When you walk the floor at a comic and entertainment convention, the superstars aren’t the celebrities at the autograph booths. It’s the cosplayers making their rounds on the floor dressed as favorite fictional characters and posing for photographs to show off months of hard work and handcrafted artistry.
In other words, when cosplayers are in the area, no matter who you are, you’re bound to geek out — at least a little bit.
For many years, Milwaukee cosplayers (a portmanteau of “costumes” and “players”) had to make a trip outside the city to show off their outfits. Thanks to the 42 Lounge, Milwaukee’s self-proclaimed geek bar, local cosplayers have the chance to dress up, enjoy a few drinks and dance at Cosplay Rave 3.0.
“Because we’re gearing this towards geeks, you get a lot of that superstar cosplay crowd, kind of all in the same spot, but outside of a convention,” says Anthony Nilles, owner of 42 Lounge.
The event is in its third year, but expanding from the bar to Turner Hall due to its growth in popularity. The original Cosplay Rave in 2013 was effectively a “Halloween in the middle of July,” Nilles says, and a huge success. The follow-up in 2014 was bigger still, with a 90-minute wait to get in.
Cosplay Rave 3.0 is a bigger deal than your average costume party. Nilles says regular Halloween parties are “amateur nights.’ Cosplay events attract more dedicated fans.
“(For Halloween), everybody just buys their costume or just wears whatever they’ve got laying around,” Nilles says. “People who are more serious about the cosplay … really have some unique stuff. We had one person that dressed up as a psychedelic, Tron-version of a scout trooper from Star Wars. That was super cool.”
This year, with a larger venue, the party is going to be bigger than ever. When the doors open, costumed guests can come in and get acquainted with the space. As the drinks are poured and savored, a DJ will spin tunes and, of course, there’ll be a judged costume contest. New this year is the inclusion of special musical guest Freezepop, a synth-pop band featured in the video game Guitar Hero.
“When you start to get a little energy, it moves throughout the crowd very, very quickly,” Nilles says. “I’m hoping that even with the larger venue, we can capture that.”
Nilles says although they host many themed parties every year, Cosplay Rave is their most popular. “It’s really just a bunch of people that love what’s going on, love their costumes, and love the theme and are just having a good time being around each other,” he says.
Nilles and his customers aren’t offended by being labeled geeks. In fact, they embrace it. Cosplay Rave offers a chance for the city’s geeks to embrace such labeling and to be themselves — by being someone else.
In fact, Nilles says, there’s no better time than now to be a geek. “Not only because of prevailing culture and people getting more comfortable with being a geek, but also having venues like ourselves that are doing things out in public and not trying to hide it in somebody’s basement or behind closed doors,” Nilles says. “It’s like, ‘We’re geeks. We’re trying to do this thing.’ I think that’s really encouraging to a lot more people to let that geek flag fly.”
Cosplay Rave 3.0 will take place at 8 p.m. July 17 at 1040 N. Fourth St., Milwaukee. Admission is $24.50 and can be purchased at pabsttheater.org or 414-286-3663. Costumes are encouraged but not required.