My review for Penguin Magic’s MAXX convention
In 2015 penguin magic introduced the penguin
live expo. A 1 day event (more of a dealer hall) with mini workshops and pro tip sessions. It was a
chance to see many of your favorite creators.
In 2018 they Introduced MAXX. A 2 day mini
convention that’s up close and personal with your favorite people. They opened with a show featuring
the best performers. Dan Harlan, chad long, Michael Weber, losander, and more. There were many
technical difficulties with lights, sound, and video, but overall, it was awesome to see them
perform in person. They had a few full lectures, and a few pro tip sessions. The pro tip sessions
felt more like dealer demos than actual tip sessions.
On day 2 they opened the dealer
hall and it was a bit crowded and cramped. You had to wait several minutes to get to the front to
see anything. I think In the future they should have a bigger space and be more spread out.
The full lectures were great.. chad long sure seemed to live up to his name. He defiantly went
on a bit too long, and it didn’t leave much time Between events to go eat.
The final event
was the jam session hosted by Daniel Garcia. It stared off with a q&a and kicked off with multiple
tables in the back for the pros to come and jam.
Some of the best parts, as with every
convention, is the jam sessions that just naturally happen. You meet some of the greatest people.
My favorite part was the access to the creators. Nicholas Lawrence was by far the easiest
person to talk to. He is super friendly and loves the art.
The 2 negatives I can give
would be that on the future the pro tip sessions be less dealer demo, and more real world tips.
And finally. The “goodie bag” with $60 of value. My fears were confirmed when I got my bag.
There was an x deck, a marked deck, penguin sampler, Tarbell sampler, penguin magazine and a $10
Most of us are subscribed to penguin live and Tarbell, we order more than $50 a
month so we get the magazine anyway. So really all we got was a green x deck, marked deck, and a $10
voucher. Not bad, I just would like them to give things that most people want. I don’t think
Many people want Tarbell or penguin sampler. And I guarantee you we already have 10 of the
Overall I would rate the experience 8/10. It’s a great way to get up close with
the stars of magic and show them things you have been working on. Defiantly consider going to one if
you have the chance.
10 of 10 magicians found this helpful.
Wow. What a jump Penguin made from last year’s “Penguin Expo’s” to this year’s “Maxx East!”
Admittedly there was some sticker shock, as I think last year’s early bird price was $19.99 and this
year’s was $99.99. So the mega question is “Was it worth it?” And the Answer is “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
The biggest difference between the two formats was that before it was essentially a dealer fair with
a headliner (Mark Wilson at the one I attended,) and several shorter seminars with a little teaching
and a lot of selling.
But this year, there were about a half-dozen headliners and a TON of
teaching. I filled up five single-spaced notebook pages with comments. It opened with the “Gala
Show,” which I would have easily paid $35 for just on its own. For somebody who follows magic
closely, it was a special treat to see so many top-tier magicians perform their signature effects,
such as Lousander’s “Levitating Table,” Diamond Jim’s Tyler’s “Diamond Jack” routine, Dan Harlan’s
“Card In Glass” routine with a cheese sandwich, and Michael Kamiskas’ “Cups and Balls.” (The latter
effect is one that everybody does, and hardly anybody does well.) I’d put Kamiskas’ routine up
against any I’ve seen before, and that includes Gazzo’s busking routine, and Penn & Teller’s clear
While the classes included a ton of teaching, they didn’t diminish from the
dealer’s room. Most of the dealers had show specials, and many had products that weren’t yet
available online. I especially enjoyed chatting with Chad Long and John Lovick/Handsome Jack.
You could tell that Penguin really paid attention to the comments from last year’s expos and
made some distinct improvements. For one, the lecture hall had much better sound, big screen
projection and most importantly, was separated from the noise and hubbub of the dealer’s room. The
higher price tag and longer, more detailed format, cut the crowd down to a manageable size, which
was great. While I enjoyed last year, the crowds made it tough to see the dealer demos, seating for
the speakers was limited, and there were too many people and novice questions to have an effective
back and forth dialog between the teachers and the audience.
You’ve likely heard the
cliché’, “If you learn one thing you’ll use from a class, product or book, it will be worth it.”
Well in the case of Penguin’s Maxx East, that adage proved itself many times over. I learned a lot
more than just one thing, and much of that will be going into my performances immediately!
4 of 4 magicians found this helpful.
