The idea of “geeky music” has come a long way since Lambda Lambda Lambda won that battle of the bands in Revenge Of The Nerds. And come San Diego Comic-Con, that evolution will take center stage – literally – at W00tstock 2.4, a musical/comedy event celebrating what its organizers call “the dawning of the Age of Geekdom.” That statement, while somewhat grandiose, does speak to the rise of geek-related pop-culture as a marketable niche.
And in the midst of this crowd, frequently associated with the various kinds of shiny tech geeks like both in their sci-fi and their homes, Marian Call stands as a bit of an anomaly: a DIY geeky troubadour. Call is, by her own admission, the “rookie” in the W00tstock line-up, an Alaska-based musician who’s making an SDCC-sized detour from her current tour, a 50-state endeavor where she’s been playing not only traditional venues, but inside fans’ homes – and in one case, a gazebo in Oklahoma.
“A lot of this is country I’ve never covered before,” Call said on the phone from outside Seattle. “The only place I’d ever been to in the Midwest, really, was Fargo, and a little outside of Chicago … I’ve been trying to write down things I’ve noticed and take a lot of pictures. I’m amazed how much country there is and how few people see very much of it.”
Besides playing the show, Call will get to testify to another trend-within-a-trend in the geek market: the rise of the Geek Girl. “Geek Girls Exist,” a panel at the conwhere Call will sit in with the likes of Mythbuster Kari Byron, authors Sarah Kuhn and Bonnie Burton and Frag Doll Morgan Romine, among others, and talk about geekiness as both a fandom and a career. And Call prides herself on knowing how to run her musical business as … well, a business.
“I find that my background in doing administrative work, clerical work – I worked in a law firm, I did various elementary accounting jobs and all of that – comes into play as much as, or more than, my music theory knowledge,” Call said. “Also, frankly, having surfed the Web for way too many hours comes in handy.”
Like a lot of the people she’ll be sharing the stage with at W00tstock, Call’s online presence – her own site, her blog, Twitter, Formspring, Facebook, etc. – is the engine behind her success. Take the hosts: while Adam Savage (Byron’s cohort on Mythbusters) is currently on television, Wil Wheaton has used the Web to bolster his 20-plus year acting career; the success of his personal blog led to a writing career that has spawned three books, a regular column in L.A. Weekly, more than a million followers on Twitter, and recognition by blue-blooded Forbes magazine as one of its top 20 web celebrities. Not bad for a guy who might still be best recognized by some folks as “that kid from Star Trek.”
Wheaton has been involved with the W00tstock series since its beginning (here he is talking about it at show 1.1 in Los Angeles) and the show’s other founders, singing duo Paul and Storm, garnered geeky fans as part of the a capella singing group Da Vinci’s Notebook; if you’ve never heard of their boy-band dissection “Title Of The Song,” you’re welcome. One of the other guests in the SDCC show, Chris Hardwick, has undergone a reinvention sort of like Wheaton’s, going from Jenny McCarthy’s sidekick in Singled Out to G4TV host and writer for Wired Magazine.
As you might guess from Wheaton’s monologue, there’s really no such thing as a “typical” W00tstock show; each one is a mash-up of music, comedy, musical comedy and, all-around geekiness, as one fan blogged after watching an event in Portland:
“We were there to get our respective geek on,” she wrote. “We were there to take part in the kind of thing we had always wanted to take part in but hadn’t because we’d had a bunch of people telling us that it wasn’t cool/serious/arty/enough. It was amazing.”
And in these circles, the ones that form the backbone of the SDCC audience, this is rather heady company for Call to be keeping – thanks in part, she says, to two influential online fans: Discover magazine blogger Phil Plait, the “Bad Astronomer,” who had been talking to Wheaton about including her in a show, and Wired’s GeekDad, Ken Denmead, called Wheaton and wrote him asking for Call to be included.
“Paul, from Paul and Storm, called me up to invite me and I said, ‘Um, yeah, of course. But you realize I don’t have that big of a following yet … I don’t have that many fans,’” Call recalled. “And Paul said, ‘Well, obviously, you have the right ones,’ and I won’t ever forget that, because he was obviously right.”