Bowl Faeries, Guitarmy of One, Beth Patterson and Valentine Wolfe
Main Stage Bands:
Thursday Night – Hyatt Regency Ballroom:
11 p.m. – Wasted Wine
12:30 p.m. – Wakefire
Friday Night – Hyatt Regency Ballroom:
8:30 p.m. – Atlanta Swing Orchestra
12 midnight – Mayhayley’s Grave
1:30 a.m. – Vision Video
Friday Night – Marriott Atrium Ballroom
12 midnight – Triforce Quartet
1:30 a.m. – Steel Samurai
Saturday Night – Hyatt Regency Ballroom
11 p.m. – Voltaire
12:30 p.m. – Lips Down on Dixie/Rocky Horror Picture Show
Saturday Night – Marriott Atrium Ballroom
12 midnight – Cybertronic Spree
1:30 a.m. – MC Lars
Sunday Night – Hyatt Regency Ballroom
12 midnight – Frenchy & The Punk
1:30 a.m. – The Crüxshadows
Sunday Night – Marriott Atrium Ballroom
12 midnight – Bella’s Bartok
1:30 a.m. – The Taj Motel Trio