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Ethnic/World > Wonder Twins

Ye olde twins of wonder

The Twinsies get all medieval on yer asses ...

Photo: D’Anne Witkowsk
Renaissance man: Mark Varelas of Wine and Alchemy, not Geddy Lee.
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Published 8/26/2009

Summer's coming to an end — and you know what that means: It's time to don some chain mail and a leather corset and party like it's 1599 at the Michigan Renaissance Festival in Holly (weekends and Labor Day through Oct. 3-4, michrenfest.com). The Wonder Twins walked into the woods as jaded women, immune to the mystical fantasy that is the annual fest. They left as proud wenches with garlands in their hair and a charred turkey drumstick in each hand. (Full disclosure: Only the first two words of that last sentence are true).

Laura: The Renaissance Festival is not anyplace I'd ever expect to be unless I was trying to humor someone I loved who earnestly wanted to go.

D'Anne: The thought of going to the Renaissance Festival always fills me with a sense of dread.

Laura: Me too. I realize there are people who look forward all year to wearing corsets and chain mail out in public while pretending to be part of some olden-times fantasyland for six weekends in a row. I, on the other hand, struggle every year with whether or not I should even dress up for Halloween.

D'Anne: Besides, I feel uncomfortable around men wearing purple velour tights and carrying broadswords.

Laura: Thankfully, there's a strict weapons policy at the fest.

D'Anne: Yes. So keep those swords sheathed, fellas!

Laura: Lest you be sent to the stocks for indecent exposure.

D'Anne: The bosom policy was just the opposite, though. You couldn't swing a club without hitting a rack.

Laura: So true. 

D'Anne: More cleavage than the Booby Trap!

Laura: You've never been to The Booby Trap.

D'Anne: A girl can dream.

Laura: Shame on you. Anyway, the people-watching alone at MRF is worth the price of admission. 

D'Anne: There are such elaborate costumes. It's hard to tell who works there and who drove in for the weekend from Toledo dressed like Queen Elizabeth.

Laura: Or wearing an exact replica of 16th century peasant garb.

D'Anne: Folks get really serious about this stuff. You can easily spot the poseurs, though, because they're all wearing Crocs on their feet.

Laura: It was awesome when the man at the roasted almond stand yelled, "Lovely skirts. Kilts come to your knees!" to the two teenage boys who'd fashioned their costumes out of old flannel shirts.

D'Anne: One thing I noticed was that there's no such thing as the middle class at MRF. Folks either want to be wenches and peasants or kings and queens.

Laura: Exactly. It's like, OK, this is play-pretend. You can be whomever you want ... and then you choose to be a whore. 

D'Anne: Although perhaps outnumbered by even wannabe medieval whores were all those musicians at the festival. 

Laura: Yeah, we saw some good bands! Olden times or present day, I'm always drawn to the live music.

D'Anne: Well, in 1599, there wasn't a lot of recorded music, so live was your only option.

Laura: The first band we came across was Circa Paleo, a lady fiddler with two dudes — a guitarist and a drummer.

D'Anne: And they were playing music from the film version of The Last of the Mohicans, which I instantly recognized.

Laura: Right. Because you're totally gay for Daniel Day-Lewis.

D'Anne: Untrue. It's just a really good soundtrack. I used to own it on cassette.

Laura: Well, while you were transfixed by the fiddler, I was perusing the nearby souvenir stand, complete with official Michigan Renaissance Festival sweatpants!

D'Anne: Which makes perfect sense, because after being gussied up in tights and a codpiece all day, you're going to want to unwind in something that allows your junk to breathe a little.

Laura: Gross! A little further up Queen's Walk, we caught some of Hob the Troll's act.

D'Anne: While it wasn't my cup of mead, people were just eating that shit up.

Laura: With his gnarly troll teeth and gruff voice, it was a little like watching a medieval Shane MacGowan.

D'Anne: Too bad he didn't play "Fairytale of New York." Although later, we did catch him playing Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."

Laura: With two tip jars — one that read "Hush Money" and one that read "Louder."

D'Anne: The musical highlight of the afternoon by far was Wine and Alchemy.

Laura: They were really good and had such a crazy and eclectic mix of instruments.

D'Anne: There was guitar, sitar, bouzouki, mandolin, even a hurdy-gurdy!

Laura: And the drummer had assorted hand drums and cymbals all mounted up like an olden times Neil Peart.

D'Anne: And while they didn't play any Rush, they did play a kick-ass cover of [Dick Dale's] "Misirlou," which Quentin Tarantino could totally use in a medieval remake of Pulp Fiction.

Laura: At this point, I was starting to get hungry and wanting to sample some of the "extraordinary cuisine that's fit for a king or a queen" that the program promised.

D'Anne: Or, in your case, cuisine fit for a peasant child, as you had me buy you smiley fries.

Laura: Well, they were so cute, the way they smiled at you.

D'Anne: At least you didn't want a Scotch egg, which is second only to the turducken in unnecessary food combinations.

Laura: Indeed. A deep-fried egg wrapped in sausage? That's exactly why the website "This is Why You're Fat" was created. If the Ren Fest food court is truly indicative of medieval diet, no wonder life expectancy was so low.

D'Anne: Well, that and accidents. Remember what the Master of Ceremonies said before the joust? She said, "Children, if you are still leaning against our rails, it is because your parents do not love you and are using you as a shield."

Laura: Well, the whole children-as-shield thing did at least evolve over time into children-as-hard-laborers instead.

D'Anne: Yes. People adapt over time to meet their generation's needs.

Laura: Exactly. I'm just a little disappointed that we didn't go during a weekend that had the arm-wrestling championship or the bagpipe blowout.

D'Anne: You could always go back. By yourself, I mean.

Laura: Are you telling me you have no desire to see a battle of the bagpipe bands or a large man possibly dislocate his shoulder while holding hands very hard with another man?

D'Anne: Both sound potentially messy. And loud.

Laura: True. I once saw a man dislocate another man's shoulder while arm wrestling on a reality TV show and I almost threw up.

D'Anne: Why watch it on TV when you can see it for real in between a peddler pushing fairy wings and a guy selling pickles from a cart?

Laura: That is exactly my point. While I don't know about the fairy wings, I think that rock 'n' roll shows would be smart to sell pickles too.

D'Anne: And smiley fries.

Laura: Definitely smiley fries.

D'Anne: As the saying goes, "Wenches, smiley fries and rock 'n' roll!"

D'Anne and Laura Witkowski are music critics for the Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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