Nerdapalooza 2012 Festival Recap

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It’s 9 AM. I’m sitting in the Volusia County Courthouse in a classroom desk reminiscent of middle-school. My ears are ringing. My legs are sore. My hair a disheveled mess because I didn’t have time for a proper shower. To the upstanding citizens around me I’m sure I look like I’ve been out all night on an alcohol binge. These people would be only partially right. Today is the day after The Nerdapalooza Festival. What I like to call “The Aftermath”.

For the uninitiated, Nerdapalooza is an annual music festival in Orlando, Florida. What kind of music you may ask? Well it’s a bit of everything. There’s hip-hop, heavy metal, electronic, rock, theatre, and even some stuff that defies genres all together, but all of these things have a single unifying thread — they are all Nerd-centric in theme. Yes that’s right; Nerdapalooza is all about nerd music. Everything from DJs sampling old school 8-bit video games  to power metal bands playing a rendition of your favorite Nintendo video game’s theme song. If it’s at all nerdy in theme it has either been or will be at Nerdapalooza.

This marks the fifth straight year of the Orlando based event and my fourth year in attendance. This year witnessed a truly remarkable thing happen. No more are the days of hotel convention centers and coffee shops. This year the nerds took over downtown Orlando and made residence in both The Social and The Beacham. Nerdapalooza, an event that I once was embarrassed to tell my friends about, was actually happening at a legitimate venue in the heart of Orlando. I remember it was a rather surreal feeling when I approached the corner of Washington and Orange in downtown Orlando where I saw the Orlando Weekly newspaper stand with the latest Nerd-themed issue and then only to look up and see quite possibly the longest line I’ve ever seen to get into The Social. This was going to be an epic weekend.

Nerdapalooza was kicked off on Friday evening with a free pre-party at The Social. It was a packed house and from what I overheard, they were turning people away throughout the night. By the time I made it through the epic line I had sadly missed Adam WarRock with Tribe One. When we arrived, Armcannon was setting up. Truthfully I didn’t know much about them before Friday night. All I knew is that they were a heavy metal band that played classic video game themes and that they had a pretty large following. After watching them, this following was definitely justified. Think Metallica covering classic Nintendo themes and you’ll have Armcannon.

Armcannon

The OneUps took to the stage next. I was very familiar with their music, but I had never seen them perform live. The best way to describe The OneUps is a Vegas-style lounge act that converts classic video game themes into smooth jazz tunes. I highly recommend checking them out. They are often my ‘go to’ band for a chill music playlist.

The OneUps

After a quick pizza intermission I returned to the venue in time for Bit Brigade to perform. This turned out to be one of the great surprises of the weekend. I had never heard of or seen this band before and based on their setup they looked like any other video game themed rock band, but with one small exception – their setup included a video game console and projector. After a quick introduction, their intention was clear. One of the members would “speed run” through the game Mega Man 2 while the rest of the band performs ALL of the theme music. If you’re not familiar with what a speed run is, it’s where you play through the entirety of a video game as fast as you can. Bit Brigade did not disappoint and they managed to complete the entire thing, epilogue and all, in just under 45 minutes. Photos don’t do this performance justice. See their entire set from MAGfest in the video below.

Bit Brigade

Friday night concluded with a double dose of nerdy DJ sets. Ben Briggs of Overclocked Remix fame brought a level of energy to the stage that I’ve never seen in a DJ. He was followed up with the highly anticipated DJ Cutman who closed out the night. Both proved to be extremely talented producers and I think it’s safe to say you’ll definitely be hearing more from them on our website soon. Check out some of their tracks below.

DJ Ben Briggs

DJ CUTMAN

Saturday was a late start for me and I didn’t get into the venue until late afternoon. I arrived just in time to see the performer that I had been looking forward to the most take the stage, Mr. Adam WarRock. This man is really a living and breathing MEME. His work can be found everywhere on the internet, but I’ve never seen him perform live. He puts pop and nerdy culture lyrics over both mainstream and original hip-hop beats to create a truly unique sound. During his set he performed many of his famous tracks including “Wizards in Paris” (a reimagining of Kanye and Jay-Z’s original track coupled with some Lord of the Rings references thrown in) and “Waka Flocka Swanson” off of his Park + Rec mixtape released earlier this year. We were able to snag a video of him performing the famous Ron Swanson tribute song and have provided it below for your viewing pleasure.

Adam WarRock

Adam WarRock

Following this, The Megas took the stage at The Beacham. If you couldn’t guess, they are also a Mega Man tribute band. Over the years, The Megas have been a Nerdapalooza staple and are consistently one of my favorite performances of the weekend.

The Megas

The Megas

Back over at The Social marked one of my favorite parts every year at Nerdapalooza: Schaffer The Darklord (or STD as is unfortunately chanted). Schaffer is an energetic performer from New York City who, like The Megas, has become a Nerdapalooza staple. Always clad in his instantly recognizable black and purple attire, Schaffer The Darklord represents the theatre geek that’s deep down inside us all. His performance is full of morally questionable and debaucherous lyrics that seek to alienate and entertain. This year Schaffer brought a surprise to his performance by performing a duet with a puppet version of himself called Schaffer the Dark Puppet or STP.

