Let me take you on a journey into the land of science and music, where nerds and muggles collide. Where is this magical place? Well, I suppose the article title pretty much gives that away. This year’s Orlando Nerd Fest was held at the Orlando Science Center. This made for a particularly cool location, with music played on two different stages in two very different settings. Stage A was in the DinoDigs section, with a T. Rex watching over the proceedings, while Stage B featured a spinning Death Star in the background and plenty of interesting experiments just beyond the wall.
One of my favorite parts of the entire weekend surprisingly wasn’t actually related to the music. I’m sure there were plenty of adults just visiting the science center, most of them with their kids, who just happened to find themselves confronted with music (and I hope many of them stayed to listen and discovered something new!). But it was the kids who were the most fun. They danced and stood amazed at the bands on stage. Imagine being a kid and seeing the Brothers of Alien Rock or the Moonmen from Mars or the Killer Robots (the only band of the three that I actually managed to catch and, yes, there were plenty of kids fighting the evil robots with pool noodles). I know I would have loved it!
The setting itself was also really great. I’d only been to the OSC for a wedding, so I was really glad to get a chance to explore. Admittedly, the museum is geared towards kids, but that didn’t stop the nerds in attendance from playing around with the experiments. The wave machine was probably the biggest hit, with many people attempting to strand and / or rescue the rubber duck inside. I only saw one person successfully rescue it; it wasn’t exactly easy to do!
I’ve mentioned in the past that these kinds of events always have a really cool vibe, with the nerds able to dance and be themselves without judgment. Surprisingly, this vibe still held despite the fact that there were many people at the OSC who weren’t there for the music. That’s probably because they were there for the science, and the Venn diagram of nerds and science fans certainly has quite a bit of overlap. And this year, I even got to meet several of my podcast guests in person (as well as old friends), which made the camaraderie even better.
Now let’s finally get around to the music (and a reminder that, just like in the past, my leaving off of an artist’s name doesn’t mean I didn’t like them; it could simply be that I didn’t see them). There may not have been as many “big names” as last year’s event, but that doesn’t mean the quality suffered. The Day Before show at the Geek Easy kicked things off nicely. Old favorites from the show included King Pheenix, Funky 49, Milk Carton Superstars (who covered a Claire and the Potatoes song!), Richie Branson (a drunken set that worked quite well, actually), and Professor Shyguy. And there’s always cool new music, which this year included LucioPro and Broken Pixels.
The full event began in earnest on Saturday at the OSC. Previous podcast guests Nuclear Bubble Wrap and Marc with a C both performed great sets that I captured on video. Another interesting consequence of hosting ONF at the OSC was that artists were required to play “family friendly” sets. Marc’s set technically fit that definition, although he quite obviously had some fun with it (or perhaps he was just trying to stick it to “the man”) as you’ll see if you watch the videos. I get the distinct impression that he resented the requirement, especially given events that occurred later that night (more on that later).
Saturday include many acts that I hadn’t yet seen, many of which I hadn’t known before ONF. Two (very different stylistically) steampunk bands, Clockwork Knotwork and The Cog Is Dead, both played great sets. The fabulous Allie Goertz and Kieran Strange were also new to me, and both put on awesome performances. Rounding out the new artists was Regdar and the Fighters, who opened on Saturday. I also discovered that “Fighter #1” (aka Steve; Regdar is the computer) is a member of glam rock band Lipstick, and he also played bass for Nuclear Bubble Wrap. I managed to add him to my podcast guests, so look for that soon as well.
Headlining on Saturday night were Professor Shyguy and mc chris. After a set of mostly covers at the Day Before Show, Shyguy played several originals as well as some covers, with one notable cover with Marc with a C. Yeah, that one. I’ll just say that their guest this time only knew that she was going to have a seductive song sung to her; she didn’t know about the turn near the end. Marc told me later he feels like the song needs to be retired after that one. I tend to agree! So awesome!
Now we get to the aforementioned exception to the family friendly requirements. I had a feeling that mc chris wouldn’t be able to keep it family friendly, and I was right. I will give him credit: he did start off that way, but once he veered from it, he never looked back. Admittedly he did start at midnight, well after the museum closed, but it seems to me that the watershed hour should have probably been as soon as the museum closed. But that’s just me. Regardless, mc chris’s show was just as entertaining as all the other times I’ve seen him.
Sunday’s show began fairly early with yet another podcast guest (there are more to come!), Count Jared from the Gekkos. In addition to his own material, he also covered “Weird Al’s” “Yoda.” So cool! I’m glad I finally got to catch his live set. And speaking of podcast guests (and interesting crossovers), Jared joined Smashy Claw on accordion, with Jace from Nuclear Bubble Wrap on bass, for their awesome set. I really loved being able to see so many of the people I met online play live as well as to actually meet them in person.
OK, one last podcast guest. The newest member of RPG-Unit is Alpha Riff, and he performed with them on Sunday. Now that I’ve actually started playing Borderlands 2, I totally appreciate their music even more. Everybody was at the top of their game, and Alpha Riff fit in absolutely perfectly. And speaking of great sets, both Mega Ran and Richie Branson also performed on Sunday night. Mega Ran included some new stuff from his newest album, RNDM, as well as old favorites like “Splash Woman.” Richie’s set was far more sober than his Day Before show, with some previews of songs from his upcoming Gurren Lagann project (the Kickstarter for it can be found here, and it ends on Sept. 10, 2015).
But for me the act that completely stole the entire weekend had to be EyeQ’s Sunday set. I’ve seen him perform before, and he’s always good, but this time he was joined by Navi and Picnibus. The first couple of songs they did were completely improvised, then they performed several of EyeQ’s songs with improvised music behind them. They just completely destroyed; they quite literally rocked the stage, especially when they were joined by tons of guests, including Mega Ran, Richie Branson, Sky Blue, Orlando Super, and more. It’s almost always better when artists can be joined by a live band, and Picnibus fully demonstrated that during this set. I’m really disappointed that I missed their set for the Day After, but at least I got to see their brand of funky hip-hop at some point. And to have EyeQ towering over it all just made it an absolutely perfect set.
As I wrap up, I’ll mention that I’ve heard some complaints online about the venue choice as well as the family friendly requirements. While I understand them, I have to say that I don’t agree at all. I’ve already talked about the venue above, and the only times I really noticed that everything was “family friendly” was when it was specifically called out. I’m actually hoping that next year’s ONF can be held in the Science Center; there’s still at least one room that I never got to explore because it took nearly the whole weekend for me to figure out how to get there (well, OK, I didn’t try that hard, obviously, but still…). As I mentioned previously, maybe they could institute a watershed hour beyond which the sets are allowed to veer into more adult themes and language. Regardless, I’m quite certain that I’ll be attending ONF2016! Oh, and if you want to check out more videos and pics from the weekend, my YouTube channel and Google photos album are a decent place to start (I’ll be adding more in the next few days as I have time to do so).