It's Saturday, February 3rd. Almost a week since I came home from Magifest. I'm sitting at my desk, feverishly writing this review. And I mean that both literally and figuratively because upon returning home I almost immediately got sick. It turns out that I picked up both the flu and COVID during my trip to Columbus, Ohio this year.
I don't recall a time in my life when I've been more sick, which I think can be twisted into a positive statement if you try hard enough. The illness has not skewed my opinion of anything from the convention though, my only hope is that all of the other attendees are healthy and it wasn't a super-spreader type of event.
Magifest was January 25th through the 28th, if you count the final "workshop" day. I flew home that day myself, so I only count it as part of the "travel". There were a bunch of performances and lectures, and the Gala show was really neat. Unfortunately, this year's Magifest left me wanting more... and it's not just because Joshua Jay was absent the entire conference (he was stuck in his room sick).
The conference was held at the Renaissance, Columbus Downtown hotel in Columbus, Ohio. This was my second year attending, but speaking with some long-time-attendees, it's been at this location for a long time. In my opinion, this convention has well-outgrown the venue because wow was it tight.
The dealer's room was shoulder-to-shoulder crowded. They recommend you have a backpack to put things, but wearing one was only inconvenient to everyone else around you. I did get to see a lot of tricks performed at the different tables, but if there were just more space, things would have been so much nicer.
The large common area, where everyone gathers in-between lectures, was standard. Tables were everywhere, and thankfully this year the water jugs were constantly full. They even had a food area open this year! I didn't buy food, and not just because the hot dogs were $8, but I just never needed any. I did, however, shell out $4 for a coffee rather than walk across the street to the Starbucks and pay the same. Convenience is a huge plus!
Downstairs, at the hotel, there's a bar where last year I noticed a lot of folks would hang out at night. This year, and maybe it was all about timing, but this year I felt like it was a lot emptier. In fact, I felt like the entire convention was missing a solid one to two hundred people. But, who knows.
Performances & Lectures
I took a lot of notes during this year's convention. I also sat through a couple of lectures and took zero notes. Here's a quick overview of what the lectures where; which ones do you think you would have taken notes in?
- Peter Samelson Lecture. The first lecture of the convention, we got to see a handful of effects from card magic to napkins being burnt!
- Michael Feldman Lecture. Feldman took us on a comedic journey of some killer card magic.
- Dan Harlan Show and Lecture. Yes, that Dan Harlan! During this late-night lecture, he showed off a handful of simple, but really amazing effects.
- Arthur Benjamin Lecture. A 10am lecture all about "mathemagic". As a math person myself, I'm embarrassed to say that I almost skipped this one. As a math person myself, I'm super happy to say that I didn't! Not that I can any-more-easily square 3 or 4 digit numbers, but still.
- Blaise Serra Lecture. Blaise discussed his "magic formula" for creating a magic show, and blew some minds with finger-numbing sleight of hand.
- Magifest Live. Hosted by Randy Shine, we had lectures and, well, lectures by Lance Rich, Jason Suran, Tim Hill, Rich Hatch, Harrison Greenbaum, and Randy Shine too!
- Juliana Chen Lecture. I had to miss this talk, so I'm not sure what was covered =[
- Allan Ackerman Lecture. Ackerman took us on a journey through card magic history while showing us some awesome tricks and giving decades-worth of credits in the process!
- Jason Suran Show. Jason performed, I'm assuming a full show, for us. During Magifest Live, he discussed how he performs the mentalism effects, so this was neat to see them "in action."
- Richard Turner: Dealt. The final performance of Dealt, live and in-person at Magifest! If you've seen it before, it's the same -- except, in person, it's pretty amazing!
- Richard Turner: Interview. Immediately following his Dealt performance, Turner answered a ton of questions.
- Bar Magic with Blaise Serra. Blaise performed in the commons area the routine he lectured on previously. Even when you know what's happening, those sleights are still impossible!
- John Guastaferro's One Degree. A morning of Music, Magic, and Motivation. If I can say I took away a single thing from this Magifest, it would be the concept of a "one degree change." John played his guitar, he performed magic, and showed that even though he's busy with both of these things, he still also has a full career that impacts the lives of so many others!
- Asi Wind and John Graham: Magic Between Friends. Asi and John performed a few routines, and in between the performances and explanations, they explained their methods of how they create their tricks.
- Jay Sankey Lecture. Jay Sankey took the stage with a ton of energy, though he said he wasn't feeling well, and crushed a handful of really great magic tricks, all while showing off his comedian chops!
