Steampunks Gear Up for Milwaukee Ball
is about being crafty and creating your own character persona and costume,”
Marsh says. “The scene has a large variety of crafters and artists, so it’s an
outlet where like-minded weirdos can meet each other.”
says an influence on his style is mad-scientist prototype Nikola Tesla. Other
steampunk favorites include Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Mark Twain and Mary
Shelley. The aesthetic has appealed to a cross-section of artists and musicians
who have already discovered the punk, goth, industrial and gamer scenes.
Steampunks design home decoration and furniture to match their clothing, and
the subculture has spawned steampunk bands.
of the most well known of these is Dr. Steel, who performs in a lab coat, black
PVC gloves and welding goggles. His sound has been described as “industrial
hip-hop opera.” Other bands include the Unextraordinary Gentlemen, who play in
character as 19th-century time travelers, and Vernian Process, who have started
their own steampunk-themed record label, Gilded Age Records. All three of those
acts are from California, and the scene in
general is largely active on the West Coast, with Southern California and Seattle being steam-powered
hot spots. There has been some activity on the East Coast as well—a major
conference called SalonCon ran for three years in New Jersey.
Midwest entries, though, tend to be few and
far between. There was an open invitation for steampunks to meet up for a “Time
Traveler’s Day” at the Bristol Renaissance Faire on Aug. 15, and last year the
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre hosted a “Steampunk Night” for their production of Around the World in 80 Days.
those local meet-ups are rare examples. Marsh is hoping to give steampunks a
chance to show off their unique fashion flair at more events.
why I set the show up,” he says, “because it hasn’t really been done here yet.”
Marsh is a member of the Dead Man’s Carnival, a sideshow that combines circus,
punk and vaudeville-style performance. The Carnival has gone steampunk for the
ball and invited a variety of guest performers.
main music act will be Water Street Bridge,
a band with Americana,
Balkan and Celtic influences. The four-piece band, named after their favorite
outdoor practice spot, uses a wide variety of instrumentation, including
guitar, accordion, mandolin, fiddle, whistle and percussion. The band’s latest
album is titled Oh Death and they
have supported it by playing at venues like Gen Con and various Renaissance
fairs, both places that steampunks also like hanging out.
addition, there will be an appearance by the Absinthe Minded Professors, who do
a performance of steampunk storytelling with violin accompaniment, and an
electric medicine man show, a vaudeville act of object manipulation and aerial
a showing of steampunk technology, Marsh says another highlight will be a
“13-foot time machine” that “travels into the future at the present speed of
time.” In an attempt to get people to show off their spirit for the event, the
price of admission will be reduced for those who show up in steampunk-style
The Steampunk Victorian Ball takes place Aug. 26 at Hyde Bar. Admission is $13, $10 if dressed in steampunk attire.