Aug. 7-10 | Orlando Airport Marriott, 7499 Augusta National Drive | 407-851-9000 | full schedule at orlandonerdfest.com
Noon Monday, Aug. 11 | The Geek Easy, 114 S. Semoran Blvd., Winter Park
Nintendo may currently be struggling with financial loss in the midst of a continually competitive gaming industry inundated with button-mashing types flinging social media apps at Facebook walls and hoping they stick. But in 1987, the original NES console was regularly booted up by first-generation gamers stoked on Final Fantasy, a game that begot many of today’s successful role-playing franchises and introduced to the world an underdog composer who would create some of the most memorable music in video game history: Nobuo Uematsu.
A self-taught musician, Uematsu never had a piano lesson, or so his legend goes. He was approached in the music rental shop where he worked in Tokyo to compose video game soundtracks for Square (now Square-Enix), a company that eventually developed Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger and Kingdom Hearts. As the intro text scrolls in the original Final Fantasy, the gamer hears a synthy scale of the classic bleeps and bloops of early games while reading, “When the world is veiled in darkness, Four Warriors will come ….”
A similar darkness descended on Orlando’s nerd music community with no major local event to shed light on those sounds, and so emerged four just-as-unlikely warriors, the organizers of Orlando Nerd Fest, a five-day music festival that Uematsu headlines this week. Eric “Chozo Ninpo” Wright, Chuck Silver, Victor “Glitch” Wilder Jr. and Derek “D-Rock” Marunowski are on a mission to create not just a massive event but a musical experience as unforgettable as Uematsu’s iconic compositions.
“We’re planning for the future, which is always important to nerds, because we want it to get here, so we can have that next cool thing,” Chozo says. “And the next cool thing for us is Orlando Nerd Fest.”
Orlando Nerd Fest takes place Aug. 7-10 at the Orlando Airport Marriott, with a free after-party on Aug. 11 at the Geek Easy – which has sped up their expansion plans to double the nerdy club’s size in time to host the final day of the festival. The first day is also free, and day pass prices vary ($20 Friday, $30 Saturday, $15 Sunday, $50 weekend pass). Set up convention-style, the event allows guests staying in the hotel to enjoy a festival livestream on the hotel’s private station, and on the final day, buses will run between the hotel and the Geek Easy for $5 a ride.
In addition to the appearance by Uematsu (who will also speak on panels), God of War composer Gerard K. Marino is a host, and the festival also features more than 60 bands, including Tokyo kei rock band Vivid playing their first U.S. date, Jason Hayes (World of Warcraft lead composer) and his band Critical Hit, and anime voice actor Johnny Yong Bosch (Bleach, Sailor Moon) and his band Eyeshine. Other notable nerdy acts on the bill are Wordburglar, MC Frontalot, Adam WarRock, Steam Powered Giraffe and locals like Sci-Fried, Marc With a C, Random Encounter, MagiTek and DJ RoboRob. In the spirit of embracing all nerds, there will also be a JamSpace where any band can perform during the festival. Orlando Nerd Fest seeks to meet the Tetris avalanche of fan demand that’s legitimized these bands worldwide.
“Five years ago, you probably couldn’t have put together a show like this,” Glitch says. “But now, not only are there more acts, but the quality and production are in line with anything you would hear on the radio. It’s really finding its way … now it’s creeping into South by Southwest.”
But the organizers are more inclined to position their event as the Dragon Con of music festivals. (Side note: Organizer Chuck Silver’s band, Sci-Fried, will bring their new release, Season V, to the epic Georgia convention at the end of August.) They’ve aligned with Tommy Tallarico of Video Games Live and MAGFest organizers to stun Orlando with the sheer magnitude of their debut event. Expect innovative cosplay (there’s a costume contest), free arcade games and creative performances that incorporate nostalgic visuals to fully steep devoted fans in nerd culture. However, the music, which so frequently is relegated to the background in conventions, games and films, will remain the focus.
“When it changed from the bleeps and the bloops to real recorded keyboard music, I would play games and I would pipe that through my stereo and have it cranked up, trying to hear the music,” Chuck says.
As casual gaming becomes a gateway to nerd culture, the audience for the boundless nerd music industry (which touches genres like hip-hop, rock, chip-tune and metal) expands, and these longtime nerds couldn’t be happier to see it.
“I welcome them with open arms, because please, come and enjoy these awesome things we’ve known about for years,” Chozo says. “You know nothing about this. Welcome to the party!”
Standout bands to nerd out to at the festival
6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8
Ruling Orlando geek rock band performs songs off their new album, Season V, throwing “the kind of parties only tyranny can buy.”
8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8
Androgynous five-piece kei rock band from Tokyo makes their U.S. debut, performing music composed for beloved anime franchises like Bleach.
6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9
Canadian rapper drops eclectic, humorous rhymes covering characters from G.I. Joe to Kurt Vonnegut.
JASON HAYES AND CRITICAL HIT
9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9
Video game composer Jason Hayes (World of Warcraft) leads his band through original arrangements of music from Skyrim, Halo and more.
5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10
Georgia-based band performs the soundtrack to Mega Man while a gamer speed-runs through the levels on a screen behind them.
midnight Sunday, Aug. 10
The model nerdcore rapper behind the documentary Nerdcore Rising performs hits like “First World Problem” and songs from his new album, Question Bedtime.
See the full schedule at orlandonerdfest.com
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