Nerdapalooza Is Dead; Long Live Nerdapalooza

Beefy, Adam WarRock and Jesse Dangerously perform Here’s a little window into my creative process (such as it is); I sit down at a keyboard and I type. Yeah, I mean, sometimes I have some review notes or a collection of disparate thoughts from an Evernote document or something, but mostly it’s just me putting words together.

Later, when I reread and begin to edit, I almost instantly see a larger framework, my underlying theme or my driving point. I share this because this particular post is nothing like that. I have spent weeks – nay, months – agonizing over how to eulogize Nerdapalooza, Orlando’s now defunct nerd music festival. And, sadly, the longer I’ve waited the more difficult this has become.

Plenty has been said to praise and to bury this titan of geek culture, and some have already begun both critically reflecting on NAP, its longevity and what ultimately went wrong, as well as rush to fill the void its departure has left. There’ve been tears shed, there’ve been fingers pointed and there’ve been anecdotes shared. But for me, as I close out yet another year, I’ve at long last realized what I hope to impart in these final words.

You see, particularly where Nerdapalooza is concerned, I’m less concerned with what will no longer be or what should’ve been, but simply with what was.

Nerdapalooza was the first event I ever covered for GeekDad, and that festival and this blog have had a strong relationship ever since. We were, on a number of occasions, a sponsor – this primarily meant that we gave the NAP crew a little of the money they needed to get the job done in exchange for our names splashed around the venue… and a table I tended to ignore.

But even before that, Nerdapalooza was a part of my life. It went from a big idea from some far-flung nerd named Hex to a for-real occurrence that took place at irregular intervals in tapas restaurants, hotel ballrooms, bars and convention centers. It grew and it swelled and it succeeded and it receded and, all the while, it told a story. Hell, it told a whole bunch of stories.

Mine started with friendships, meeting and becoming forever tied to folks like Denika, Mustin, Team Monsterface, Euge and the motley Sci-Fried crew. It saw me share space with not only hundreds of my geeky brothers and sisters, but share experiences with genuine friends like Matt and Larry, two patrons of the nerd arts that’ve likely spotted me more meals, drinks and hotel rooms than my own blood-family. Weirdly, I always sort of thought of my fellow Nerdapalooza patrons as just that, and those long weekends began to feel very much like massive family reunions.

Even this year, with the stink of this impending doom permeating the event, haunting us through whispers and sideways conjecture, mine was a story with its own indubitable highlights. Finally seeing my old pal Beefy take the stage, catching a secret magic show from the phenomenal Nelson Lugo and seeing a very grown-up Nerf Herder play a set with every speck of their awkward 90s alterna-rock energy intact are not only some of my freshest memories from this, the show’s final chapter, they are some of my fondest.

Still, it wasn’t just the bands I wanted to see, the sets I simply had to catch that made Nerdapalooza. It was also those I fully intended to miss. If jazz happens in the space between notes, then surely Nerdapalooza’s magic happens between sets, or in those stolen moments when you wander out to the smoking area, up to your room for a quick drink or off for a bite to eat.

But again, that’s just my story. Hex, I’m sure, has his own tale. As does my regular traveling companion Josh. So does Andrea. So does Curtis. So does Mikal. If you were there, once, twice or always, then you too have a Nerdapalooza story. Aaron and Nina – two longtime show-runners – even have a story that includes a recent wedding. (Congrats, guys!)

If Nerdapalooza was anything for you like it was for me – some manner of freaked out musical family gathering – then you no doubt realize the truth: that we’re all still family. I’m sure we could all debate at length who made the wrong calls, what decisions led to its dissolution and where to place the blame, but none of that really matters.

What does matter is our memories. What does matter is that the dream of one man became the opportunity of a lifetime for many a musician and music lover. What matters are the careers launched and the relationships forged. What matters is that we were there.

In short, it doesn’t matter that it’s over; it only matters that it happened.

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Z. is a proud father of two, Managing Editor of the GeekDad blog, a multiple Parsec award-winning podcaster, and a lover of nerd music and culture. At this moment, he is likely thinking about clothes or playing video games. Possibly both.