- Gala Show. MC'd by Andi Gladwin himself, this year's Gala Show featured Juliana Chen, Trigg Watson, Alexander Kolikov, Montreal Trio, and Art Benjamin. It had digital magic, production and manipulation magic, juggling, comedy, and more math than you'd think possible, but oh so worth it!
- State of the Magic Union: Harrison Greenbaum brought out his raunchy slides and roasted the current magic world.
- Bar Magic with Blaise Serra. A repeat of the previous night.
I brought extra cash with me this year to buy some lecture notes. I remembered from last year that the line would move faster with cash, and not all of the folks took credit anyways. Sadly, there weren't a lot of "lecture notes" to be had.
Everyone sold something afterwards, don't get me wrong. But, not really of the lecture-note variety. Feldman, for example, was selling an old video of his -- on a USB stick. Asi Wind and John Graham were selling a new booklet. Arthur Benjamin was selling... DVDs.
I really wanted to get a book or set of notes from him too. I was super excited when he started talking about merch and then things kind of crashed when he said he has a set of DVDs for sale. People flocked to them too. I don't have a DVD player, and I'm confident I wouldn't watch them even if I did.
I bought things, don't get me wrong. But I dunno. Last year I came home with a stack of tiny booklets and spiral-bound notes. This year, well, it's mostly stuff from the dealer's room.
I had a lot of high expectations for Basecamp. I thought it was a great idea, one that I would've benefited from a lot. And I think I did, if I'm being honest. However, I have feedback.
The "basecamp" tables were hidden off to the back / side of the common area. When I was over there and it wasn't my turn to lead a table, there was a single table absolutely full of people, and people standing around it too. It was more packed than the tables out in the common area, so I would more frequently just go sit over there. It was a win-win though since it had the same effect that I was trying to get from the Basecamp table.
When it was my turn to lead a table, the area was actually pretty empty. There were 3 or 4 people "signed up" at once to lead, but it was usually just me or one other person. I always had one or two "basecampers" come hang out though, and I got in good 45-minute conversations with them all. We showed tricks, talked about random things, it was pretty great. I even traded contact info with some. Mission, accomplished!
However, in my opinion they should have dedicated one or two of the tables in the common area as "basecamp" tables. Why hide us off in the back room like you're embarrassed to be seen with us? The whole point of basecamp was to try to "break the ice" for people who don't know how to integrate with the conference. It's kind of difficult to do that if you remove them from the conference...
This is where I would typically write about the cool "free stuff", or swag, that was given out during the convention. Like last year's Magifest, they gave every attendee a deck of Magifest 2023 Playing Cards, so that was pretty cool.
Since last year was my first time attending, it set the bar of expectations going forward and when I walked up to the registration table with a big smile on my face and received just my name tag and flyer with the schedule on it, I'm not going to lie when I say I felt let down.
I didn't let it phase me too much, it's not like I needed more cards or anything. Just, expectations and all. However, I was still looking forward to an almost more-sure gift:
I signed up to be a volunteer and led a table all three days... and yet, no gift. Not even a "thank you to our Basecamp volunteers" during the Gala show. Ugh.
I'm used to tech conventions where you get tons of free little swag gifts. Everything from pencils to Yeti cups, beta hardware devices, free subscriptions to services, etc. Maybe the money's just too tight in the magic world and that's not possible?
When I started writing this, it was February 3rd and I was still rocking a 103°F fever. I tried getting back to it a few times throughout the week, but today -- February 10th -- is when I was finally capable of doing just that. I'm still not at 100%, not even 80% if I'm able to accurately gauge, but it's time to get back into the swing of things so I'm trying.
I have a decent pile of goodies that I picked up at Magifest this year. I came home with 4 decks of "Gold Standards" - one of which cost me $20 at Richard Turner's table... the others were $7 each at Vanishing Inc's booth. I bought a few books, including All In and The Nth Degree, and I even picked up a non-card trick: Four Nightmares by Tenyo! I saw it performed in the dealer's room and just had to buy it. And then, John Guastaferro performed a version of it during his lecture and I just knew that I made the right decision! The only problem is, I can't understand the instructions sooooo, yeah.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this page, this year's Magifest left me wanting more. I stand by that statement, but I can't exactly explain it. Well, I can, but each time I try, it comes out more as a complaint and that's not my goal. If I figure out a good way to provide the right feedback without accidentally offending anyone (I don't mind if I on-purpose offend them), I will share it. And if you're interested in hearing me ramble about it -- which will likely offend someone -- reach out and let's chat! =P