Chris Hardwick might just be one of the hardest-working people in show business these days.
Hardwick hosts podcasts and television shows, and he evidently creates popular music and comedy festivals now. With the inaugural ID10T Music Festival and Comic Conival at Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheatre, Hardwick helped solidify comedy and geek culture’s standing in today’s festival circuit.
One of the growing criticisms with contemporary music festivals was they were becoming too homogeneous. The same artists and bands rotated throughout most, if not all, of the big festivals in any given year, so why bother going to more than one? And why bother if some of those same artists and bands return every year.
Organizers were forced to be more creative to maintain fan interest and relevancy. A few years ago, Outside Lands offered a very well-received comedy tent in addition to its massive music offerings, and nowadays it’s hard-pressed to find festivals that provide solely music entertainment.
With ID10T, Hardwick called out for some nerd love and was rewarded with a spacious venue and plenty of friends flying out to join him for the weekend. There were actors, artists, bands, cosplayers, designers, and just about everyone in between at the Shoreline to simply have fun.
Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be enough of any to go around.
Pity those poor souls who stood in long lines and still couldn’t get into the comedy tent on Saturday after the fire marshal forced organizers to redo attendee ingress. I was fortunate enough to get into the revised comedy tent for the early Sunday show – apologies to Robert DeLong for missing his performance – with Natasha Muse, Marcella Arguello, Hardwick replacing Yassir Lester, Brian Posehn, and Garfunkel & Oates.
I was concerned about the short sets, as most comedians got only 15 minutes of mic time, but it was actually long enough to get a feel for each comedian as well as maintain the crowd energy – the non-VIPs were relegated to standing room only. There was understandably a lot of Trump bashing amongst the comedians in this San Francisco Bay Area venue.
I wondered why the comedy tent was an actual enclosed tent while all others were open and allowed for people to wander in and out. With so much demand for the comedy tent and the vast amphitheater space sadly being often more empty than not, one wonders if the latter should have hosted both musicians and comedians. Sure, you would have lost some of that small club intimacy, but how cool would it have been to see and listen to the musical comedy of Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci up on the main stage?
It didn’t even seem like most attendees were there for the music given how few people bothered to show up for most performers, especially those scheduled in the afternoon (although organizers correctly scheduled music to start at around 3:30 p.m. each day).
It’s a shame because recent NPR Tiny Desk Contest winners Tank and the Bangas, Ron Gallo, Sweet Crude, and Mothers were great in those opening slots. One wonders why there wasn’t a smaller music tent for these acts similar to the dance tent. One of the great things about a music festival is the ability to come and go as you please in order to sample everything. Indie folk band Lord Huron and indie rock bands OK Go and The Mowgli’s definitely deserved bigger audiences as well.
Since there was really just one music option before DJs such as Jai Wolf and Party Favor lit up the evening dance tent, there wasn’t much else to listen to if you didn’t like the featured artists. Electronic group Crystal Castles provided ID10T’s best performance but unfortunately saw maybe half the crowd leave way before its hour-long set ended.
Festival closer Girl Talk probably had an even smaller crowd for his 10:00-11:00 p.m. time slot because late Sunday night is such a weird time to groove to electronic dance music if you have work in the morning. Literally, TV on the Radio finished its set with “Staring at the Sun,” the lights turned on, and a lot of people simply got up and left. Those of us who stayed looked at each other confusingly and wondered if they were coming back. Lucky us for getting closer seats. Perhaps more people would’ve stayed had indie legends Weezer closed out Sunday instead of Saturday.
The panels, including Con Man (with Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion), Portlandia (with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein), and comedians were successful, but I’m unsure about everything else. There were a few cosplayers. There was a laser tag area sponsored by the Power Rangers reboot that always had a waiting line. There was a tabletop gaming tent that was never entirely empty. There were additional areas reserved for artists and other creatives to mingle and sell something. I spent some time in a panel on robots that was neither here nor there, if you catch my drift. I think more people were there to physically interact with a nifty display robot.
ID10T was a first time success despite some issues. The Hardwick-created festival fills a need for all things nerd that area residents couldn’t have gotten in at Silicon Valley Comic Con or even Outside Lands. You have comedy, movies and television, music, and a little bit of stuff in between to enjoy. There’s not much else to ask for under a bright sun and following moonlight.