Give a w00t for w00tstock 2.2
I stumbled upon this event sometime mid-April. I'm a fan of LoadingReadyRun, a Canadian internet based comedy troupe who are all about my age and also geeks. They announced that they were going to be special guest at two of the West Coast w00tstock shows. So I was checking out the website for the show to see what it was all about. Apparently, w00tstock is this "thing" put on by Wil Wheaton (of Stand By Me, Next Gen, and the internet fame), Adam Savage (of mysthbusters), and the duo Paul & Storm (of backing Jonathan Coulton fame). At each show (and they've done 2 rounds of shows by now), they also bring in a bunch of special guest performers. So then I notice they have a show scheduled for June in Chicago and Minneapolis. What sealed the deal for me is when I found out that the voice of Tom and Crow (both Crows) from MST3k would be at both the Chicago and Minneapolis show. That point, it was simple deciding which show I wanted to go to. After not being able to convince anyone I know to go to the Minneapolis show (and that show being near the point of selling out anyway), I decided to go to the Chicago show, since it would be closer, and I they had one guy there who wouldn't be at the Minneapolis show (Peter Segal, from NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me"). Oh, and we also got Bill Ahmed (of Foxtrot fame), but I didn't find out until a week before. Really pysched about that, cause Foxtrot is probably my favorite still in print. But it also updates online now too, so does that make it a webcomic?
Anyway, the goal of this trip was to do it as cheaply as possible. A lot of the expenses had already been paid for. I had more than enough gas to make it there and back again, had a left over CTA card with just enough money on it for train and bus fares, and about $50 cash in my pocket for food and other. I was rather pleased with myself, as I ended up returning home with $20 left in my wallet, though I did end up using a credit card a few times. But seeing as I didn't really have a lot of extra money, I didn't really have to leave early. So my plan was to sleep in, and leave sometime in the afternoon. It figures though, when I WANT to sleep in, I can't, and woke up around 6am. Though I was able to coerce myself to go back to sleep till 8. I ended up leaving Milwaukee around 12:30, after eating some leftover apple bread I made the previous day, and doing some final map checking of how I was going to get there, then doing a little reading in my book.
Alas, I couldn't resist the siren call of Mitsuwa, and ended up stopping there. I didn't really need any groceries, so I mainly went there for late afternoon lunch and to pick up some snacks for the rest of the day, as well as pick up lunch for tomorrow at the internship I'm working this summer. They also had a takoyaki stand setup, so I picked up a box of that too. Takoyaki is basically balls of wheat with a small piece of octopus baked into them, then covered with dashi flakes and topped with tonkatsu sauce. You often find these stands set up outdoors especially during the summer. I hate half of them before I left, and the rest for breakfast the next morning. I then took the back roads again to the park and ride I went to three weeks earlier for the Conan show. Sadly, the place the show was at didn't have a close by station, as far as I could tell. So I had to take a bus from the train. This kinda backfired on the way back, cause the bus was late getting to the stop, and subsequently I just missed the train back to the park and ride, making the night all that longer.
So I got the place, Park West, with about two or more hours to kill before the doors opened. It looked like it might rain, so I decided to go out and buy an umbrella. I had been meaning to buy one anyway. Turned out to be a good investment because it did start raining very hard before the doors opened. I also offered a few umbrella-less people in the line to stand under it, cause I'm nice like that. Anyway, being so early with the show being General admission meant I got very good seats. Front row, right under what ended up being Wil Wheaton's microphone. Sadly, I didn't have enough money to buy any merch, but oh well. Park West was a nice modern stage. I'd say it was about the size of First Avenue in Minneapolis, maybe a little bigger. Each side of the stage was flanked with a video screen, which was the only sucky part of where I was sitting. I couldn't read small print off the one on the far side, but had to physically turn around to read the other one. Oh well.
The show began with Wil Wheaton coming out and giving an introduction for the evening, and a somewhat fictionalized version of how this w00tstock came about. He also introduced us to the guest artist for the evening, Len Peralta. This guy sat at the back of the stage all evening and drew a special poster you could order a print of online after the show. Oh yeah, Wil also said everything from the night was released under the creative commons act, which sure is a swell thing for them to do. That meant that they were actually encouraging us to take pictures and videos, so of course I'll be showing you what I took.
