On March 1, Kevin Pereira and a collection of nerd celebrities took over Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles to host leetUP, an interactive celebration of nerd culture. When we spoke with Pereira a few weeks ago, he graciously invited us to make the trek from Phoenix and experience the event for ourselves, an invitation which we gladly accepted. Kyle and I flew out a few hours before the event and linked up with new staff photographer Brent Bailey, then fought our way through rush hour traffic to the downtown area.
After gaining entrance to Club Nokia and grabbing a drink from the bar, Kyle and I wandered around the show floor, checking out the classic video game arcade and chatting with the creators of MediaHound, while Bailey disappeared toward the stage with his camera. Pereira came out onstage around 7:30 to greet the crowd and thank everyone for their support, then introduced comedian and podcaster Jimmy Pardo to open the show.[nggallery id=4]
As Pardo wrapped up his act, Pereira reappeared and began tossing free games into the crowd, taking a few jabs at the newly-released PlayStation Vita in the process. He then introduced the first panel of guests: Felicia Day, creator and star of The Guild; Alex Albrecht, former Diggnation host and director of the well-received live-action short Voltron: The End; and Harley, creator of sensational internet food show Epic Meal Time.[nggallery id=5]
The theme of the first panel was something that Pereira had spoken about at length during our interview: passion. Each of the panelists had achieved their success not just because they had a great idea, but because they were passionate enough about their idea to channel it into something positive and productive. The discussion was informative and light-hearted, and culminated with a food cart being rolled onstage, giving Albrecht and Day an opportunity to join forces with Harley and create some amazingly disgusting creations for two audience members to sample.[nggallery id=6]
Up next was an incredibly entertaining set from VJ Mike Relm, who also appears in the first episode of Pereira’s newly-launched music battle show, The Playlist. Relm’s ability to combine music and visuals into a unique kind of entertainment experience is something that has to be seen in order to fully appreciate – we recommend checking out this YouTube video for a taste, as well as tuning in for the first episode of The Playlist.
After a brief appearance from Ask a Ninja, we segued into the main event of the evening, another discussion panel featuring some of the most successful podcasters on the planet: writer/director Kevin Smith (Smodcast), frequent G4TV collaborator Chris Hardwick (The Nerdist), Super High Me director Doug Benson (The Benson Interruption), and Howard 101′s Greg Fitzsimmons (Fitzdog Radio).
Amidst a cacophony of jokes about marijuana and masturbation, the panelists discussed the humble beginnings of their respective podcasting careeers, from Smith – who launched Smodcast for no other reason than to have an excuse to hang out with best friend every week – to Fitzsimmons, whose show was just a natural progression from his Sirius broadcasting. Pereira did a masterful job of ensuring that the discussion stayed on point, reigning in the obviously-baked collection of comedians whenever they strayed too far from the subject matter, and contributing plenty of his own amusing material.[nggallery id=9]
As the master of ceremonies, Pereira seemed right at home onstage, always ensuring that the audience was enjoying themselves and maintaining an unprecedented level of interactivity for an event of this type. Fans were invited onstage near the end of the panel to experience various acts of embarrassment, including smoking potpourri from a bong with Benson, receiving a makeover from Hardwick and Pereira, and a particularly odd incident with Smith and Fitzsimmons that involved a stuffed badger, a vat of honey, and a bare chest.[nggallery id=10]
As the curtain closed on the first incarnation of leetUP, Pereira and his guests stood at the front of the stage signing autographs for the masses, with Pereira eventually choosing to come out onto the show floor and take photos with the fans. We shook hands briefly, and I thanked him for inviting us to his nerd party. As we left Club Nokia, I looked over my shoulder to catch one last glimpse of our host, and saw him surrounded by his fans, grinning from ear to ear as he reveled in the success of the event he created.