How Matt Cohen, Richard Speight, Jr., Rob Benedict and Louden Swain Shine at Conventions
Creation Entertainment puts on many conventions throughout the year; usually the amount of cons is in the double digits, and are days-long events that include panels, karaoke, autographs, photo-ops, and the ‘Saturday Night Special’ concert.
After attending my first Supernatural convention at the beginning of this year in Orlando, I really began to get a grasp of how massive these events are and the work that goes into setting them up and keeping an audience entertained for days. Both before and after Orlando, I watched many videos and listened to many stories from friends, actors, and musicians we’ve interviewed about just how much Louden Swain (Rob Benedict, Billy Moran, Michael Borja, Stephen Norton), Richard Speight, Jr., and Matt Cohen really do at these conventions.
After attending the Supernatural convention in Jacksonville this past weekend, it was more evident than ever how much they actually do and are relied upon.
Rob Benedict and Richard Speight, Jr., are the hosts of every convention; they spend three (sometimes more) days entertaining the audience before the day begins, between panels, and once the day is over. The two of them have a “welcome” moment, that usually runs about 10-20 minutes long depending on the day, at the beginning of each day. These two completely improvise every welcome. You never quite know what you’re going to get, which makes it all the more exciting. What also might go unnoticed, is how every time Rob and Rich are out there, so is the rest of Louden Swain.
They perform all of the music throughout the weekend and will also get in on the improvisation. At Jacksonville, bassist Michael Borja was late since he had to catch a flight from work. At the welcome, Rich stepped in, and it created a fun dynamic as they talked about how much they missed Borja, and made jokes about Rich filling in for him. It really was a great way to get the day going, and the audience could not stop laughing and smiling. Louden Swain also performs at every single welcome and during all of the intermissions, and it’s fun to see what covers they’re going to come up with (we have to admit, hearing that they performed Christina Aguilera’s ‘Genie in a Bottle’ at a convention this year was one of my favorite things.)
They really do so much work to make sure to get the crowd pumped and ready for what’s ahead. Later on Friday nights, is karaoke – which after Jacksonville, will become solely hosted by Matt Cohen. At Jacksonville’s karaoke, it was the last night that Rich and Matt were going to be billed as karaoke co-hosts. Rich, as he explained, was stepping down as co-host (but would still make appearances from time to time at future cons) and Matt was taking the reigns as a solo host. During an emotional speech at the end of karaoke this past weekend, Rich talked about how much Matt really contributed to karaoke and to the cons in general. He talked about how the two of them created karaoke, and how it slowly built from a room with a couple people, to a couple dozen and into what it is right now – which is a massive party with fans and actors getting a truly unique experience.
The energy from karaoke was one I’ve never experienced before and it was truly special. I took a moment to look around the room, and not one person was having an awful time. Everyone was singing at the top of their lungs (even to songs they didn’t know) dancing, and interacting with other fans and the cast who were in attendance-Rich, Matt, Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Adam Fergus, David Haydn-Jones and Emily Swallow. I also noticed that everyone was getting along, making friends with the people next to them, cheering if the person next to them got their name called, and truly feeling like a family. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
Saturdays at conventions are always fun. It’s a packed day and Rob, Rich and Louden Swain are always there to kick it off. There’s a vendors jam, in which Louden Swain comes out a few minutes before their scheduled autograph time and perform usually a two or three song acoustic set, which is always a highlight. It’s a really intimate and up-close performance, which makes it uniquely special. Everyone around the room was singing, smiling, and the audience also had a great kazoo solo during their performance of ‘Medicated’. It’s one of the things that many fans look forward to.
There’s also an incredible panel with Rob, Rich and Matt (lovingly dubbed R2M), where the three of them answer questions, joke around with each other, and with the audience. It’s always fun to see what they come up with, especially when Rich gets asked a question and goes, “Bobbo?”, putting Rob on the spot to answer. These three have such a great dynamic, so it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most fun panels at the con.
Matt is usually only there Friday night and Saturday of the con, but the smiles and the stories we hear about how humble, how kind, and how much fun he is really shows how much he resonates with everyone. He’s truly someone that people love to see at the conventions.
Saturday also brings us the Saturday Night Special. This is something that you can really feel how much love goes into making sure it’s perfect; something that the band is incredibly proud of and they should be. It’s usually an hour and a half long concert full of fantastic music including covers, and original Louden Swain tunes. One of the things you often hear most is about how Louden Swain are mentors to other people; they give them the confidence to step outside of their normal comfort zones and perform, and you can really see their growth. Rob, Billy, Mike and Stephen are skilled musicians, but remain humble and you can tell how much they truly love music and what they do.
The concert is unlike anything I’ve seen before; the preparations that go into it, how they switch out so many amazing performers including Ruth Connell, Matt Cohen, Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Jason Manns, Richard Speight, Jr., and occasionally Jensen Ackles, and how every performance feels fresh and new. There’s moments that have becoming defining in this concert, such as the energy in the room during Swain’s ‘Amazing’ as the audience knows this was about Rob’s stroke, the way the audience sings in harmony during Swain and Mann’s rendition of ‘Hallelujah’, enough to make Rob and Jason put their microphones down. It’s the way that the audience plans months in advance to make sure the entire ballroom is lit up during Swain’s ‘She Waits’ – a song that they know is deeply important to the band, and the way that the audience dances and sings along to every single song that is played. The concert is so beloved, and one that many people travel to see.
On Sundays, Rob and Rich once again welcome everyone. This past Sunday at Jacksonville was a highlight; everyone was wearing Christmas hats and Louden Swain broke out in a Christmas song, to which they did about a ten-minute ad-lib to the lyrics. Rich made his way from the stage, walking around the entire room while Rob and Swain looked on, Rob making up new lyrics about Rich as he was walking around. It’s the little things like this that make the conventions so much fun and so unique.
On Sunday nights is one of my absolute favorite panels; the Kings of Con panel. This is a panel with just Rich and Rob – and it’s so great to hear questions asked about their work, about directing, writing together, Kings of Con, and much more. It’s usually the last panel of the convention and such an amazing way to close out the con.
These men do so many things that often go unnoticed. There’s the bus tour, which Rob and Rich have done together or solo, in many cities where they take a group of people on a tour around each city, stopping at different tourist locations. There’s all the welcome bits, the panels, the intermissions, the karaoke, the concert, the many autograph sessions, photo-ops (Rob and Rich do 10 or more sessions every weekend!), meet and greets, acoustic jams, and more.
It goes without saying that these conventions are a combination of hard-work amassed by everyone: from all the work that Creation puts in, to all of the actors who show up every single day and work long days and nights. To Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, who are really just incredibly gracious and giving and a joy to watch at these conventions. To Misha Collins, who works so hard and is so kind, fun and just radiates sunshine. How many other shows have their cast show up and dedicate time to all of these events? The love that everyone shows the fans, and their interactions are really why these conventions are such a success.
When you see the progression over the years, the way the audience has gravitated towards all of these events, all the ways they show and appreciate them as people and musicians, it’s really something that’s almost hard to explain with words.