Paul and Storm, if you’re not familiar, are a singer-songwriter-guitar-playing comedy duo who compose and perform songs generally geek-related in some way. My first exposure to them was during their opening set before a Jonathan Coulton concert (who is by the way is also a brilliant singer-songwriter who writes humorous songs about things such as mad scientists, zombies, and writing computer code). Paul and Storm came out on stage that night and the first song they did is called “Opening Band” with its lyrics “We are the opening band … We are here to do five or six or seven songs, don’t go too long, and get the hell off the stage … We are the opening band … We’re probably not the band you came to see tonight … but it’s alright, ’cause soon we’ll go away!” Anyone sitting in the audience that night who wasn’t familiar with their work (such as myself) was instantly won over.
Fittingly, the first song of w00tstock was Paul and Storm’s “Opening Band” — which, by the way, is available for the video game Rock Band. Geek power, yo!
Adam Savage is best known for MythBusters, in which he and co-host Jamie Hyneman test the validity of various myths — often, it seems, by blowing shit up. Savage took the stage with an amusing “100 Wishes” segment, a kind of slide show presentation in which he listed 100 things he’d like to do — including parachute alone (not strapped to some guy), forge his own sword from scratch, and have a secret room behind a bookshelf which would be accessed by removing one book.
Molly Lewis is a singer-songwriter who performs her work on the ukulele, including “I Pity the Fool” (a song about Mr. T), “My American Cousin” (a song in three parts about the assassination of President Lincoln), and a fun cover version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”
Kid Beyond is a human beatboxer, game inventor and voice actor. Truth be told, I had actually never seen beatboxing done in person before, with live looping, and I must say it was quite impressive the way he layered the various rhythms using sequencers — essentially creating his own live backing tracks right in front of the audience.
He also showed a couple of You Tube videos, in which footage of Sesame Street Muppets Bert and Ernie are edited together over a song so it appears they are actually singing the lyrics. One video was set to M.O.P.’s “Ante Up” and the other was set to The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” — however, he informed us The Proclaimers video would be a w00tstock exclusive because it had been issued a takedown notice and is no longer available on the Web. By the way, if you are reading this and you happen to be the person who issued the takedown notice, you are inarguably a moron. Here is a link to the Muppet music video for the song with the smart legal department, who realize that free publicity for their artist is a good thing.
I must say the real reason I was excited about w00tstock was Wil Wheaton, an actor I’ve admired for some time now, having starred as Gordie Lachance in one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations and also one of my favorite Rob Reiner films Stand By Me (1986). I guess I need to write a Revival House on this movie at some point. Wheaton also had a recurring role as Dr. Beverly Crusher’s son Wesley on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now, Wheaton is probably best known for his blog WWdN: In Exile and also for having like a billion or so Twitter followers. No surprise there, as Wheaton happens to be an excellent writer with several books published, including The Happiest Days of Our Lives (2007)Â and Just a Geek (2004). Oh, by the way, he is also a geek.
For me, the highlight of the evening was Wheaton’s account of being pressured by an older kid to trade Wheaton’s Death Star toy (with a trash compactor monster), for a land speeder. The older kid even offered five bucks to sweeten the deal. Wheaton’s telling of this story featured musical accompaniment by Paul and Storm, notably John Williams’ Star Wars themes beautifully arranged for guitar and kazoo. I am not making this up, folks — they played the main Star Wars theme, the Imperial March and an arrangement of “The Force” theme on guitar and freakin’ kazoo.
w00tstock is a three-hour evening of comedy, music, magic, Muppet mash-up, and general silliness. (Okay, there wasn’t really any magic, but the evening felt magical — it was in the air). They sold out two San Francisco performances at the Swedish American Hall, plus another show in Los Angeles at Largo. Paul and Storm hinted there might be more shows in the future. If so, I am down with it. I figure us geeks have to stick together.