I cannot say enough about the quality of this event. The lectures were not only extremly
entertaining but each presenter provided some great, really, really useable stuff that will
definetly make its way into my routines and make them better. And I can’t tell you how much fun I
had talking with Daniel Garcia who couldn’t have been friendlier and was more then happy to share
tips and slights with anyone who asked. My single regret is I didn’t have my 10 yo daughter with me
so she could have seen Losander’s lecture on floating. His floating bubble routine, which I watched
from just feet away, is a truly beautiful piece of art that can only be truly appreciated in person.
I wish I could give this 10 stars. If this event comes anywhere near you GO!
3 of 3 magicians found this helpful.
A tremendous value. Make haste if it comes your way. Inspiration, entertainment and camaraderie
abound. You’ll leave inspired, enthused, perhaps with a few new friends, certainly with some new
Friday night's Gala Show had some tender moments:
One act’s fire-eating intro
made for great theater, then POOF! he vanished into darkness. Bouncing along the stage before a
salt routine, a well-known gimmick made a surprise debut with another act (we all knew how that
trick worked anyway). Later, a wallet prediction fell flat when an uncooperative deck proved to be
missing some cards (most magicians are a few cards short). If you wanted to see a close-up, you had
to wait ten seconds, because the cameras went on strike. Yes, it was evening of live magic,
performed by actual human beings!
Yet miracles abounded. Dan Harlan, the perfect MC, kept
the ship afloat with panache, aplomb and a wicked Coke Transposition. Losander’s effects were bigger
than life, he received a near standing O after his set. Favs were his Ashrah Floating Table and
Thumb Tie routine.
Just who is Michael Weber? Clearly, someone who thinks critically about
the presentation of his mentalism effects. One utilized all the cards included in the Penguin marked
deck, another discerned a “thought of” card from random piles only the spectator touched. Thought
“Say hello to your wife for me,” Gazzo told a few guys, as he served fresh candy
with tongs to the crowd. How kind! He had warm sentiments for everyone, and many were laughing,
riotously so. His egg bag routine fried those in the know and when he did his cups, he had balls.
Some are great, but Gazzo? Just a little grater. Gazzo killed it, and his showcase was a definite
Sat. morn, 10 am: dealer room packed, 'cause everyone loves to see trick demos and
buy way past their budget. The mini-lectures were in another room, a smart move. All were
entertaining. Losander's floating bubbles particularly memorable. Diamond Jim Taylor fired off
rapid one-liners with his flashy tricks. Dan Kaminski: a walking Cups and Balls encyclopedia. The
lectures were best when they didn’t seem like extended dealer demos trying to push products.
Dan Harlan’s lecture hit a nice balance of theory, ideas and effects. Personally, this lecture felt
most like a “lecture,” in that he went in depth about routines, presentation, and what constitutes a
good effect. His infamous “Sandwich” routine was a highlight. Interestingly, he wasn't trying to
I missed the Q & A panel, but did talk to Danny Garcia, who’s always a super
nice guy willing to show and explain a trick. Nicholas Lawrence: very cool as well and I think In
The Clear and Hoover Card were big sellers at the con.
All and all, a fun con worth your
time and I hope it continues.
2 of 2 magicians found this helpful.
This will be a totally honest review. Maxx Atlanta was one of the best conventions I have been too
in a long time. The all-star line up of performers was amazing...Dan Harlan, Michael Weber, Mike
Kaminskas, Diamond Kim Tyler, Daniel Garcia, Chad Long, Brent Braun, Losander, and the legend
The performances and lectures were incredible as to be expected, but as
with most magic conventions, some of the most amazing talent was found among the amateur attendees.
They may not be famous like the big name pros, but their magic was performed with equal skill.
Gazzo's lecture was worth the price of admission, especially seeing how he dealt with an
arrogant, know-it-all, punk kid who, with a great level of DISresepect, tried to ruin his
performance. Gazzo handled it better than most magicians in the audience. Gazzo handled it with
grace and a quick wit. Most magicians wanted ( and it was probably needed) to give the punk kid a
swift kick in the sponge balls.
The stars were kind and generous with sharing their time
and secret methods. The attending amateurs were equally as generous and willing to help. There were
sadly a few YouTube type of younger magicians there. Let's just hope their attitude changes while
they are young. My best advice to these up and coming magicians...shut up and listen to those who
have been there been there and done that long before you. Learn from their experience so you can
become a better performer without all the problems the more experienced magicians faced in their
careers. Magic has been around for many centuries. The older guys are treasure chests of knowledge
and experience. Learn from them instead of thinking of them as old school. Magic itself is an old
The event went pretty smoothly. At time it was like organized chaos, but that
just adds to the fun and is to be expected with any live event.
For me, the only negative
point was the open bar. I'm not a drinker and unfortunately, some of those attending tend to drink
too heavily. A sloppy drunk is just that, even when he's a great magician when sober.
