w00tstock offers the best parts of geek cons, packed into a three hour vaudeville show. The event features Wil Wheaton, Adam Savage, Paul and Storm, and numerous very geeky special guests.
What do Adam Savage (MythBusters), Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: TNG), and Paul and Storm (the musical comedy duo) have in common? The answer we're looking for is that they are the masterminds of w00tstock, a geek-oriented touring event.
From the w00tstock site, the event is approximately three hours of "music acts, readings, comedy, demonstrations, short films, special guests, and other clever widgets born from and dedicated to the enthusiasms, obsessions, trials and joys of geek pride." Basically, it's a vaudeville show for geeks.
Wil Wheaton, Paul, Storm, Adam Savage at a w00tstock performance. (Credit: Dan Tentler)
A geek event was born
Paul and Storm liked the group dynamic at folk festivals where their original act, Da Vinci's Notebook, performed, and they also enjoyed the comedic readings of Wil Wheaton at a PAX event, so they decided to create a variety show that appeals to the geek crowd. A few phone calls and some schedule juggling, and w00tstock was born. The first performance was held October 18, 2009 in San Francisco.
A celebration of geeks
The really interesting thing about w00tstock is the way it draws large crowds of geeks and unifies people into a group that celebrates the things that make them geeks in the first place. As Paul and Storm explain, "w00tstock takes all those things that geeks were once harassed for, and turns them into positives to be proud of." No more feeling dumpy about being a gamer/ dungeon master/ etc. — geeks everywhere and of every ilk are celebrated and united by w00tstock.
Not really a Con
w00tstock regularly invites special guests, including Dr. Demento, Weird Al Yankovic, Jonathan Coulton, Felicia Day and The Guild, and John Scalzi, to join in the fun, but the event is not a Con. Surprisingly, the audience intrinsically understands that. Requests for autographs are common, but Adam Savage and Wil Wheaton are allowed, nay encouraged, by the audience to exist outside of their television roles. Another difference between w00tstock and Cons is that it's rare for people to attend w00tstock dressed in costumes — though witty, pithy t-shirts are common.
w00tstock highlights include Dr. Demento and Weird Al Yankovic singing the Shaving Cream song. Another great moment that is a real testament to the geek group dynamic was at a w00tstock in Chicago. The team began a musical number that normally lasts about two minutes. Something clicked between the crowd and the entertainment, and the song went on for 45 minutes. Then there was the guy who convinced the w00tstock crew to help him propose during the show (she said yes). Moments like these illustrate that the geek crowd really is a united community. Moments similar in tone are the reason so many people followed the Grateful Dead around the world — it's likely not long before w00tstock gains similarly devoted fans.
2011 tour dates TBD
The Spring 2011 tour schedule is currently in the works — you'll have to watch the w00tstock website for tour date announcements. Each event features special guest appearances. Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, The Muppets, Steve Wozniak, and Grover on all on the guest star wish list, but schedules still have to be worked out. Late 2011 could possibly see an extended w00tstock event — think hippie jamfest but funny and with geeks. The dream location for a three day w00tstock event is Devils Tower in Wyoming. But, just like during the shows, we never know what will click and where it will all end up. The only thing you can bet on is that wherever it's held, and whoever the guest stars are, audiences will have a geeky good time.
For more highlights, look at photos from the w00tstock Flickr stream and watch videos on the w00tstock YouTube channel. Also check out the event site to learn more about the w00tstock experience, which includes a video of Wil Wheaton's introduction to w00tstock 1.1 in Los Angeles.
Would you try to attend w00tstock if there was a performance in your area? Who do you think would be the ideal special guest for this geeky variety show? Perhaps Dr. Sheldon Cooper?A special thanks to Paul and Storm, whom I interviewed for this article.