Thursday, 14 August 2014

Con Report: Orlando Nerd Fest

Can I just  I've never been to a music festival of such epically nerdy proportions.  And I mean that in a good way.  Orlando Nerd Fest, held August 7-12, is the first of it's kind.  A music festival dedicated entirely to Nerd Core music and nerd culture.  Usually, first-time cons make me a little...nervous, but with an all-star lineup that included big names such as Final Fantasy composer, Nobuo Uematsu, World of Warcraft composer, Jason Hayes, the crazy android band, Steam Powered Giraffe, and Nerd Core rapper MC Frontalot, you know it has to be good, so I went in with high expectations.  I have to say, despite a few minor frustrations that I'm sure will be cleared up by next year, I was not disappointed.

I arrived at Nerd Fest on Friday afternoon after the event had already been cranking for about a day and a half.  I was a little stressed out when I arrived.  Getting from the airport to my hotel took a little longer than anticipated and I was pushing it to get there before ViViD's Q&A panel.  I've had some pretty crummy experiences with registration at other cons, but this one was a breeze.  I walked in, grabbed my pass and was on my way to the panel in less than ten minutes.

And this brings us to minor frustration number one.  Technical difficulties.  ViViD was already seated at a long table in the front of the room with mics in front of them.  The mics, however, didn't work.  The audience for the panel was rather small, so it wasn't the end of the world, but it did make it difficult to hear at times.  Once they got the sound system working (about 30 minutes into the panel), it almost compounded the problem.  The mics for the band worked, but the translator wasn't provided with one.  They also started pumping in ViViD music over the speaker system.  To be fair, I had possibly the worst seat in this particular situation as I had a speaker right over my head, but once the music came on, hearing the audience questions and the translated responses became extremely difficult.

Despite the problems with the sound, the panel itself was a ton of fun.  The ViViD guys were energetic and friendly, often turning the questions back on the audience and making the whole thing feel more like a conversation than a Q&A (look forward to a full report on a separate post).  This went on for a little over an hour, followed by an autograph session.  Everyone was lovely and Shin, especially, was a jewel.  He was so determined to speak to everyone in English, he actually asked that we not use Japanese.

Next, it was off to the main stage where we were just in time to catch the tail end of Jason Hayes' set with Critical Hit.  This was my first dive into the photo pit.  I have to admit, I was feeling...well...a little inferior in there with all the pros and their massive lenses, but they were all very polite and just sort of ignored me as long as I stayed out of their way.  Snapped a few shots, then ducked out to enjoy the rest of the show.  Next up was ViViD who ROCKED THE HOUSE!  Check my live report for full details.

And, that was pretty much the con.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Which brings me to another minor frustration:  the disappointing lack of vendors.  There were a few, but NOTHING like what you would find at a normal convention.  Most of the tables were occupied by companies advertising games in development and the like with very few art vendors.  This meant that if you weren't watching a show or attending a panel, there really wasn't much to do.  There was a small game room set up with arcade games and whatnot, but it seemed like most people just found an open table or floor space to spread out and play cards.  Again, this is a VERY new con, so I'm not holding it against them, but I do hope to see some improvement in these areas in the future.

As for me, I spent most of my downtime in the bar area which lead to some rather interesting encounters, including an appearance from Creepy Con Guy.  We all know this guy.  The sad, desperate boy who's had just a few too many drinks and walks around hitting on everything in a skirt.  I knew it was going to be bad when he opened with, "Are you over 18?"  He then complimented my dreads, giving me "kudos for the dedication," (it was a wig) and stumbled off.  We were also frequently chatted up by MC and God of War composer, Gerard Marino, who looks suspiciously like Howie Mandel by the way.  He will forever be my hero for enticing an entire bar full of people, including Jason Hayes, to sing Bohemian Rhapsody.  Seriously, I have video.

All in all, it was a very successful con.  By the end, I was completely exhausted with a goofy smile plastered across my face.  The staff were all very professional, polite and efficient.  The acts were amazing.  The facility well managed.  There were a few problems, but that's to be expected on your first time out and, honestly, I've experienced MUCH worse from established cons.  That being said, I'm already marking my calender for next year.

How about you?  Did any of you get out to Nerd Fest?  If so, share your stories in the comments.  Have pictures or video you want to share?  Send us a link.  Didn't make it?  Well, there's always next year.