The Fanboy Expo is a convention for all things nerdy. If you “geek out” about something, this event is for you. It was held the weekend of Friday, June 23, through Sunday, June 25, and actors, musicians, visual artists, wrestlers, and more came from all over the country to spend time with their fans. Many of the guests held panels during which fans could ask questions and photo opportunities (opps), autographs, and memorabilia were available for purchase.
I was vaguely interested until I looked at the guest line-up. Once I saw C. Thomas Howell on the list—best known as Ponyboy from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1983 movie The Outsiders but he’s also done several other movies and had regular or recurring roles in numerous TV shows including Criminal Minds—my mild interest turned into dogged determination, as he was one of my first celebrity crushes. In Ms. Anthony’s 9th grade English class we read several important works and then watched the movie version of each, including Romeo and Juliet and The Outsiders. The latter is one of my favorite movies to this day (and the book is a great coming-of-age tale that middle and high school students still read today).
I decided to make things interesting and, instead of just attending as a fan, make the Expo a business venture as well. Hey, why not see if your group can be a musical guest? Since a large percentage of the people in attendance will be sci-fi, comic book, and tv/movie fans, you could market to a new audience. Thanks, mind! I contacted the people who run the event and pitched my idea. They asked for examples of our work so I sent videos of my group playing a folk rock song (the Dropkick Murphys’ “Shipping Up To Boston”) and some Star Wars music (the end titles from Episode IV). The person said they definitely wanted us there!
My next task was to find musicians who were willing and available to play geeky music for a few hours across two days. I brainstormed with a few friends and colleagues and was able to hire three high school students and one former classmate to fill out my group!
In addition to C. Thomas Howell (“Tommy” as his friends and fans call him) there were several other celebrities I wanted to see, including Ralph Macchio (Johnny from The Outsiders but more widely known as the title character in The Karate Kid), Michael Dorn and Brent Spiner (Worf and Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”), and Chris and Joey from NSYNC. I purchased photo opps for The Outsiders, Star Trek, and NSYNC. I decided that it was frivolous to purchase both photos and autographs but, as you’ll see, I changed my mind on Sunday…
My contact at the Expo said that my group could sell CDs if we had any. We don’t, since we’re a performance-based group. Therefore, in order to bring people to our table, I decided to have a drawing: Every person who requested a song and either provided their email address or shared a photo/video of us on social media would be entered to win an Amazon gift card.
I arrived close to opening on Friday to get a lay of the land, see where my group would be set up, etc. There was some initial confusion, as this was all new to me, but eventually I got everything squared away. I was in my civilian clothes and planned on running back home to get my instruments, my Star Trek costume, music, etc. On the way out I ran into a cosplayer who had all of the things she needed in a suitcase. That made so much sense and I'm glad we crossed paths when we did! I headed back home, mentally packing a suitcase full of music, display stands, flyers, etc.
Once the playing got started, I was happy to run into several former students of mine from Pellissippi State, along with the president of the college! One student I ran into was Michael (pictured above), who recently completed his guitar studies.
Since the Star Trek photo opp (a professional shot taken with Brent Spiner and Michael Dorn) was scheduled on Friday, I wore my Lt. Uhura costume. I took a selfie while waiting in line for my opp. As I got closer to the front, Brent Spiner came out, shaking his head and throwing up his hands. “Sorry we’re a bit behind. It’s Dorn [slowing us down], not me,” he joked. It’s true what you’ve heard—he’s always the cut-up!
I purchased the photo opps separately because the “fan package” included autographs and other things I hadn’t gotten. When it was my turn I asked if it was possible to pose with both of them anyway, since I’d paid separately, but the staff were hesitant. Thankfully Brent and Michael were so gracious and asked “What do you want?” I said a picture with the both of them and they happily obliged.
Also of note: I was supposed to stand in a particular place and I couldn’t seem to understand where that place was, despite there being a piece of tape on the floor marking said place. I laughed nervously and said “I’m a teacher—I should be able to follow instructions.” One of the staff then joked “A teacher! Good, maybe you can help us keep Brent in line.” :)
I found several local high school students to fill out my group--I wanted to hire an entire trio so that I could be free to talk to people, explain the contest, encourage them to request a song, etc. In the selfie above, Max is wearing a hat from the TV show Firefly, Dakota had just changed out of his Link (Legend of Zelda) costume, and we forgot to tell Nick about costumes so he’s wearing concert black. :) I also got a former classmate whom I hadn't seen in years, Christine, to join in on violin (below).
I ended up not getting a photo or anything with Chris and Joey from NSYNC, as they snubbed my group when we played "I Want You Back," the NSYNC song that I arranged just for them. It’s okay, though—I got positive feedback on the song from everyone else who heard it!
Friday was a short day, running from around noon until 7:00 pm. Saturday was a full day and it’s when the biggest number of guests and fans would be there.