The chanting seemed to come from nowhere as the lights dimmed at the Summit Music Hall Wednesday, July 9th. “DFTBA! DFTBA! DFTBA!”* Crossed Vulcan salutes were raised to the heavens as the crowd screamed their favorite initialism into the air, all in wait for one man— one incredible nerd— to emerge from behind the stage. Dawning various geek attire, over 800 fans crowded the venue to see Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers live, myself included. But we weren’t just there for Hank. Along with him was Rob Scallon, Andrew Huang, Harry and the Potters, and Driftless Pony Club, all of whom played wonderfully, often venturing out into the crowd for high fives and dancing. In the spirit of vlogging, as so many of these performers thrive on, I’ve included short clips (or rather one long clip spliced into several segments) of the concert as well as photos.
Hank Green does seemingly everything. He’s a vlogger, entrepreneur, writer, scientist, teacher, VidCon organizer, blogger, owner of DFTBA Records, charity organizer, and long time musician just to name a few titles. Above all things, Hank Green is a massive, self-proclaimed nerd. January 1st of 2007, Hank and brother John Green launched their video project Brotherhood 2.0 under the YouTube Channel The Vlogbrothers in an attempt to stay in better contact with each other. Seven years later, the two brothers and their videos have a massive following called “The Nerdfighters” with over two million members.
The show began like most. Everyone who had lined up outside the venue pilled into the building and made their way to the front of the stage. While waiting for the show to start, however, the space felt more communal than other concerts I’ve been to. Most of the audience were Nerdfighters and there is a strange phenomenon that occurs whenever Nerdfighters get together “IRL”; we all become instant friends. Nerdfighteria is a large community, but it still remains very close knit because we all generally like the same things. The majority of us also tend to be socially awkward. When you mix these two things, you get a very laid back group of people who understand each other extremely well without even knowing anyone’s name. Thus, while waiting for the concert to begin, the venue was abuzz with conversation between practical strangers.
With most concerts, the opening acts are either announced by someone who works for the venue or by the act themselves and are often ignored by the main performer. “Tour Because Awesome” was an entirely different story. When the house lights dimmed, it was not a venue worker or the first act who walked onstage to welcome us to the show. Hank himself came out, camera in hand, and thanked us for coming. He told us that not only had we chanted more than any other show on tour, but that Denver had the biggest turnout and that he was happy that we were there. He then introduced opening act Rob Scallon and proceeded to introduce every act after him. This is a testament to how much Hank really cares about the musicians that joined him on tour. They are not only some of his favorite musicians, but also closest friends.
Rob Scallon only played three songs on his own (he would later come on to drum), but each one them had me absolutely entranced. This guy doesn’t just play guitar. The instrument practically breathes in his hands. With a combination of finger picking, licks, and hammer on technique, it was hard to believe there was only one instrument on stage. As Hank put it, his music “makes your ears feel real good.” My ears felt so good in fact, that I ran to the merch booth the moment he got off stage and bought his album. Lucky for me, he ran just as quickly and not only gave me a free t-shirt but signed the album as well.
After Rob Scallon, Andrew Huang took the stage. This guy is hilarious and incredibly talented. He writes songs in a vast number of genres and frequently takes challenges from his fans of what songs to create. He also only played a few songs but joined Hank and the Perfect Strangers later on.
Andrew Huang is extremely creative. One of his songs (video below) had me swaying my hands back and forth, thinking of my past relationships, until I remembered it was actually written about his nipple ring that had grown out. He purposely wrote the song to be vague enough that it could be about any relationship, yet when given the context, it becomes incredibly funny. He also played fan favorite “Show Me Where Your Noms At” which he collaborated with Youtuber Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen to make. This song shows not just how great of a singer and guitarist he is, but also highlights his rapping abilities. He had the entire audience singing along.
