The first ever ID10T Music Festival and Comic Conival had a beguiling premise: comic convention plus music festival plus stand-up comedy. The brainchild of perennial host of things and undeniably enthusiastic lover of things, Chris Hardwick, ID10TFest billed itself as a one-of-a-kind two-day event. All-Comic attended the show’s Saturday opening with a focus on seeing how the comic convention aspect of the show stacked up to other conventions and how the integration of the other, less typically seen at comic conventions, elements blended in.
Hosted in Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheater, opened in 1986, ID10TFest was spread out into distinct zones. The main Amphitheatre itself, where all the musical performance were held, was very separate from everything else; though, the slight reverberations of bass guitar and drums could be heard throughout the day while meandering the rest of the areas. The bulk of the “things to see and do” were nicely laid out across an adjoining fairground and while having distinct “zones” still felt connected and easily navigated.
The main tent housed the entertainment-related panels, such as the live Nerdist Podcast recording and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 panel, and was the first thing attendees would come across after entering the fairground area. It was a large stage, but nothing on a Hall H level of course, with multiple monitors and speakers set up to relay the on-stage action for anyone towards the back. The most noticeable aspect, which was a recurring and welcomed feeling throughout the day, was the unavoidable sense that other things were always going on all around.
The beautiful weather was omnipresent and a nice casual reminder that one could pop in and stand underneath a tent to watch the happenings on-stage, but comfortably stroll on to something else at your leisure. It was a nice change compared to some other conventions where, for starters, you feel trapped indoors at a panel in a windowless conference room fearful of getting up to leave lest the presenters give you the hairy eyeball. With the addition of a cool breeze serving as both an upgrade from industrial air conditioners and as a deodorizer for any lingering aromas (the multiple food trucks also helped with this) the vibe was very much in line with an outdoor music festival.
Artist’s Alley was another open-air tent with eight rows of creator tables and a small stage area for panels. Have to give ID10TFest this as far as the comic con part of their promise goes: they brought in some big guns and delivered a legit experience. Look at this caucus of comic creators:
Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera, Nick Dragotta, Andrew Robinson, Chris Burnham, Gerry Duggan, Farel Dalrymple, Ngozi Ukazu, Ramon Villalobos, Ivan Brandon, Babs Tarr, Benden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, Dennis Hopeless, Matt Wilson, Justin Greenwood, Donny Cates, Garry Brown, Justin Jordan, Matthew Southworth, Phil Noto, Matt Horak, Matt Hawkins, Robert Wilson IV, Brent Schoonover, Ande Parks, Mark Sable, JK Woodward, Blair Shed, Tom Fowler, Mike Costa, Phil Hester, Andy Kun, Mick Gray, Morgan Beem, Jai Nitz, and Michael Conrad
That’s an impressive lineup and the combination of talent and ease of movement absolutely made this feel like any other “big name” convention, but more intimate and casual. Most artists were taking commissions, as you’d expect, and the panels had a solid amount of creator participation as well. Considering the pedigree of the creators on hand, one would be hard pressed to think of what else could be added to improve the artist’s alley portion of the festival, save for simply getting even more creators to attend. Plus, ID10TFest offers something different to the creators themselves, as many noted to us, in that whenever they need a break or have a few minutes in between signings or panels, they can go grab a beer or check out OK Go or watch the voices of Pink and the Brain wax poetic on world domination or play laser tag if so inclined. That sense of freewheeling wandering between tangentially related options is the real draw of the festival as a whole; check this thing out for a bit then pop over here then maybe a something to eat then head over there, etc. While other conventions may very well have the depth of potential of New York City or Chicago outside their doors, ID10TFest gives you variety within their ropes for attendees and guests alike.
Publishers such as Valiant, BOOM!, Skybound, Oni Press, Top Shelf, Aspen, and AfterShock had booths nearby the Artist Alley tent amidst the sea of exhibitors. While having either of the Big Two publishers ever show up is probably unlikely, hopefully ID10TFest’s success and showing off its legit comic credentials will draw in more publishers in the future, and thus, more fan engagement and more comics in people’s hands. The publishers that were there though, particularly Valiant’s (Shout out to Allie and Andy), were enthusiastic to pitch their books to and chat with established comic fans and curious non-readers alike. If you attend comic cons to scour for amazing deals on back-issues or just looking to round out your collection, this certainly wasn’t the place for that as most of the offerings here were other nerd-related retail goods like clothing or crafts. There were comics to be found of course, but nothing on the scale of what you’d see at more comic-focused cons. Consider the crowd was of mixed interests (i.e. some were there primarily there because of the music, some for the comedy, etc.) that’s certainly understandable.
There were four comics panels each day, hosted at the Artist Alley tent and attendance at most was a little thin. This was not unexpected it would seem as only about fifty chairs were set up in front of a modest stage with a stand-up projector screen behind a table and a podium. Most of the panels we saw (check out our Valiant: X-O MANOWAR and BEYOND! wrap-up here) were professionally conducted and enjoyable. Even though the sense of being outside was unavoidable, some sort of divider between the panel space and the row of creator tables twenty feet away would have been a nice addition to help focus on what was happening on stage. In future iterations of the show, hopefully larger turnouts will demand larger and more accommodating space for even more panels.
The crowd seemed to increase as the day went on (the doors opened at noon) indicating that the music portion of the festival was likely the big draw for a lot of attendees; the number of Weezer shirts on Saturday, for example, was an exponentially common occurrence. From what we saw, cosplay wasn’t anywhere near as prevalent as perhaps the festival wanted and certainly not even close to what you’d see at other conventions. As much fun as it would have been to see someone in Hulkbuster armor getting down to Jai Wolf at the Mad Decent Dance Stage, perhaps those Venn diagram circles just don’t quite intersect just yet.
Multiple stand-up comedy performances, Power Rangers themed laser tag, food trucks galore, great bands playing the main stage of an established venue complete with lawn garden, and definitely a lot more; beyond just the comic component of ID10TFest, one could definitely find plenty to get lost in over the course of a day. Was it executed to perfection? No, but you could get a sense that the festival’s organizers were acutely aware of areas to improve as things arose – the lines and setup for the comedy tent were reportedly ungodly, for instance, and the venue’s pricing on alcohol was aimed at folks with Bezos money apparently. Upon hearing feedback from exhibitors, guests, performers, and attendees, the show will hopefully address any shortcomings found in its trial run. Ultimately, ID10TFest was an experiment. One that was attempting to bond adjacent interests through group alchemy and create a celebratory shared experience of just plain liking stuff. In that, it absolutely succeeded. The atmosphere was rife with possibility; a relaxed sense that one could explore at their own pace the things they already knew they loved and the things they were about to find out they loved. Where else could you watch a Demetri Martin set after getting Babs Tarr to sketch you a Batgirl, but before heading over to catch a minute of a Portlandia panel on your way to the TV On The Radio performance, all while eating a taco? It’s precisely that mix of interests, like putting your brain iPod on shuffle, that’s the biggest appeal and combined with what we discovered to be a thoroughly engaging comic convention experience, ID10TFest’s future potential is as rich as its inaugural’s effort sense of enthusiasm.