It is rare that there is an event that can seamlessly blend so many worlds together under one roof and have it work. ID10T Festival is the one that falls into that 'rare' category. The inaugural festival, hosted and created by comedian Chris Hardwick, blends the worlds of music, television, film, animation, comedy, comic books, video games, and nerd culture into one gigantic playground of a two-day festival. The event took place over the course of two days at Mountain View, CA's Shoreline Amphitheater.
When I say that it's rare for an event of this nature to be able to successfully blend together all of these worlds, I think of various festivals that I've attended or read about where it just doesn't work. There's too much of an emphasis on one aspect over the other, nothing is balanced, and it ends up flopping. While the lineup on the poster released prior to the show looks massive, being onsite over the course of two days and seeing how it's mapped out proves that it's manageable, and patrons are free to take in a number of different activities throughout the day. The mornings began with a number of "Comic-Con style" panels and podcast tapings, with the same tent that housed them converting into the 'Mad Decent Dance Tent', launching a rave with some of the biggest names in electronic dance music that permeated well into the night. An air-conditioned comedy tent (that will apparently need to be much bigger next year due to such a dramatic turnout) housed some of the best names in comedy from early in the afternoon until about 8 PM.
If you didn't feel like watching a panel or heading out to a comedy event, you could wander the festival grounds and find a number of activities to partake in: Power Rangers-themed laser tag, tabletop gaming sessions, photo booths, coffee samplings from Peets Coffee, comic book browsing. There was even merchandise as far as the eye can see, and everyone was able to walk away with something, even if it was just a $1 comic book or a $5 pin.
Hardwick clearly knows the audience he caters to, and this is because you can genuinely tell that he is a fan himself. Nothing at ID10T Festival seemed like a bullshit, forced money-grab. Hardwick moderated a majority of the panels (with others moderated by fellow actor Wil Wheaton and Nerdist News' Jessica Chobot), which featured packed crowds beginning around 12:30. Day one featured the cast and writers of the Netflix-revived Mystery Science Theater 3000, actors Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk talking about their web series Con-Man (season one on Vimeo, season two on Comic-Con HQ), the cast of SyFy's hit show The Magicians and IFC's Stan Against Evil, and a live taping of Hardwick's own Nerdist Podcast (along with co-hosts Jonah Ray and Matt Mira).
Day two stepped a little bit outside of the boundaries of the typical "comic-con panel" format. While exciting highlights included the Futurama panel (with voice actors Phil LaMarr, Billy West, and Maurice LaMarche), Carrie Brownstein and and Fred Armisen in discussion about their hit show Portlandia, and a special live taping of the Harmontown podcast, the show-stealer was Animaniacs Live. Voice actors Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche, along with moderator Chris Hardwick and musician/lyricist Randy Rogel, delighted the packed audience to renditions of numerous songs from the acclaimed Steven Spielberg-produced animated show from the 90's. Rogel was a writer of numerous songs on the series, including the memorable "Yakko's World" song, in which the lovable Warner Brother lists each country of the world (all in song). This was the closing number, and LaMarche was quick to note that this was Rogel's audition song for the show. As the audience gave a standing ovation to Paulsen for his seamless performance of the track, LaMarche noted that it only took Paulsen one take to get it when the vocals were tracked for the show. I've never seen so many happy faces under one roof.
It would only make sense for a festival of Chris Hardwick's creation to host a comedy tent. He's a comedian himself with two Comedy Central specials, and he even did a surprise drop-in set at the late show on day one. The lineup throughout the weekend featured numerous comedians, several of which have been guests on the Nerdist Podcast. I've been fortunate enough to have been exposed to their records and material through his podcast, and it was an incredibly well-crafted lineup. There were comedians from all areas of the comedy world, and no routine ever had the same feel to it. Highlights include the politically-charged Greg Proops, the hysterical Nikki Glaser, heavy-metal aficionado Brian Posehn. Comedian Brent Weinbach's deadpan style of comedy was a hit with the crowd, and Mike Phirman entertained with a combination of both straight-forward jokes and comedic musical numbers. Michael Che headlined night two, and proved that he can set himself apart from his Weekend Update segment on Saturday Night Live.
The only complaint I heard about the festival from patrons throughout the weekend was the ticketing system for the comedy tent that the fire marshall instituted at the last minute. The situation was rectified the very next day, addressed by both Hardwick and the festival itself, and it's clear that next year the comedy tent will be much bigger. It was only supposed to hold about 500 people, and many more than that showed interest in attending the sets. To be honest, this is great news, because it shows that there is still an incredibly genuine interest in the stand-up comedy culture. Here's to a bigger and better tent in 2018.
There were a few different ways you could go when the music took its place among the festival starting around 3:30 PM. The main stage featured a number of rock and indie-rock bands, including Lord Huron, Animal Collective, and headliners Weezer (alternative rock) and Girl Talk (dance/remix). OK Go and TV On The Radio played astounding sets proved they could hold their own and even go on to headline the festival in the coming years.
The Mad Decent Dance Tent could be heard from anywhere on the festival grounds, as the loud booming of the subwoofers that adorned the bottom of the stage penetrated the walls of the comedy tent on the other side of the venue (which made for great improvised material from the comedians performing at the time their sets were colliding with one another). Acts like the hip-hop oriented Party Favor and the unique stylings of Gryffin got the energy up right off the bat, leading into headliners that made the crowd only go crazier. Night one featured sets from the trippy, "pretty music" stylings of Jai Wolf and the bass-induced house melodies of French producer Madeon. Night two closed perfectly with an increasingly energetic set from up-and-comer Troyboi and a monstrously crazy set from electro-house mainstays Zeds Dead.
All in all, the first year of ID10T Festival proved that it's possible to run a successful festival with multiple focuses and not overwhelm or stress our your guests simultaneously. Everything at ID10T was spaced out nicely, and the details truly show that the fans were in mind when this festival was created (right down to the giant refillable water stations that were placed throughout the venue). Of course there are going to be a few bumps in the road, and not everything will be perfect the first time around, but this was pretty damn good. I'm already planning and looking forward to going to next year's event.