Marc Sirdoreus plays one final Marc With a C set at the Orlando Public Library

That chapter closed at the inaugural Melrose Pop Festival

I've been a passionate fan of Central Florida's interactive singer-songwriter Marc Sirdoreus — better known to most as onstage persona Marc With a C — for the past two decades: First as our perennial opening act at the Rich Weirdoes' Halloween performances of Rocky Horror, and later as a recurring topic in this column since my installment over 15 years ago, and finally as the foundational cornerstone of my personal vinyl collection (well over a dozen albums and counting).

click to enlarge Marc Sirdoreous takes their final on-stage bow as Marc with a C at Orlando's Melrose Center. - photo by Seth Kubersky
photo by Seth Kubersky
Marc Sirdoreous takes their final on-stage bow as Marc with a C at Orlando's Melrose Center.

A pioneer of low-fi DIY music since the early aughts and a headliner of Orlando's "nerd rock" scene despite never fully embracing that label, Sirdoreus had long planned to shed the character's sarcastic cis-hetero facade during the act's 20th anniversary celebration in 2020, but the pandemic and severe health problems derailed their well-laid plans to conclude "Marc With a C Phase 1" with a live tour.

Instead, ever since a spectacular anniversary set at Will's Pub in late 2019, Sirdoreus has only been seen online in livestreams — including one where Marc permanently dropped the mask mid-song — and has opened up about being gender-fluid (accepting he/him or they/them pronouns) while closing the door to future public appearances. So naturally, there was no way on Earth I'd miss being at downtown Orlando's Public Library when Marc With a C was announced as the opening act of the inaugural Melrose Pop Festival, part of June's 1960s-centric celebration of the library's centennial.

Headlined by Eugene Snowden with Beth McKee and Hannah Stokes, the afternoon event kicked off with an intimate acoustic three-song set that gave the faithful followers in attendance — some of whom had driven from several states away — one last chance to sing along with "Life's So Hard."

Prior to the show, Sirdoreus and I spoke over the phone about being Marc With a C and about moving beyond him. Although Sirdoreus is "still pretty sick" following a complicated cancer diagnosis, they say "there's some promising studies that might get us to a path to wellness in August."

One day ahead of appearing in person again, Marc was cautiously optimistic, adding, "I've never had to stay more calm, so I can do 15 minutes where I'm not calm."

The "Marc With a C" moniker was born by accident in December 1999 at the Kit Kat Club, when the roadie for local up-and-coming rockers Precious was incorrectly introduced as the last-minute substitute for an absent opener. As an aspiring musician living in Lake County, Sirdoreus recalls the importance of that era's soon-to-end club scene: "The feeling of artistic freedom that I felt in those places [like Kit Kat and] Yab Yum on an open-mic night was really very freeing."

Today, Sirdoreus also feels freed of labels, including "nerd rock," saying, "I guess I'm an artist; past that, I don't really care what we label me, what we label the people that listen to it. But if I have to put it into words, I think I do what I do in a therapeutic way as part of an artistic ecosystem, because the things that speak to me, to make me feel better, is music and songs and rhythms and melodies. I go and do that to process my own thoughts, and sometimes when I put those out, people want to hear them.

"But the best stuff I've ever experienced from it, the most truly rewarding stuff — because the one thing you won't make in music is called money — the most truly rewarding thing I've gotten is when someone goes 'you did a thing, therefore I'm inspired to make a thing.' Being part of that ecosystem: That's what makes me feel seen, more than anything. So long as that keeps happening, I don't care. Call it 'Michelin tire rock' for all I care. Even 'rock' is kind of a stretch, if you really think about it. I don't even know how people heard what I did and said, 'yep, that's rock & roll!'"

If you're not quite ready to say goodbye to the Marc With a C you knew, Sirdoreus is remastering the back catalog for Needlejuice Records. And director Jo Canterbury has crafted a feature-length documentary (stitched together completely from publicly released recordings) called Half Serious, Half Kidding. The doc won an Audience Award upon debuting at May's 2023 Cannes Independent Film Festival.

Canterbury became a fan of Marc With a C in 2014 through his side project Claire and the Potatoes, and began the film last October after thinking, "Why hasn't someone made a documentary about this guy yet?" Canterbury was searching for a project that could "lean into not having any budget, and make that DIY production part of the text." The film was made without Sirdoreus' involvement, and Canterbury says "they never wanted to influence the story I wanted to tell; I didn't ask for any direction on it, either."

For their part, Sirdoreus says, "It's just as uncomfortable as you'd imagine watching your past 20-odd years curated by someone else," but "it really captures a spirit while not necessarily telling the story, and I thought that was the best way that you could do this."

It's hard to fathom that the person who blew out his knee onstage at Nerdapalooza and still finished the show (but still feels guilty about skipping the encore) will never again oversee a singing crowd of "Drunk Classic Rock Fans," but adopting a child has reordered Sirdoreus' priorities.

"I got to have a music career, and now I have a tight-knit family. There's not anything left for me to want. Money would be nice, I guess, but there's nothing left for me to want, because I have it now." But while Marc With a C won't be stepping on stage, they vow, "I'm never going to stop. As long as there's a breath in me, I'll always have another idea for art."

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