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Nerdapalooza Festival

The 5th annual music fest anticipates its biggest year to date, and its most awkwardly public presence

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

The Protomen

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

Math the Band

Or so it would seem. Watch closely, however, and the inverted high-school illusion is revealed as just that – an illusion. When a photo of America's Next Top Model winner Adrianne Curry crossed Fashion Police's Joan Rivers' desk, the comedian proclaimed giddily, "This outfit sucks more than George Michael in a ballpark men's restroom." Curry was in cosplay gear as a character from the video game Tekken. Last month, perennial Nerdapalooza standouts Captain Dan and the Scurvy Crew shuffled onto the stage of America's Got Talent; Howard Stern called them "pathetic."

"There's still this underlying theme in a lot of nerds or geeks' past, which is the concept of being bullied," says Carter, whose nickname derives from his innate skill at programming hexadecimal characters in XML color-coding. "Fortunately, I'm working with people who aren't here to bully. We don't care that we get bullied. We're here because we love this and other people do, too. I mean, someone still has to organize the chess club. If this is still high school, the nerds still need to congregate somewhere."

So it is that despite a brutal monetary situation (proceeds of every Nerdapalooza have gone to local charities), the festival, which Carter says has always had one foot in the concert classification and the other in the convention realm, will this year test organizers' bravery when the largest-ever gathering is hosted in the heart of downtown Orlando, "where the cool kids play," Carter says.

"This is something I've had concern for since 2008, especially when we had [local space rockers] Killer Robots! walking up and down the street in full-on [costumes]. I was afraid someone would hassle them. Didn't happen in '08. This year, I have a little concern."

With the national geek media and a massive local groundswell behind him, however, cosplayers can mosey Wall Street with more pride than ever this year. The supposed new nerd paradigm, I've come to learn, only really covers the user-friendly consumerist tip of the iceberg; to be a nerd takes more than money – it takes passion. Cultural tourists are easily distracted by the obvious signifiers and miss completely the rabbit hole of devotional fandom running deeper than the word "nerd" is capable of conveying. From chiptune to nerdcore hip-hop to felk music (nerdy folk), Carter, who recently merited a mention on a U.K. blog as "one of nine John Carters that are more interesting than Disney's John Carter," has definitively, perhaps irrevocably, enhanced nerd music's profile in Orlando. Fear not, however: Nerdapalooza fans, by their very nature, come in peace.

"When you're rapping about online etiquette or making music based off the Atari 600 chipset, you can't take yourself too seriously. There's always gotta be a smile on your face, because there's a level of goofy nostalgia in what you're doing," Carter says. "It's the fun of picking up all the musical rocks, seeing all the communities crawling out and going, 'Now kiss.'"

Nerdapalooza 2012

with the OneUps, Random Encounter, the Megas, Metroid Metal, the Protomen, NESkimos, Captain Dan & the Scurvy Crew, Mega Ran, Sci-Fried, No More Kings, Math the Band and more
Friday-Sunday, Aug. 3-5
The Social and the Beacham

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