Over the past 14 years, this column has explored a wide range of Central Florida's arts and attractions, from family-friendly theme parks to world-class theater; but from Live Active Cultures' very first installment, I've always openly declared that my primary allegiance is to all things geeky. Whether it was comic and sci-fi fandom, video gaming or nerdcore music, I've been reporting on the revenge of the nerds since long before the hobbies I was once mercilessly mocked for came to dominate popular culture. So when word came that N3RD Night (facebook.com/then3rdnight) — which I first wrote about during its freshman year way back in October 2021 — was being resurrected for an '80s prom–themed 10th anniversary reunion party at Lil Indies and Will's Pub, I was quick to dust off my baby-blue ruffled tuxedo shirt.
Unfortunately, it turns out I'll be out of town during the March 12 event, but I had the opportunity to speak with Myk Media, the multi-talented musician, cartoonist and filmmaker who co-founded N3RD Night with Emily "R3troGrl" Fidler, and is helming this revival. As Media says, the event has gone through several spelling changes and venue shifts over its existence, but "the concept has always remained the same: A chill night with music and video games where people can hang out and have a good time."
A Colorado transplant who graduated from Full Sail University in the early aughts, Media was inspired by the movie Party Monster to begin producing events while laboring as an unpaid intern in the film industry.
"I wanted to make big, elaborate, involved events. There weren't really things like that in Orlando at the time," recalls Media. "I wanted to make something that was more immersive. I wanted to kind of take the film training that I had and then turn it three-dimensional."
After hosting some embryonic "Alice in Wonderland" and game show–themed nights ("none of them stuck to the wall"), Media credits his then-girlfriend with suggesting a nerd-themed show.
"I got in touch with a lot of local nerd musicians, and it just kind of blew up and it got a lot bigger," says Media, who eventually incorporated his own multimedia artwork, comic books, and interactive alter ego characters like ScribbleMan and Nerd Knight, into his own fictional "unifying universe."
Like me, Media grew up watching the word "nerd" go from an insult to a badge of pride. "When I was younger, nerd meant weirdo, different, outcast, [but] the connotation behind 'nerd' has changed significantly," says Media. "When we named it Nerd Night, the intention was to create something that was for the outsiders; the secret tagline was 'a place for people who have no place.' ... Something that felt more mellow [and] felt safe ... where if you went out to the dance floor and you just were silly, you wouldn't get ridiculed."
Now that nerdy obsessions are mainstream, Media says identifying as a nerd "really comes down to escapism, and a celebration of imagination [and] a celebration of intelligence."
After several successful years that spawned a slew of imitators, the N3RD Night events eventually went on hiatus as Media focused on his independent music label Scribbleland Entertainment. But with the 10th anniversary approaching, Media thought, "Maybe I'll bring one back, just kind of old times' sake ... like a celebration," and turned to longtime collaborators like DJ Spank and Jeremy Gloff to fill out the lineup.
In an emailed statement, Goff calls N3RD Night "an all-inclusive space where geniuses and eccentrics collect to share their creativity and art. There's always a treasure to discover."
Of course, the vibrant nerd music scene has changed greatly since I first attended N3RD Night at Bikkuri, which I then called my "go-to spot" for downtown sushi during the B.K. era (Before Kabooki). Back then, the headliner was nerd rock pioneer Marc With a C, who recently retired his stage persona and entered "Phase II" of his recording career under new label Needlejuice Records.
Media, who says he has "seen Nerdapaloozas come and go," observes that today "there's mainstream musicians who are referencing video games, using video game sounds, and the nerd musicians that would be considered nerdcore are now doing things that are mainstream [and] more accessible," noting that even Kanye "Ye" West made an unreleased album named after the obscure TurboGrafix-16 game console.
"Ultimately, I think a lot of the nerd musicians or nerdy artists are realizing that they have to keep one foot in their roots, but they know they have to evolve."