Schaffer the Darklord

Schaffer the Darklord

Metroid Metal (yup, you guessed it, a Metroid themed heavy metal band) preformed next followed by Math the Band, a high energy rock duo that makes heavy use of vintage synths and drum machines. The music portion of the night was closed out with The Protomen at The Beacham. If you’ve never heard of The Protomen before, it’s time to become familiar with them. The Protomen are a Mega Man centric rock band (total count is now up to four) from Nashville, TN. Unlike the others, they have a truly unique niche performance backed by a huge fan following. The band turns the story of the Mega Man universe into a dystopian re-telling in the form of an epic rock opera. The Protomen have a sound that could easily fill an arena sized venue and witnessing their performance can alone justify the cost of a single Nerdapalooza ticket.

Metroid Metal

Metroid Metal

Math the Band

Math the Band

The Protomen

The Protomen

Saturday’s after-hours performance was hosted by a Mr. Nelson Lugo and the beautiful ladies of The Epic Win Burlesque from New York City. This marked my first burlesque show and I was a bit uncertain on what to expect. This was Epic Win’s third year attending Nerdapalooza, but I had missed it in years past. I’ll start by saying that I have a great respect for Mr Lugo. This man is a master at his craft of stage performance. He has a great skill in controlling the audience, improvisation and efficiently dealing with hecklers. That being said, he is also one of the luckiest men on the planet by being involved with his troupe of lovely, nerdy, pin-up, burlesque performers. The burlesque performance went as follows: 1.) A beautiful woman dressed in sci-fi, comic book, or fantasy attire dances on stage. 2.) Nerds cheer. 3.) Beautiful woman removes clothes. 4.) Everyone is happy. 5.) Repeat as necessary.

Nelson Lugo

The Great Nelson Lugo

Epic Win Burlesque

One of the lovely ladies of the Epic Win Burlesque

I arrived to the venue on Sunday afternoon just as Beebs and Her Money Makers started to play. Lyrically this band did not fit with the others – they sounded like a traditional ska band with no ties to nerdy culture. Upon further inspection the reason for their inclusion at Nerdapalooza became clear. The lead singer, Beebs, was dressed to look like she was ripped straight from the film reel of a Tim Burton film and the bands trombone player looked like Michael Keaton’s portrayal of the character Beetlejuice. Further investigation also revealed that the band has a comic book based on their adventures.

Beebs and Her Money Makers

Beebs and Her Money Makers

Danimal Cannon, brentalfloos and the Cartridge Family, ytcracker, and No More Kings filled in the rest of the afternoon. Another one of my favorite performances this year was another Nerdapalooza favorite, Mega Ran. Mega Ran, or Random as he sometimes goes by, started his nerdy music career by rapping over samples from the video game Mega Man (that brings the total tally to five Mega Man themed artists). Eventually he gained so much internet notoriety that Capcom (the owners of the Mega Man trademark) have now officially licensed him to produce the music. He has since broken away from the Mega Man theme to produce other music, including a Final Fantasy album and an album chronicling his life as a Language Arts teacher. One of the most amazing parts of his show is his freestyle session and the freestyle set at Nerdapalooza did not disappoint. The video below from this year’s event shows his unique approach to freestyle.

Danimal Cannon

Danimal Cannon

brentalfloss

brentalfloss and The Cartridge Family

ytcracker

ytcracker

Mega Ran

Mega Ran

The next performance I caught was Koo Koo Kangaroo. I’m at a loss for words on how to describe this show. I had absolutely no expectations going into this performance and had never heard of them until they announced the lineup for Nerdapalooza. I knew that I was in for a treat when they started to break out the assortment of random animal and food themed costumes. I think the best description of this show would be watching an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba while tripping on acid while the Yo Gabba Gabba actors were on Cocaine. It was a very high energy set and a lot of fun! The pictures and video below don’t even do it justice. Definitely one of my Nerdapalooza 2012 highlights.

Koo Koo Kangaroo

Koo Koo Kangaroo

My Nerdapalooza 2012 journey concluded with the final performance of the evening: The Protomen performing their Queen cover album. This was a fitting end to the night although the party continued until the early hours during the official Nerdapalooza after party at A Comic Shop in Orlando where DJ Roborob kept the 8-bit tunes spinning all night long. I simply had too many potos to edit and not to mention an early court date in the morning.

The Protoment

The Protomen cover Queen

Looking back on the weekend and reflecting on years past, this was truly the best Nerdapalooza to date. The sound was great. The performances were on time. The alcohol was flowing and there was always something to do. One of the most suprising things to come out of Nerdapalooza this year was the announcement that their would be TWO Nerdapalooza events next year – Orlando AND New York City. I have mixed feelings about this news. On the one hand, it would definitely be a benefit to the franchise. In talking with some friends in attendance this year, they related stories of the local Orlando community showing signs of distaste and disgust with the event. I attribute this to a lack of understanding and stereotyping of the nerd community. I think the majority of people would have a great time at Nerdapalooza because it appeals to a sense of nostalgia about playing video games and watching Saturday morning cartoons as a child. I believe the people of New York would be more open to this kind of event and not to mention that there are millions more people to draw upon for attendance. On the other hand, I feel the success of a NYC event will cause the Orlando event to fade into the background and lose focus. I feel like Nerdapalooza has been an Orlando tradition and the event has strong ties to the community. Orlando should cherish this because we are a city with few traditions to call our own.

Triforce Mike Tribute

The Protomen paying their respects to Triforce Mike Pandel

In the end this was a great weekend and I had fun every second I was there. My undying thanks go out to all the behind-the-scenes staff and sponsors who made Nerdapalooza a reality this year. I look forward to what the future has in store for one of my favorite annual events.

Much nerdy love,

-Tom

For more photos of this years Nerdapalooza head to our Facebook page!