Next on stage was Harry and the Potters, who led us in a pledge that we would have a good time at the show and use our voices to create positive change in the world. Harry and the Potters are considered the founders of the Wizard Rock genre. They are made up of brothers Paul (newly appointed as Executive Director of The Harry Potter Alliance) and Joe DeGeorge but onstage are known as Harry Potter Year Seven and Harry Potter Year Four, having used Hermione’s time turner to go back in time and start a rock band with themselves.
Harry and the Potters are probably the most exuberant band I’ve ever seen. Their banter with the audience is priceless and they seem to have a limitless amount of energy when it comes to performing, dancing and jumping up and down with each song. Both brothers even jumped into the audience, Joe jumping out twice and asking audience members to sing into the mic. Confetti was tossed into the air several times using a hollow wand and by the end of their act, everyone in the venue was screaming, “HAR-RY! POT-TER! HAR-RY! POT-TER!”
After Harry and the Potters finished their set, Driftless Pony Club took the stage. I’ve seen this band twice and they never fail to impress me. Their sound is energizing, fun to jump around to, and closely resembles Modest Mouse. Lead vocalist and guitarist Craig Benzine, like most of the musicians on the tour, has his own YouTube Channel WheezyWaiter. The band often makes funny videos with Craig.
Like always, they had the entire venue buzzing with excitement. At one point, bassist Sam Grant climbed over the barricade and into the audience where he danced along with us while he played. My friend Luke and I sang along to every song, bouncing on the balls of our feet and banging our heads to the beat. I’m a heavy metal fan, but nothing makes me happily light headed like dancing to Driftless Pony Club.
Finally the act we had all be waiting for was just moments away. I can’t convey to you the amount of excitement that was bouncing off the walls in that room. Every few moments you could hear someone squeal “Oh my god” or watch as another made a few little jumps of excitement. Everyone was grinning. Members of Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers (Paul DeGeorge on guitar, Joe DeGeorge on keyboard and saxophone, Andrew Huang on lead guitar, and Rob Scallon on the drums) made their way onto the stage and began to play ambient music. Suddenly, the beginning of “Perfect Strangers” began and Hank ran onto the stage to sing. Everyone in the venue went nuts and rushed to the front of the stage, screaming, dancing and singing along.
Of course no Nerdfighteria event would be complete without some sort of charity element. Before the show started, Hank informed us that their bass drum had broken. Instead of throwing it away, they decided all the musicians would sign it and raffle it off for one dollar per ticket. We had until the beginning of Hank’s set to buy as many raffle tickets as we wished. When the time came to choose a winning ticket, the audience had raised over $500 for the Foundation to Decrease World Suck, Nerdfighteria’s chief charity organization.
Hank played a ton of songs, mostly off his new album Incongruent with a few older songs thrown in here and there. Some fan favorites included “I Fucking Love Science”, “Video Game Books”, “A Song About an Anglerfish” and possibly his most famous “Accio Deathly Hallows”. He also talked with us about touring and his fellow bandmates and joked that Denver needed to fix our air shortage. During Accio Deathly Hallows, he handed a girl his mic while he climbed over the barricade so that he could join us in the audience. After many high fives and lots of dancing, he climbed back on stage and played a few more songs before ending the show. However, we weren’t ready to let him go quite yet. After much chanting, he and the band came back out and played a few encores for us, including the theme from Friends.
“Tour Because Awesome” was an truly spectacular show. Every single musician was on point and had the audience completely thrilled to be there. They also all came out afterwards for autographs, photos, and hugs, despite being absolutely exhausted from the four hour show. I was able to meet Sam Grant after the concert and we talked for a while about how cool online communities such as Nerdfighteria are. We both agreed they are a very unique, kind, and caring group of people that we are very glad to be a part of.
*DFTBA stands for Don’t Forget to Be Awesome and is the slogan of Nerdfighteria.
Videos courtesy of Lara Griffith and Andrew Huang. Bandcamp music courtesy of Jon Scallon.