I walked across two sets of train tracks, through a tangle of nerds and normals, and navigated my way up Fourth Street toward the theater. My Bag of Holding, slung diagonally across my body, rested comfortably against my side. Inside, my costume changes (read: Nerdy T-shirts) and script (read: Happiest Days of Our Lives) waited patiently to be called upon for w00tstock.
It took longer than I expected to walk up to B Street, so I used the journey to prepare my introductory remarks. Instead of reading a modified version of the intro I'd used in the past, I was working off some bullet points, to keep the intro short, and to allow myself the freedom to improvise a little bit. What had seemed like a good idea earlier in the week was beginning to feel like the opposite.
I paused briefly at a red light. A pedicab rode by, blasting the Macarena. "That's a very effective way of announcing that you don't want any passengers," I thought.
The light changed, and I continued on my way. A few blocks later, I walked into the theater and found Paul at the sound board.
"...so, there's a little, uh, 'w00tstock wrinkle'," he said.
"...okay, what's that?" I asked.
"The venue is 21 and over, and there is some liquor law that prevents Molly from being inside the theater at all."
"They have to have security escort her on and off the stage, and she can't even sit inside the theater with us for the rest of the show."
I waited a moment for the Bazinga, but he was serious.
"Wow, that ... that really sucks," I said.
"Yeah. She's outside the stage door." He pointed across the theater.
"I'll be right back," I said.
I walked through the empty space while staff set up chairs and Marian Call waited to do her sound check on the stage. I waved to Jason Finn. "You better grow your beard back," I said, "the council of beards is trying to remove your seat. I'm doing my best to hold it for you, but there's a faction gathering strength against you."
I realize that this doesn't sound nearly as funny now as it did to me at the time.
"I'm glad you've got my back," he said.
A square of bright daylight streamed in through an open door and stretched out, almost to a rectangle, on one side of the stage. Motes of dust danced in it, and I squinted as I walked through them to the loading dock.
Molly and her boyfriend Chris were outside. She was sitting on a chair and didn't look nearly as sad or upset as I would have been.
I opened my arms, she stood up, and I hugged her. "This sucks," I said. "I'm so sorry."
We talked for a few minutes, and I was impressed by how good her spirits were. It was like she'd decided there wasn't anything she could do about it, and had decided to make the best of a bad situation.
"You know what you should do? You should totally play a cover of Save Ferris' 'Under 21'!"
Before we could talk about it more, I was called into the theater to handle other pre-show tasks. I went to our dressing room, where I was delighted to find lots of beer from Stone Brewing for our performers. We always try to get some local craft brew when we do shows (Portland presented us with an embarrassment of riches) to have backstage, and I was pretty excited that Stone hooked us up.
I set down my bag, and pulled out my notebook to go over my intro notes. I was seriously doubting my plan to simply give a brief history of w00tstock before the show. I felt unprepared, and a little queasy as a result.
About forty minutes later, an hour before the show was set to begin, I walked out to check on Molly again. She and Jason Finn were listening to Under 21 on her iPhone, and working out the chords and changes.
"I may add a key change here," Molly began.
"Yeah, that's hashtag-things-drummers-don't-care-about," Jason said.
We laughed for a long time about that. I left them alone to get ready.
About 20 minutes before showtime, all of the performers, including our super-secret guests, gathered backstage. Paul gave the pre-show pep talk, and I found an empty hallway to go over my introduction.
I paced around, talking through my points, directing myself, and trying to find that elusive intro I was convinced I should have just written.
I don't know exactly when it happened, but in the dim light of that corridor, with the growing murmurs of the audience filling the theater - the sold out and standing-room-only theater! - it came to me: this w00tstock is special because it's at Comic-Con. I didn't want to do this show, because I didn't think anyone would come, on account of how many things there are to do at Comic-Con. I was wrong, and that's awesome.
Once I had that, the entire introduction came together, and not a moment too soon. "You have about five minutes," our stage manager (who we call our Dungeon Master) Liz, told me.
"Thank you, five minutes," I said. For the first time since I walked into the theater, I felt more excitement than fear about talking the stage and introducing the show. I may have done a very subdued bit of pogo-ing in the empty corridor after Liz walked away.
The show began. The audience went crazy. We went crazy. We all threw themed underpants at Paul and Storm during Opening Band (mine had 8====D on the front, which is twice as funny if you know the reference). We all crowded around the side of the stage to watch the show.
Molly came out early, accompanied by security, and began her set. "Would you be Molly's music stand?" A voice said.
I turned around and saw Chris, holding a sheet of paper with lyrics written on it. Across the top, it said, "OMG LEARNING A NEW SONG!"
"I would love to do that," I said. I took the paper and carefully held it while Molly sang about breaking up with Wikipedia.
She called me up to the stage, and I had the most fun I've ever had being a music stand. If you were there, you know how great it was, and now you know that she and Jason learned the song and put it all together in a little less than one hour. (I know, right?)
One more Molly memory before I move on to the rest of the show: Molly played an all-request ninja show in the parking lot during the intermission that was watched by all of the performers, and about 1/3 of the audience. It was simply magical, and I am not ashamed to admit that I may have wiped a few proud tears off my face while she sang. I mean, when I was her age, if I'd found myself in a similar situation, I probably would have been pissed at how stupid and unfair the whole thing was, and that would have been the end of it for me. Molly, on the other hand, learned and modified a song - and performed it for a sold-out theater - and then played an acoustic show in the parking lot during intermission. I once said that Molly Lewis is a national treasure, and now you know why.
The majority of the show is a blur of squee and laughter and OMG. Adam observed that everyone came off stage just beaming with joy. As a performer, to have that feeling ... it's one of the greatest things in the world. If you were in that audience, and you helped us feel that way: thank you.
A few things stand out for me, though, like how amazing Marian Call was live, how much Chris Hardwick killed with his set, how Jamy Ian Swiss blew our minds so thoroughly, nobody could hear me yelling "WITCH!" over the applause and cheering. I got to stand next to the stage while Rifftrax did Lunchroom Manners (aka Mister Bungle) LIVE. Matt Fraction destroyed the audience with THE BATMAN DREAMS OF HIERONYMUS MACHINES, just like he did at w00tPDX.
I know that I'm forgetting things, and for that I am sorry. Like I said, the show really was a blur of squee and laughter and OMG, and I know I'll remember things in the days to come, so until the updates begin to shake themselves out of my brain, let me close with this:
One of the great surprises for everyone was when my friend Aaron Douglas, who played The Chief on BSG, came out during my Rocky Horror story (the joke was, "Hey, I asked for toast, not a toaster!"). It was so much fun for me to introduce Aaron to everyone backstage, and watch them squee to various degrees. It was especially fun for me to stand on the stage when Aaron walked out - in his frakking flight suit from the show! - to thunderous applause. It was incredible.
When the four hour show was over (The Captain's Wife's Lament was especially fun, and clocked in at a relatively-reasonable 25 minutes), we all went out to sign autographs and meet the audience. We signed for close to two hours, and finally finished a little after 2am.
I traded hugs and thank yous with everyone, and headed out of the theater with Fraction.
"Do you want to take a cab to the hotel?" Matt asked.
"No, I need to walk off the adrenaline of the show, even though I feel like I'm going to fall down any second from exhaustion."
"I totally get that," he said.
We walked down Fourth Street, toward the convention center. Homeless people slept in doorways and drunk nerds staggered out of bars and clubs. An energy crackled through the cool, foggy air: It was Comic-Con weekend, and w00tstock was just the beginning.