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Big Adventure Festival Satisfies Many Levels of Pop Culture Fantasy

The scene at Big Adventure. (Credit: Scott Feinblatt)

Since the day it was announced, epic billing of ALT 98.7’s Big Adventure [1] festival indicated that this more than your typical, run-of-the-mill festival. Combining live music and stand-up comedy, the inaugural event also catered to lovers of cosplay, gaming, and comic book culture. The question is: how effectively can so many aspects of pop culture be thrown together into one festival without seeming like a hodge podge meant to sell tickets to every child and his grandmother? The answer is: reasonably well. On Nov. 3-4, Big Adventure opened its gates at the OC Fairgrounds, and the people came; they saw that it was good, and they left satisfied.

The advertising for Big Adventure festival indicated that this was to be a “Comic Con by day….Music and Comedy Festival by night,” the programming schedule provided a bit more of a gradual shift in tone rather than a straight transition. And while the shift in the festival’s programming flowed nicely, the comedians were definitely part of the day shift. To paint an adequate representation of the scene, we’ll start with a base coat of the festival’s aspects which lasted the entire day.

Ecto-1 of Ghost Busters fame (Credit: John Gilhooley)

The first thing guests saw upon entering the fairgrounds was a hall of fantasy vehicles. This included wondrous custom jobs; among others, these included a Gotham City Police Department car, Night Rider’s K.I.T.T., Tow Mater from the Cars series, and Doc Brown’s souped up DeLorean from the Back to the Future series. From here, guests had the opportunity to turn left, right, or go straight.

If they had turned left, they would have found themselves in the Artist Alley. This building housed the main aspect of the comic book convention. It was reasonably well-stocked with a cross-section of typical comic con vendors; you had your artists, t-shirts, toys, posters, cosplay accessories, etc. In the midst of this setting resided a small stage whereupon, in the hours between 1:00 – 4:50 pm, guests could gather for panels on the culture, art, and business of comic books.

If guests had initially turned right, they would have entered into the room of The Adventure Stage. The daytime programming on The Adventure Stage featured the Entertainment Panels. The content of these ranged from various nerd consortiums to promotional TV show and film panels. Among the nerd-heavy content, there were panels on voice acting for video games, a promo for Nerdbot Media’s live action TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) fan series Back in the Shell, and even a Superfight Live! presentation, which featured guests debating over fictional fights. In the later hours of the afternoon, the casts and crews of Wrecked, Stan Against Evil, and American Satan represented their respective programs and fielded questions.

Plumbers playing video games (Credit: John Gilhooley)

In the event that guests had proceeded straight ahead, they would have passed through the courtyard between all of the pavilions. To their left, from the courtyard, The Hanger Stage awaited them with its headlining programming; to their right were various food and kitsch vendors — as well as a few charities, including some friendly solicitors for the honorable Save the Children Federation [2]. If guests had kept on trucking across the courtyard, they would have passed by the ALT 98.7 dance / promo area before entering into the OC Promenade, wherein they would have found a dozen or so classic arcade games — which were set to be played for free — as well as additional vendors and the padded-weapon combat arena of the Belegarth Medieval Combat Society.

The line-ups, per day, at the Hangar Stage each featured two hours of comedian blocks. On Saturday, Patton Oswalt headlined among a small collection of five comedians; on Sunday, Jim Jeffries held that distinction. Audiences responded well to these sets, which wrapped up at around 4:00 pm on Saturday and at 3:00 pm on Sunday.

The scene at Big Adventure. (Credit: Scott Feinblatt)

Come night time, The Adventure Stage changed its programming from panels to DJs — with the transitional programming of a Cosplay competition exclusively on Sunday. Rusko, What So Not, Bro Safari, and Bonnie X Clyde headlined among the DJs. These sets were very popular and illustrated a distinct break from the non-musical aspects of the festival. In fact, it seemed as though a healthy chunk of the daytime crowd had gone home by the time the musical acts started up their sets, but the crowds didn’t thin because those who had left were replaced by the evening shift, and then some.

Modest Mouse (Credit: John Gilhooley)

The musical performers of The Hangar Stage generally shared two qualities; they were colorful and they were raucous. Visually, pretty much any of these acts worked well within the cartoonish environment, some — such as Empire of the Sun, Allie X, and NVDES — more than others. All of the acts were great crowd-pleasers, and as the sun went down, the large audiences, whose numbers eclipsed the capacity of the building, made themselves comfortable in a sprawling fashion on the cement of the courtyard. The majority of the audience knew much of the music well, and they sang along quite extensively both with the poppier and with the grittier acts.

Throughout the day and night time portions of the festival, there were smiles everywhere. There were also exceedingly long lines for a couple of the food trucks. However, once cosplaying guests and those dressed as civilians had a cup of beer or a plate of Hawaiian BBQ in their hands, they seemed to not mind the crowding so much. The festival was designed to appeal to a healthy cross-section of pop culture fans, and it succeeded charmingly!