All those lame-ass setups and the institutionalized hyperbole: they just aren't for me. And don't even get me started on the generally unworthy recipients!
Still, I love the concept of recognizing excellence, in whatever form it may take. This is why I will now outline my personal picks for Nerdapalooza 2010's Best in Show. Of course, since this is Hipster, please! I won't be relying on your more pedestrian categories.
No, this time around we're keeping shit nerdy with plenty of allusions to Xbox Live.
On with the show:
The Nerd Up Award: HDninja
"Hey, HDninja, you guys get to kick off Nerdapalooza with the very first set of the festival. Y'know, no pressure or anything. Just you guys. On stage. In front of a crowd that's expecting you to set the pace for the entire event to follow. Also, um, due to some scheduling problems we are gonna put you on a couple hours late. So folks might be kinda antsy. Oh, and one of your mics isn't gonna work. That's cool right?"
EMPulse Record's HDninja had the deck stacked against them – they were the very first performance of the festival on a day that had already proven itself a logistical nightmare. Plus, pretty much everyone in the crowd, myself included, were zombified from a late night of partying. Yet somehow, when the first note of the hook from "Carformer" hit, suddenly everything was okay. Well played, my ninjas. Well played.
Best Merch: T-Shirt Bordello / Nerdapalooza / Scrub Club
Nerdapalooza 2010 succeeded on a number of levels, not the least of which involved sponsors and merch. Both were in abundance this year, and added an interesting classic convention feel to the proceedings. So much so that's it's hard to quantify who did it best. In the end, I have to recognize a trio of fine merch-slingers.
The first is easily Jacksonville's T-shirt Bordello. Not only was their booth stocked to the nines with amazing tees – I managed to snag one of their swank TARDIS shirts myself – but owner Don Myers actually rocked a full zombie ensemble for the entire first day.
Not to be outdone, Nerdapalooza's own merchandise output was once again uniquely satisfying. Again relying on the talents of the one and only MadKiwiX, this year's logo design revealed an amplifier array behind the classic logo that, as hex put it, "looks like they've been back there the whole time."
And the first of many props to the Scrub Club family comes as a direct result of MadHatter's amazing (and unexpected) bead sprite art. Amongst the anticipated stickers and sampler discs, Hatter presented a fine selection of tributes to classic 8-bit gaming as well as pieces commemorating comic and nerd television icons.
Worst Merch: Those Goddamn Foam-Ball-Missile-Thingies
I love you, Cloudspace. Really I do. I mean, not only do you provide both hexWarrior and Nina with day jobs, but you also pulled out all the stops to support Nerdapalooza proper. Unfortunately, your choice of swag – those weird hybrid Nerf footballs/heat-seeking missiles – were like some kind of biblical plague on the show floor!
Show me a man who wasn't beaned in the noggin by a Cloudspace-branded foam ball, and I'll show you a dude who wasn't at Nerdapalooza 2010.
Chillest Set: Kirby Krackle
When I heard that Kyle from Kirby Krackle was doing a solo acoustic set at this year's festival, I was a little bummed. How could it possibly live up to the cranked-up, full-on comic book rock of their two studio albums?
Even with my undying faith in Kyle's skills, I could've never dreamed how effortlessly the Kirby Krackle bangers translated to this minimalist interpretation. KK wound down a hectic evening in style, and without losing any of their trademark geek rock substance.
The Iron Man Award: Marc with a C
Marc with a C is a longtime Nerdapalooza staple, and this year he proved himself to be a genuine trooper to boot. Somehow between working the sound boards, guesting with other artists and otherwise running about the event like the proverbial headless chicken, Marc was still prepared to rock a solid Sunday evening set for us. What he wasn't prepared for was to take a spill two songs in and sever a tendon. Live on stage.
Miraculously, not only did he finish the show, but this slightly less mobile than usual Marc still managed to keep the crowd entertained. "Bounce! Bounce! Bounce!" indeed.
The Rock Out with Your Spock Out Award: Sci-Fried
Sci-Fried transitioned from one of my most anticipated acts of Nerdapalooza 2010 to one of the brightest highlights of my festival experience within the span of about a song and a half. And while I was a little worried that their style would be lost on a crowd of nerdcore hip-hop heads, they easily commanded the audience with their blend of balls-out arena rock and southern-fried geekery. But their true claim to fame – even more so than their earnest, irony-free enjoyment of sci-fi schlock and Motley Crue-style antics – was the moment when they literally brought the house down.
In a nod to their rock 'n' roll roots, the band distributed beach balls to the audience and encouraged them to bat them around with extreme prejudice. Half a set and one broken chandelier later the inflatables were retired, but a nerd rock story for the ages had already been written.