First up were w00tstock co-creators, Paul and Storm. I didn't know anything about them before the evening, but now I do, and I must remember to get one of their albums then next time I have money, though it seems like its best to see them live. They were pretty funny, even if they're only claim to fame is that they opened and frequently backed Jonathan Coulton. Anyway, they did a couple of songs that, though I can't recall what they were about, I do recall being quite good. Good meaning funny, in this case. They also had Jason Finn from the band Presidents of the United States of America (they had that song about Peaches in the 90s.) was there too supporting many (but not all) of the musical acts on drums. Next up, if I remember the order right, was Tim Cavanagh, who did a combo standup act/ couple of songs. He was quite entertaining, though I can't remember much about his act except for the fact that he finished with his "translation" of 99 Red Ballons from its original German. He also started a minor running gag of the evening about wetsuits. If it seems like I don't remember much about the beginning parts of the show, please keep in mind that this show went on FOR OVER FOUR HOURS. I'm also writing this about four days after the event. Still, I'm trying to give every one of the performers at least some mention.
Wheaton came out afterwords to introduce the next act saying that every year at PAX, this Bill Amend, creator and artist of Foxtrot, does a panel that's scheduled too early in the morning for Wil to be awake. So they asked him here tonight, and he didn't disappoint. His multi-media presentation was pretty great, and perfectly tailored to the nerdy crowd. The first part was how other comics were tailoring their comics for the geek culture. One featured Cathy playing world of warcraft, while another was a play on Garfield. Specifically, it was a play on Garfield minus Garfield. Essentially, it was a math joke. Their was also an incredibly dirty Marmaduke, featuring two dogs and an empty bowl. I'll let you make your own conclusions on that. The second part was about the more geeky comics that actually made it to press that he has got away with that probably go over the head of 90% of those who read them. Many of which I actually remember, like Jason going as the Blue screen of death, or the original iMac (with no floppy drive!) for halloween. He also told the story of how once after he got the Foxtrot website up and running, Wil linked to him, which of course immediately crashed it. All in all, major win.
I might be getting the order wrong at this point, but I think the next act was Molly Lewis. She is a ukulele singer songwriter and youtube star. Which makes her not famous enough to have a wikipedia page, which was the subject of one of her songs. I also think that she was the youngest/ shortest of all the night's performers by far. And now that I think of it, she was also the only lady. Anyway, her set was funny. Definitely check her out on youtube if you're board. I'll even give you a link to her youtube page (cause I'm helpful like that) Paul (of "and Storm) came out to introduce the next act saying that they inspired him to be a professional smart ass. This was one of the few things I actually got a video of. The quality is pretty poor though. Also, I suck as a camera person, and was laughing too much. Still, here it is what transpired next. Paul had just introduced the next guest as "Crow" from MST3k...
I would have taken more pictures, but my phone's battery ran low. I knew it was an issue when buying this phone, and I really do need to invest in a phone charger for my car, cause the GPS takes more out of it then I realize. So as the night goes one, I have fewer and fewer pictures. Once the battery goes below a certain amount, it won't let me use the camera.
Anyway, as the video indicated, the next act was Trace Beulieu reading from his upcoming book, the name of which I can't remember (running theme here). I want to say it's "stories for belligerent children." Anyway, he apologized to the crowd, cause he wasn't really a nerd (yeah, right), but to make us all more comfortable, he took off his jacket to reveal that he was wearing an original series Star Trek uniform. Too bad he's a red shirt! Anyway, his stories were very dark humor oriented. There was always a pause at the end of each bit. Don't know if because they were anit-climatic, or people were just in shock of how dark they were. So I'll mark it as funny, but weird. Here's a bad picture of him wearing his Star Trek shirt.
A few other things I should mention about the night as that periodically, there were video breaks featuring "a moment with Wil Wheaton" where Wil was doing something. Followed by a completely unrelated, but awesome video. One featured some crazy juggling + joke + puzzle that I didn't get at all. Other one was a movie trailer for a very generic movie. Another one was for Jonhathan Coulton's aborted 80's tv series, which also feature Paul and Strom. Why, here it is:
Apparently, Neil Gaimen did a brief live cameo at the Minnesota show. Next, Bill Amend came out to announce that the next performer had just tried to crash his site again, but failed! Yes, it was the return of the Wil Wheaton! He came out to do a reading of one of his many books. This one was "Just a Geek," which will probably get added to my summer reading list. This chapter was about the first time he went to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He also brought Paul and Storm out for musical accompaniment. It was pretty great, and it reminded me too that I've never actually gone to a midnight screening, despite that fact that I now live mere blocks from a theater that does one about once a month. Hmmm.... I should also mention that Wil went through a series of costume changes throughout the night. Meaning that he changed into a different geeky T shirt. Here was my favorite.
