w00tstock Austin and Dallas: A Recap-ening

To say it has been an insanely busy month would be an understatement.  Between work and preparing for w00tstock Austin and Dallas and finishing up something I will talk about shortly, I’m pretty sure the month of October simply didn’t exist for me in any tangible form other than like the light streaks behind the Enterprise when it goes into warp. The old Enterprise, not the new one because the new one goes into warp like the Millennium Falcon and LOOK I’M NOT TRYING TO START A NERD ARGUMENT HERE.

Rochelle just recently graduated with her Masters in Psychology, an event a couple years in the making.  Her mom had decided to get her a trip to Cabo St. Lucas for the first week of November, just a mom and daughter trip (my present to Rochelle is JoCoCruiseCrazy).  Since her mom, and mine, live in Dallas we had planned for us to fly down, celebrate, then I fly back while she and her mom go on to Mexico. Meanwhile I was busy with the various work things ahead of the Kinect and new Xbox Dashboard launches.

Then along came an invite to be a part of w00tstock Texas. Suddenly my trip became fly in and celebrate, then go do what has become my nerd version of a guild navigator telling me “Many machines on Ix.  New.  Machines.”  That’s right I’m trying to say w00tstock involves *the spicexor*  I wrote some new material and rehearsed it until I was satisfied it would be something the audience would enjoy *and* fit in my time limit. These were going to be very special w00tstocks for me because it would be in my old stomping grounds in front of family and friends.

So we did the family celebration (which was awesome) and I left the next morning in a oversized Jeep rental car for my favorite city in Texas: Austin. The whole drive down, which I have made probably 30 times in my life, I listened to my iPhone soundtrack of Marian Call, Matisyahu and recordings of past w00tstocks. I thought about what it means to be a part of w00tstock. Past the remains of the Super Conducting Super Collider in Waxahachie,  through the bypass to the Dr. Pepper museum in Waco, all the way past the Round Rock location of The Salt Lick BBQ. I didn’t have a phrase I could come up with to communicate to you the overall experience. But as I rolled into Austin I found at least one way to share it.

I was trying to think of a way to describe how incredibly lucky and fortunate I feel to be on one side of the stage. Then I thought back to events like PAX and w00tstocks where I was in the audience and how much I enjoyed that just as much. You see, backstage or in prep, we’re all just like everyone in the audience. We’re just geeks, trying to share geek stories we think are interesting or funny. We’re trying to entertain everyone in the audience with the stories and music that entertains us. I think that’s why at almost every w00tstock it’s become a tradition that all of us watch the show from either the crowd or a side stage when available. We want to see it just as bad as the audience does.

I rolled into Austin and checked into the hotel at the venue.  The Paramount theater.  Wellllllllll shit, as Captain Willard said.  I was going to be on the other side of a stage where I’d seen a dozen or more shows over the past 20 years. I wasn’t ready to head backstage to the venue.  I text’d the always awesome DAMMIT LIZ who is the maestro of the w00tstock events and who I promised I would blog that I WOULD NEVER EVER MAKE HER ANGRY.  She’s like the hulk, but cute and huggable until SHE’S ANGRY AND THEN IT’S LIKE VIETNAM ON YOUR CROTCH.

Ok she didn’t make me write that, but it’s there so that if I ever piss her off I can point to it.

She and the gang were at Chuy’s. The gang?  Storm, Molly Lewis, Jason Finn, Liz herself, Molly’s guy Chris, I WILL BE RIGHT THERE. I mean Austin is my home turf. My people, my state.  I was eating at Chuy’s roughly round the time Molly was [insert age appropriate reference but not totally too much reference to make me seem like I am 80 years old]! After lunch we hit the venue. We ran through sound checks and I tested my cell phone signal from the stage for a gag I had planned that I hoped would come off well.  There was a tiny bit of pre-show panic as we realized through his live tweeting that Neil Gaiman was currently trapped in an airplane on the tarmac and was cutting it close to make it for the opening of the show! As his situation became increasingly grim, Paul reconfigured the open so that Adam Savage would open. It was quite interesting, all of us backstage checking Neil’s updates on Twitter while Paul was on the phone making sure he had quick transportation once he landed. Neil arrived just after the open and for having gone through the whole airplane ride from hell ordeal was amazingly gracious and nice as I shook his hand and thanked him for all the words.

Highlights from the Austin w00tstock:

    • We had American Sign Language interpreters for the show.  Watching them try and sign the banter on stage became a highlight of the evening.  Bonus: I now know the ASL for “Cocksucker” and “Elephant Spunk”.
    • Watching Neil Gaiman do a bit so profoundly wrong, and so perfectly, that I was gasping for air I was laughing so hard.
    • For the first time publicly reading a bit from [PROJECT TO BE ANNOUNCED REAL SOON NOW] and realizing A) it really was pretty good and B) the audience thought so too.
    • Calling Wil Wheaton live from the stage and proving I was in Texas by doing the bit from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure involving the audience and “Deep in the Heart of Texas”
    • Standing up on stage with my friends at the end and really feeling like I belonged there.
    • Spending over an hour signing stuff in the autograph line with Bill Amend and Molly Lewis next to me and meeting so many fantastic and awesome people who came to see us
    • Spending the night out until way way too late with Adam buying the drinks.




Photo credits: Rhubarble (Lara Eakins)

(the photo credit takes you to more great pictures of the event.)

The next morning we headed out to The Salt Lick in Round Rock for a massive all you can eat BBQ lunch.  Bill and I shared the ride up to Dallas and after checking in headed to one of my favorite venues, the Granada theater.  The people at the Granada were absolutely fantastic and we settled in quickly, had an amazing meal of the best roasted chicken breast I think I have ever had, and began to decimate the cooler filled with Shiner Bock.  Dallas being my old hometown, my family was next door at Snuffer’s so I popped over for a beer with my mom and brothers and friends before the show. We traded out Neil Gaiman for Paul F. Tompkins as our “guest” Wil Wheaton, and he approached our bizarre form of geek vaudeville with open arms.

Highlights from the Dallas w00tstock:

    • I’ll never get tired of the crowd reaction to the opening of w00tstock, with Also sprach Zarathustra greeting the crowd and their resulting cheers. It meant something extra special to me because my family and friends were out there cheering.
    • Bringing out my iPad to do a reading and the crowd murmuring and laughing that I had an iPad, then I exaggerated the motion of covering up the Apple symbol on the back as if it wasn’t too late to hide it.
    • Calling Wil again live from the stage, but this time taking the opportunity use the crowd to hockey trash talk him, you know, like you do.
    • Getting to meet Joel Watson of Hijinks Ensue, who turned an offhand BBQ joke I told on stage into an epic tale of BBQ and human tragedy.
    • Chilling backstage with Molly and cracking up over Paul F. Tompkins set.
    • Waving our phones from the side stage to the crowd during Frogger: The Frogger Musical.
    • Seeing so many friends and old co-workers from the Dallas Microsoft site during the signing line.
    • Staying up until 4 in the morning drinking in Paul and Storm’s room with the gang and having a gentleman’s debate with Jason over music games like Rock Band.



Photo Credits: Bill Ellison

So another set of w00tstocks is done.  I hope everyone had an amazing time, please know that we had an incredible time putting them on for you.  I’m working on my next blog post which will detail more about what I did at w00tstock, so let me get back to that.

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