Con Diary: ID10T Was Just OK

On June 25th I attended Chris Hardwick’s first ever ID10T Music Festival and Comic Conival, a festival that combines indie rock, EDM, stand-up comedy, TV, and comics books all into one event. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it kind of is.

“I’ve done comedy at music festivals. I’ve done comedy at comedy festivals. I’ve moderated and performed, and been to a bunch of comic cons and maker fairs and renaissance fairs,” Hardwick said to SF Chronicle. “I told them, ‘I’d want to do a mashup of all those things.’”

ID10T — pronounced I-D-ten-T, a play off the IT code for “user error” — is certainly a mashup, one that unsurprisingly had a few bumps in its first year. With the event taking place at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, the main draw is meant to be the music, with headliners like Weezer, Ok Go, and TV on the Radio gracing the stage. I’d say the strongest and most charming of the mishmash were the TV panels though, which Hardwick himself moderated.

Hardwick moderates the Portlandia panel at ID10T

On Sunday we caught some of the Futurama and Portlandia panels, which had a fantastic audio and visual setup and took place in an open tent, which allowed for plenty of attendees to easily view from the sidelines. This felt like a nice change of pace from conventions like San Diego Comic Con, where once a room reaches capacity, you’re SOL. And Hardwick clearly knew his audience: the TV tent was always packed, the audience was charmed, and Hardwick bounced effortlessly off of his guests.

A view from the back of the TV panel tent

The rest of the festival didn’t feel as up-to-par with those panels, to be honest. While I enjoyed sitting on the massive auditorium lawn — which didn’t allow entry until 3 p.m., canceling picnic lunch plans — and listening to music, the logistics of the event could have been better, and the comics section in particular felt like the least thought out of the bunch.

Let’s get this out of the way: outside of its main lawn, I personally think the Shoreline is a clunky, unattractive venue, and I don’t know if it’s the best place to hold an amalgamation of music, comedy, TV, and comics without it feeling like everything that’s not music is getting short shrift. As it often is with the Shoreline, everything that wasn’t the bands took place in the parking lot, while the inner “walkway” around the amphitheater was speckled only with a few overpriced, pre-prepared food stands.

When the festival opened at noon, the parking lot area was pretty empty. There were a few food trucks, free food samples from Peet’s Coffee, Krave, and Jelly Belly, and a Toyota tent where you could make a gif of yourself. There was a comic exhibitors area that included publishers like BOOM! Studios, Oni Press, Aftershock Comics, and Valiant, to name a few.

The artist alley at the front of the parking lot versus the artisan marketplace at the back

A bit confusingly, the “artist alley” was separated from the “artisan marketplace,” which felt relegated to the back corner of the lot, where there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic, and it sometimes became obscured by the long comedy tent lines (which we later found out broke capacity laws, and they had to implement a ticketing system last minute). Some of the creators in the marketplace were colorists and collaborators with the creators in artist alley — on comics being sold at ID10T, even — so to separate them across a parking lot felt strange, to say the least.

There was also the curious issue of comics panels. The main stage sat right in artist alley, with zero sort of barrier or separation from the artists, the exhibitors across the way, or even the TV panel tent further over. The result was a cacophonous racket that made it impossible to hear nearly any of the panels. And when we wandered to the comedy tent — which held some other comic panels during the day generically titled “Nerdist Comic Panel” — we somehow found the same issue. The AC in the comedy tent was blasting so loudly that it was hilariously impossible to hear anything.

The comic panel setup at ID10T

I also wondered about guest diversity. Of the panels I saw, the guests were mostly white men, with one “How to Break into Comics” panel weirdly off-shooting into a conversation of what actresses these comic book men have met. The creators in artist alley were overwhelmingly white and male, and it appears the only woman of color in that area of 40+ creators was Check Please!’s Ngozi Ukazu. While this perhaps didn’t surprise me for Mountain View itself — which skews upper class, white, and male — the lack of creator diversity was surprising for the Bay Area in general, and one could easily look around and see a difference between the attendees versus all the show guests.

As the day progressed, the audience for the festival shifted from families milling about into what felt like an amalgam of Vans Warped Tour, EDC, and Coachella. It certainly looked like the bulk of attendees came in the evening, dressed in neon colors and often equipped only with hydration backpacks, giving the parking lot a full feeling that it lacked during the day. The TV tent turned over into a EDM dance hall, the stand-up comedians arrived, and the auditorium started to fill up.

As the rave went on the comic section remained relatively quiet. They all started packing up around 6 p.m., just as everything else was getting into full swing. I rarely saw any of the evening attendees break from dancing to visit the comic booths. If you show up ready to party and wearing only a hydration pack, the chance of you stopping over and buying a comic book that you’d certainly have to carry in hand are slim to none.

I’m just wondering who the main audience is for a festival like this, and what exactly it wants to be. I’m sure there’s a seamless way to combine music, comedy, TV, and comics in a way that feels organic and equal for all genres, and where it reflects the diversity of the area it’s set in. Maybe with a few years fine-tuning, ID10T will be that event.

Gretchen Smail

Gretchen Smail

Gretchen lives and works in SF as a freelancer. If not at work, is probably off eating ramen, petting dogs, or attempting yoga. Tweets too much at @ubeempress.