Submitted by guest contributor Tina Hand

Yesterday afternoon, I walked through the gates of Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California and into the nerdiest music festival I’ve been to yet. Nerdy in a good way though—in a ‘this is home’ kind of way. ID10T Music Festival + Comic Conival is the brainchild of self-identified nerd Chris Hardwick (AMC’s Talking Dead, Comedy Central’s @Midnight, NBC’s The Wall) and like most festivals, ID10T has a lot going on. In addition to a full lineup of bands on the main stage, there are Comic Con-style panels, a stand-up comedy tent, comic artists showcasing their work, and a dancing stage.

After my ticket was scanned at the entrance, I made a beeline for the t-shirt booth. For me, when it comes to concerts, my motto is “Merch, or it didn’t happen.” I threw on my new red and white Weezer tee, slapped on my press pass, and set out to see what this first-of-its-kind festival had to offer.

Tank and the Bangas

The first act on main stage went on just after 3:40 PM. Tank and the Bangas strolled on stage met by a small but eager crowd of screaming music fans. They formed in New Orleans in 2011 and have created a sound that has been described as a mash up of soul, funk, rock, hip hop, gospel and spoken word. However, the more accurate description of their sound, as articulated by Tank herself in an interview with me before her set, is “indescribable.”

Over the loudspeakers, an ethereal voiceover of inspirational phrases introduced the set: “Be great. Be Amazing. Expand your possibilities…” The band started to play: synth keys, saxophone, drums, bass, and then backup vocals. Finally, Tank bounded on stage and started to sing. Her vocal style landed somewhere between rap and spoken word, but with the power of a gospel-trained singer behind them. Immediately I was struck by how big Tank and the Bangas’ sound is. Even in the partially-packed outdoor amphitheater of Shoreline, the sound of Tank’s voice and the energetic band behind her expanded to every corner of the audience and demanded our attention.

The second song of the set was their latest single “Quick,” which tells the story of a woman on the run and features head-banging, quick-dancing energy to match. The only unfortunate part of this first set at ID10T Fest, if any, was the overall mix. Tank’s songs feature narrative and nuance, offered up in lightening fast raps and tongue twisters that would trip up a lesser vocalist, but the effect of that was lost over the competing sound of the keys, sax and drums.

Ron Gallo

Ron Gallo’s set started with a tongue-in-cheek reading of the script that was given to him to introduce his bandmates and thank festival producers. This attitude, simultaneously flat and funny, carried through his set and I think served to lighten up the crowd. Ron Gallo is a three-person band featuring Joe Bisirri on bass, Dylan Sevey on drums, and Ron Gallo on lead guitar and vocals. The Ron Gallo sound is heavy and dark at times, with obvious classic rock ‘n roll and punk influences.

A couple of songs into his set, Ron dedicated his next one to “all the women of the world” (thanks, Ron). The song is called “Entitled Men, Keep Your Hands Down Your Pants.” It’s song titles like this, along with his next one, “All of the Punks are Domesticated,” that spoke to how Ron approaches songwriting. He seemed to use his music to walk the lines between cynicism, realism, and hope. As he sang, he strummed his cherry-red electric guitar and demonstrated technical prowess. At one point towards the end of his 30-minute set, Ron used the zipper of an old suitcase to scratch the strings of his guitar to create an unfamiliar screeching effect. This read to me as both totally unnecessary and really cool. So… you know, art.

By the end of Ron Gallo’s set, the crowd was head-banging and dancing along with the music. For me, the rock ’n roll sound juxtaposed with the despairing tone of their songs evoked comparisons of both Bob Dylan and Jack White. Needless to say, I downloaded Ron Gallo’s newest album Heavy Meta when I got home from the festival last night.