Breakthrough Artist: The Bossfights
I can't exactly tell you what I expected from ZeaLouS1's new hybrid outfit The Bossfights. All I can say is that as high as my hopes were, even those paled in comparison to the grandeur of the actual listening experience. Blending searing vocals, machinegun guitars, punk rock energy and the slightest hint of funk rhythm, they are truly the breakthrough artists of 2010.
From the moment the guys hit the stage, under cover of darkness with the sounds of helicopters in pursuit, I was mesmerized. In a set that included everything from plasma grenades to a special MC Frontalot tribute track, it's hard to pick a defining moment. So instead I'll say that if you missed a second of the action you did yourself a grand disservice.
Best Stage Energy: Scrub Club and Emergency Pizza Party
When funky49 told me the Emergency Pizza Party set slated for early Sunday morning was church-themed, I told him he was full of shit. And then I saw the choir robes. And the pizza box crucifixes. And Sir-Up's bible.
In an event that could only be described as a musical conversion, EPP blessed us with the power of shine. But when they turned the stage over to their Scrub Club brethren, I assumed the sermon was over. That is until MadHatter unleashed the "Christian Side Hug" upon and unsuspecting audience.
What followed was a spiritual experience, to say the least.
Best Worst Cover Song: "Wannabe" as performed by MC Cool Whip
I was both congratulated and chided throughout Nerdapalooza weekend for my cover song challenge. It seems that tracks like the aforementioned "Christian Side Hug" were both the highlight and the bane of many an audience member's festival experience.
But surely no track was more divisive than MC Cool Whip's pre-party rendition of The Spice Girls' "Wannabe."
Tell us what you want, Whip. What you really, really want.
Best Best Cover Song: "Mr. Roboto" as performed by The Protomen
On the other side of the coin, of course, were the covers that everyone loved. And among them all none stood so high as The Protomen's impeccable interpretation of this Styx classic.
After a much-delayed, truncated set played sans-Panther on Saturday, attendants were delighted to learn that closing headliner MC Frontalot had agreed to push his performance up to allow for a second appearance by our favorite freedom fighters. As a result, "Mr. Roboto," though certainly no stranger to the band's setlist, was an unexpected surprise that closed out Nerdapalooza 2010 with a bang.
Best Support Artist: Kids / Bar2-D2
Nerdapalooza is about the artists and the fans, but often that blurry line between the two is all but ignored. You see, there are some individuals who are at once both and neither. They are the special guests. At Nerdapalooza 2010 this important position was held down by our most diminutive brothers and sisters.
Children played a delightful part in both the Emergency Pizza Party and Krondor Krew sets and a tiny back-up man of another kind – a special R2-D2 styled cooler – helped keep me and the Sci-Fried crew properly hydrated throughout a long, hot weekend.
The Gandalf the White Award: My Parents' Favorite Music / The Adventures of Duane and BrandO
This year's festival saw not one but two triumphant returns to the stage. Saturday afternoon, Steffo of My Parents' Favorite Music came out of retirement with an energetic set that incorporated dancing control pads, physical challenges and a Phoenix Wright costume. And Sunday saw a recently reunited The Adventures of Duane and BrandO tear up the stage to the mutual delight of nerdcore and VGFM fans alike.
FYI: If I was giving away an award for best hugs, these two acts would have to split that one too.
The Superfan Award: Datavortex
And while I'm celebrating the acts of Nerdapalooza, let me pause to also acknowledge a fan without peer. My boy Datavortex, a rabid supporter of nerd music and vigilant defender of our culture, deserves a special shout-out for all he brought to this year's event.
No, not what he literally brought! Although, now that you mention it…
I'm referring instead to the fact that not only did Data make a significant financial contribution directly Nerdapalooza (via their Final Boss program), but he also personally saw to it that both myself and Dr. Awkward could muster the scratch to make the trip down.
He's truly a pillar of our community.
The Schaffer the Darklord Award: Dr. Awkward
Each year, Nerdapalooza sees one artist show up everywhere. He's the guy rocks his own set, and then pops in for guest spots in practically everyone else's. Those of us in the know call this "pulling a Schaffer."
This time around, as STD himself made his mark (Aren't I clever?) between his own amazing performance, his hyping of the Epic Win burlesque crew and his brilliant guest spot on MC Frontalot's "Nerdcore Rising." And yet he was still somehow out-Schaffered by the one and only Dr. Awkward.
Doc commanded the stage during a solo set Saturday afternoon, brought the religion with his Scrub Club comrades MadHatter and Kabuto the Python Sunday AM and then knocked shit out of the park as part of The Bossfights that same evening.
The next generation of nerdcore has truly arrived. With a vengeance.