Overall, it was one of the best events I have attended. I look forward to the next one. I made
some great new friends and some great new business relationships.
Thanks, Penguin. Let's
do it again.
2 of 2 magicians found this helpful.
Here's my down and dirty review of the Atlanta Penguin MAAX event.
Let’s start at the very
beginning. A very good place to start.
The line to the Registration table was slow. Once
you got to the table though it was quick and easy. The Friday night show was fraught with issues,
both technical and otherwise. (I need not go into detail.) The Penguin crew, capably led by Brent
Braun, did their level best to stay atop the technical problems and did a fine job of fixing most of
them by the midpoint of the show.
Many of the performers had off nights. They were, in some
cases, inadequately prepared, and in others not in best form. Several tricks and effects failed, and
there were glitches galore. (Again, I need not go into detail. Everyone has off nights and
performances.) That said all of the performers handled the problems with aplomb and professionalism.
Even to the point of calling-back the incidents on Saturday for laughs.
Dan Harlan did a
jam-up job as emcee. He kept the show rolling, kept the audience laughing, and glued everything
Michael Weber’s Friday night lecture was excellent. Lots of wonderful
ideas, several of them incorporating a deck of marked cards given to attendees.
the highlight of Friday night. I am so glad I had the chance to see him live. Irreverent, not at all
PC, and sharp of wit, he opened his set with a solid 15 minutes of wise cracks, jokes, and comments
directed toward audience members, including me. While some of the humor was, perhaps, ill-advised in
these times, Gazzo managed to get away with it. His technical skill is impeccable, his stage
presence relaxed and confident. He was always in control, even when a volunteer assistant opted to
be less-than cooperative. Gazzo gave the unruly kid a bit of business, but took care of him in the
end. His act was filled with magic, mirth, and bits of business.
After his formal set and
Q&A, Gazzo asked if we’d like to see his current sit-down cups and balls routine. (He is doing more
shows while seated now because, “I’m getting old.”)We declined the offer. Not! He set up and
performed the new set and it was fantastic. I had a second row seat and despite being on the lookout
never saw the final loads being shoved inside the cups. I’ll say it again: I am so glad I had the
chance to see him. (There’s a current thread around here about funniest magician, well I now have a
new number one!)
Saturday began with the opening of the dealer’s room. Penguin Magic,
Michael Weber, Dirk Losander, Diamond Jim Tyler, Michael Kaminskas, and Daniel Garcia were doing
brisk business from the moment the doors opened at 10:00 until the closed at 4:00. Chad Long set up
later in the day and was a hit as well.
(I managed to keep my wallet in my pocket while in
the Dealer’s Room. Well, almost. I could not resist one of Michael Kaminskas’ beautiful Chop Cups.
Hey, I have been in the market for a while, so it wasn’t an impulse purchase, was it?! Man, I could
gush over that thing! The action is smooth and it doesn’t require slamming it onto the table top.)
The hourly mini-lectures were nice, with performers offering pet routines, advice, and
answering questions. The proper lectures began in the afternoon and were all wonderful. The
highlights for me were Brent Braun and Diamond Jim, although Losander was a close second. (This in
no way diminishes the other lecturers. The three I mentioned appealed to me, that’s all.)
did not stay for the late-night jam session. After a long week, a lack of sleep, and a magic
overload this old man was ready to head home.
Overall impressions: Brent Braun and his crew
worked their ever-loving arses off to make the event a success. Brent really impressed me: His
energy, enthusiasm, and skills as a magician, as well as his work ethic and obvious desire to see
that everyone had a great time. I’d attend another Penguin event without hesitation. I had fun, made
friends, met some great people and even ran into a couple of old acquaintances. Great value for the
price – I got in on the 40% discount rate of $60.00, but even at full price I think the value was
there. I'm going to give this event five stars despite those aforementioned issue since in the end
they did not detract from the fun.
2 of 2 magicians found this helpful.
It's nearly 3am in the morning the day after this conference as I write this review. That's because
I've just gotten to my room after staying up all night to hang out with some of magics brightest
stars. The value I've gotten out of this conference is tough to beat. Besides mingling with some of
my heros, other highlights included the following.
Gazzo had the audience dying from
laughter during his performance.
Losander had our jaws on the floor when he reminded us
what it felt like to see magic for the first time.
Dan Harlan showed us how even the
classics can be improved (sometimes the methods and sometimes the presentations)
featured some great comedic gags and his magic was practical and fun to watch.
