(NOTE: Youtube embeds are broken below. I will try and fix them, I don’t know quite what is wrong but if you click on a Youtube play button it will take you to Youtube and you will have to come back to the blog to continue reading. My apologies.)
There’s a moment in the film Almost Famous where 15 year old William, suddenly introduced to the world of rock and roll lifestyles, confesses his love to an overdosed groupie named Penny just before doctors kick in the door and pump her stomach right in front of him.
That is precisely what being a part of w00tstock was like…except instead of a stomach pumping, Penny confessed her love in return, magically purged herself of the drugs, and the two went out later that night to drink IPA’s and play Donkey Kong, Discs of Tron, and vector graphics Atari Star Wars all night at Ground Kontrol in Portland. And also Penny was multiple people both male and female who were part of the show and staff, and nobody actually had done any drugs and you know what, I think you get the point. Which is: drugs are bad mmmkay?
As seen previously on Stepto.com, Wil (of the Wheaton clan), and Paul and Storm (of Paul and Storm) had invited me to participate in w00tstock 2.0 in Seattle, and 2.1 in Portland. What is w00tstock? I quote the website:
For decades, geeks were ostracized, picked on, laughed at and punished by the sun’s harmful UV rays. But there is only so long that a people can be kept down before they rise up against their oppressors; and, indeed, the dawn of the 21st century has seen the ascendancy of geeks and geek culture.
We now celebrate that rise to power–and let’s face it, nerds pretty much run everything now–with w00tstock, a special event for geeks of every stripe. Television host/special-effects artist Adam Savage (“MythBusters”), actor/author/blogger Wil Wheaton (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Stand By Me”) and music-comedy duo Paul and Storm (hey; that’s us!) present a night of songs, readings, comedy, demonstrations, short films, special guests, and other clever widgets born from and dedicated to the enthusiasms, obsessions, trials and joys of geek pride.
This is the dawning of the Age of Geekdom–and its voices will ring true at w00tstock.
Friday afternoon, May 7th 2010* I stepped into the back alley entrance of the Moore theater, feeling a little shaky with the enormity of what was about to happen.
I was going to be a part of w00tstock!
After some hand shaking, Paul, of Paul and Storm, took me aside and showed me the video intro to the show. An intro by the way that was to set up Wil’s bit at the opening but that Wil had not seen yet. It was a great moment when, from the side of the stage, Wil looked up from his Blackberry and saw…well, I could spend a lot of time recapping the w00tstock experience from the audience point of view. Instead I will start off by showing you the opening to the Seattle show, so that you understand just how in tune with the audience the creators of the event were:
Flashback to two weeks before. After submitting my ideas we settled on what my contribution would be. For the days leading up to the event I grew more and more excited and more and more panicked. I felt I had come up with a really funny sketch that would contribute to the tone. But I had never actually done anything quite like this before. Sure I had given presentations and done tons of public speaking and media work, etc. But as nervous and freaked out as I was at the honor of getting to present at PAX, presenting in a show that people paid to come see…especially a show run by people who knew how to put these things on and were already people I happily paid to go see all the time…well. I had to bring the A game.
I rehearsed my bit over and over, tweaking cadence and timing, finding the right gestures and beats. It was the closest to acting I had ever really done. By the night of the show I knew I could nail it. But I didn’t really get confident until the show started.
The reason for that wasn’t so much the preparation, although that was critical.
It was the instant camaraderie and bond the entire cast of the show had from the first few seconds of meeting each other. All of us instinctively wanted to see each other’s bits just as much as the audience did. Backstage there were hugs and high fives as each segment played out. Jason Finn, drummer for The Presidents of the United States of America had us all laughing with backstage and onstage jokes, Hank Green and Molly Lewis totally rocked their music sets. The AWESOME guys (and gal!) at Loading Ready Run actually helped me out with my bit and I had a great time meeting all of them. Mike Selinker and James Ernest, MC Frontalot, Matt Fraction, and B. Frayn Masters were also on hand as a Seattle guest in the case of mssrs Selinker, Ernest, and Frontalot, and the Portland show in the case of Mr. Fraction and the lady Masters.
And of course, Wil, Adam Savage, and Paul and Storm were always providing encouragement, advice, support, and were as gracious event founders as you could possibly hope to work with.
Both shows in Seattle and Portland ran long. But that was just as much from the energy of the crowd as it was our time management. Both crowds were forgiving of mistakes, totally engaged with what we were trying to accomplish, and above all had their geek on. Backstage at both shows we were reading twitter streams and Facebook posts, incorporating new material and jokes as each show progressed based both off the audience reactions as well as little things that happened, be they small mistakes or otherwise. In a way, the audiences were just as much a part of creating the experience as we were.
I don’t want to give away the full thing that I performed, even though there are Youtube videos of it, because I want to go back now and add to it or tweak it again because I think it’s good for another couple of performances. But I will say that getting to be up there on stage with so many talented and fun people, in front of so many amazing geeks, was a real highlight in my life. I leveled up at least three core skills and many other secondaries as well. My friend Mark took a lot of amazing photos at the Portland show. Here’s my personal favorite:
Thanks guys. I had one hell of a w00tstock.
*The Year We Make Contact, Bitches.