Car Seat Headrest

Car Seat Headrest is an indie rock trio so-named because their first album featured vocals recorded by frontman Will Toledo in the back seat of his car. Their sound is pop-rock with moody vocals and a bass line you can feel in your chest. The other musicians in the band (Ethan Ives, Andrew Katz, and Seth Dalby) played with precision and energy, although the energy on stage was no match for the multiple packs of die-hard fans in the crowd that screamed out for the band’s attention.

Much of the audience danced as Will Toledo sang through the self-loathing narrative of “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” a single that appears on their most recent album Teens of Denial. “It doesn’t have to be like this/it doesn’t have to be like this,” repeats in the slow, low tone that I have now come to associate with the band.

Car Seat Headrest is undeniably in tune with their fans, as evidenced by both the impassioned responses from those in the crowd and by the fact that their final song was one requested by a young fan sitting just a few seats away from me. “Beast Monster Thing (Love Isn’t Love Enough)” used heavy percussion and effects-laden guitar to fill the amphitheater and bathe the crowd in the mellow glow of sad-boy rock.

OK Go

OK Go was the surprise standout of my Saturday. After taking some time away from the Main Stage to visit the Dance Stage and Artist Alley, I returned to the amphitheater primarily to secure a good seat for the Weezer headlining set and secondarily to watch OK Go. With a burst of colorful confetti, smoke, and strobe, their set was off to an impressive start.

We all remember OK Go’s 2005 introduction to the pop music scene on eight side-by-side treadmills featured in the viral music video for “Here It Goes Again.” I’ll admit that song was the only one of theirs that I wanted to hear, but I was pleasantly surprised by the playful tunes and catchy lyrics of their other songs. OK Go’s set was punctuated by earnest questions and comments to the audience from the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist, Damian Kulash. At the top of the set, Damian confessed that it was “nice to finally play a show where we know that everyone in the audience is a nerd,” to which the crowd responded with cheers in agreement. This seems to be somewhat of a theme for ID10T Fest: Nerd and proud.

To my delight, the band did a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” which eloquently demonstrated both the vocal talent of Damian Kulash and the fast fingers of the band’s other guitarist, Andy Ross. Not ones to disappoint their fans, OK Go ended their set with “Here It Goes Again” and reminded us all why we fell in love with them in the first place.

Weezer

ID10T Fest invited its attendees to cosplay and represent their various fandoms through attire. That being said, I think the largest community of fans in attendance yesterday was Weezer fans because I saw more of their band t-shirts than all of the Star Wars, Tank Girl, and other cosplay combined. Weezer stepped on stage around 9:50 PM, skipping the unnecessary introductions and jumping right into their set, jam-packed with crowd favorites.

“Hash Pipe,” “My Name is Jonas” and “Pork and Beans” filled out the first part of their set and the audience quickly established a sing-a-long with Rivers Cuomo, the easily identified bespectacled lead singer. As is the case with most live shows, the songs sound a little different when played in front of you than they do in your head, so at times it felt like the audience was singing one tune and the band was playing another. But this sound, asynchronous as it may have been, did not detract from the well-crafted performance of the headlining act.

Solid instrumentation, flashy lights, and archival footage visuals all came together to create a performance that drew us in and lifted us up after a long sun-soaked day at an outdoor fest. My favorite part of their set was when the band played “Thank God for Girls” off their 2016 White Album, which was accompanied by visuals of pop culture’s favorite girls: Lucille Ball, Tina Fey, Caitlin Jenner and, of course, Beyoncé.

All in all, day one of ID10T Fest demonstrated the best of Chris Hardwick’s vision for nerd utopia. With the exception of a few technical hiccups, to be expected of any festival in its inaugural year, ID10T Fest delivered on its promise for a music, comedy and nerd extravaganza. Sunday’s lineup boasts musical performances from Girl Talk, Animal Collective and Crystal Castles. Stay tuned!

Tina Hand is a writer, filmmaker, and very serious business person living in the Bay Area. She loves attending concerts, dancing by herself, and hunting for records at second-hand stores. Her dream is to one day form a mom rock cover band.

 

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