Daniel Garcia, Brent Braun, and all of the other acts also provided amazing moments, advice, and
To be honest, if you missed this event you missed out! If the Maxx
conference becomes on-going thing, don't hesitate. If the conference comes to my town I'll be back.
2 of 2 magicians found this helpful.
The lineup was great. There were some very unfortunate technical issues throughout the show and
lectures with the cameras used. They were using GoPro cameras and whoever ran them couldn't figure
out which one to turn the display to, so many times the magician would have to literally freeze in
place in front of the close-up camera while waiting for them to switch it over to it, then it would
immediately be switched back to a long view and we'd have to wait again. The second day they gave up
on the front camera and just had the close-up one, but it seemed like every performer had to
constantly adjust it to make it show what they wanted.
They did say it was their first
time doing the convention so there was a learning curve, so hopefully they bring better cameras next
time or figure out how to keep a close-up one on at all times so the performers can do their magic
without having to constantly adjust. It's weird too because the Penguin Live lectures seem to flow
seamlessly to the best angles.
The dealer area was a little cramped at time due to the
small size of the room, but the mini-lectures given seemed to relieve some of the pressure as folks
left to see them. The fact that both rooms were side-by-side and connected helped a lot to keep
The stand-out lecture to me was Dan Harlan's. He concentrated more
on the motivation behind tricks rather than just "watch this...here's how it's done" like you get
from most other lectures at conventions like these. His lecture was the perfect mix of theory and
trick explanation. The other lectures were great too, but I made the most notes from listening to
And of course, Michael Weber's booth was jam-packed all day long. Never miss
the chance to buy some of his products because all of them are top quality material. But to be
honest, there were no wasted spaces in the dealers room. Every booth had something unique and
amazing to offer.
For the price, I would consider this a "must attend" convention. It went
on for the perfect amount of time with just enough stuff scheduled to allow you to have some down
time to just chat with other magicians without missing something important. Despite the technical
issues, I would go again next weekend if they did another one close by. Don't miss out if this comes
to your area!
2 of 3 magicians found this helpful.
Just to get this out of the way, there were two things that I thought could have been done better.
First, the "goodie" bag was the same goodie bag I got a year and a half ago at the last
Second, the way you set up your video cameras in the large room really destroyed the
sight lines for many of the seats. I realize that videos is what Penguin does and that probably
kept the prices lower, but I wish the cameras and cameraman could have been placed somewhere else.
Now the good stuff.
The dealer room was excellent. The people selling knew their
material well and did a good job of keeping the crowd moving while still doing appropriate demos for
those who wanted it. There were no pressure sales and that made me happy. There was a good mix of
skill level represented in the items for sale too.
The lectures and workshops was where you
guys really shined.
Dan Harlan is a brilliant man. David Regal has his money where his mouth
is. Gazzo got away with saying things on stage I would never dare, but he made it look hysterical.
His explanation of the egg bag is the best I've heard ever.
Now we add in the networking.
Meeting new people, making new friends, sharing techniques and ideas with fellow magicians and we
have a serious winner.
The price was reasonable for a two-day event.
I hope you'll
do it again.
1 of 1 magicians found this helpful.
Penguin MAXX is a vast improvement over last year's Expo, and though the location was a bit
inconvenient for me (It was *just* far enough away that I had to really debate between booking a
hotel room or returning home between the two days), it was ultimately worth the time and expense.
- fun show
- excellent lectures
- friendly people (staff as well as
- though I initially balked at the cost (and took advantage of a discount), this
event is actually worth the full price
- The opening night show started half an
hour late, and that delay cascaded into the lectures that followed, which were already scheduled to
- The gift bag was good, but not worth anywhere near the amount advertised.
Ideas for Future Events:
- Don't advertise the gift bag; let it be a surprise bonus. The
event itself is worth the money. If anybody was convinced to purchase based on the value of the
gift bag, that person was disappointed.
- List the topics of the Pro Tip sessions on the
schedule. I think this can result in a more engaged audience. (I also didn't show up to the first
few because I slept in due to the previous late night, but I might have attended if I knew they were
on a topic I had a particular interest in.)
- Send schedule changes out via email to the
registrants. Though the change was announced at the venue, I imagine some people missed part of
Diamond Jim's lecture because they didn't arrive until the originally scheduled time.
lobby between the lecture and dealer rooms was largely wasted space. Maybe the tables that came out
at the end could always be there? Host informal workshops on basic card and coin sleights?
(This is my personal wish.) A lecture that focuses on scripting, character building, or other
theatrical aspects of performance, rather than just tricks. In fact, I would like to see a lecture
that only teaches one trick, and spends the rest of the time exploring different ways to present it.
1 of 1 magicians found this helpful.