There was also an intermission too at some point, the end of which featured a bunch of funny photoshops of the guys. Here's a picture of the next special guest lookin' shady.
If the night could be won, then it was won after the intermission when Peter Sagal (of NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me) did his piece. It was a total NPR piece, funny, yet thought provoking. If I didn't know any better, I could swore I heard it once before on This American Life. I'm glad someone got it on video, because it HAS to be seen. Incidentally, my seat was RIGHT in front of the music stand. For proof, check out the picture above. Now watch the piece he did.
They then showed a rifftrax short about kittens to introduce the last guest of the evening (but definitely not the end of the night), Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. They did a couple songs for everyone, though they made fun of the fact that they were in no way musicians. One of them featured audience participation. It was about Admiral Ackbar, and our line was to call out is favorite phrase. After that, they brought out everyone, including the as of yet to be seen Adam Savage, to help them with their next song. It was about how their country was better than yours. I'd show you a picture or video of this, but my camera died shortly before they began. Sad.
So you can probably guess the next, and penultimate performer. Yes, it was Adam Savage. He came out, told some stories about his be-mustached coworker. He also told a story about his first time he had ever been to Chicago, which I remember but will not repeat here. He also told a story of how Dungeons and Dragons led directly to his first kiss. Then he ended by brining out Paul and Storm (and Finn) to accompany him as he sang "I will Survive" ...as Gollum. Afterwards, Wil Wheaton came out on stage wearing a shirt of Wil Wheaton wearing a shirt of Wil Wheaton wearing a shirt of Wil Wheaton wearing a shirt of...you get the idea. Anyway, he reintroduced Paul and Storm to do a few more songs.
For their final song, they brought back Wil and Adam (Finn was there too on drums) It was about 11:40 when they started. The song was only 2:30 minutes long, but the introduction and various side trips went on for about 30 minutes. It was around 12:20 am by the time it ended. And it was HILARIOUS. Here's a video of the whole damn thing. Seriously, it's 30 minutes long.
They were signing autographs after the show, but it was very late at this point, and I had to be up by and at my internship by 8:30, so I needed to catch the bus back to the train back to the park and ride. All in all, I didn't get back to Milwaukee till 3:00 am. Only to be up three hours later to shower and get downtown town for my internship. I think I ended up falling asleep that night at 7:30.
But it was totally worth it. But I did have a long thought to myself, which one was better? The Conan show or w00tstock? Conan (well the show at least) was certainly more professional, but w00tstock felt much more intimate and certainly went on longer. And both were basically about things I loved from when I was a lad, and still like. Ultimately, they were both great, and I'm glad I was lucky enough to see both. It's a cop-out, sure, but I'm fine with that. Though if I REALLY had to pick one, then it would probably be Conan, Mainly because I then wouldn't know what I was missing with w00tstock.
Earlier this year, I told the story of how I used to set my VHS to record Conan. What I might not have said is that my main purpose of setting the VCR was to actually record Star Trek. Oh yeah, I was a nerdy kid. Don't know where I got it from, cause my parents nor any of my relatives (except one who I hardly ever saw) had such interest. But for the longest time, I had trouble coming to terms with my geekiness. I guess I was afraid people would have a certain opinion of me that didn't accurately reflect who I was. And it kinda became a self fulfilling prophesy, as I thought that people didn't want to hear about my nerdy interest, so I won't talk to them about it, which led to me not developing the social skills I should have and just not talking to anyone! I'm trying to change, and I'm much better about talking to people and making small talk. But that's why I'm glad things like w00tstock are in the world because they make me feel like it's ok to have these interest. Because I'm not alone. And just because I'm a geek/nerd/ whatever you might want to call it doesn't mean I should feel ashamed, because we are nice and good people. Sure, we might be a little obsessive, or too introverted. Having interest different from the norm doesn't make me a bad person (nor does it make me a superior person), and it's okay to celebrate these interest to the world, because while not everyone will get it, some people will. So I'm really glad I went to w00tstock, because it's helping me to come to terms with a part of me that I've often sought to hide from the world. I am a nerd, and I'm okay with that.