Being Welcomed to Nightvale

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Image courtesy of Carolyn E Brown. Licensed under CC BY SA 2.0.

Last week, as a pre-birthday gift to myself (today marking my official entrance into either my very early mid-twenties or very late early twenties), I attended the Atlanta stop of the Welcome to Nightvale tour.

Welcome to Nightvale for the most-of-you who don’t listen to it, is a twice-monthly podcast that is probably best described as Prairie Home Companion written by Lovecraft. It is narrated by Cecil Baldwin (voiced by Cecil Baldwin), who is both the cypher for the town’s own weirdness (there are angels that don’t exist, a dog park which is forbidden, and librarians who are scaly and to be feared) and himself the sort of person who would volunteer to be a public-access radio host.

It was a lovely hour of live theatre, with some charming folk music thrown in for good measure. This I had expected. What I hadn’t expected was the completely delightful people-watching options afforded by attending an event full of nerdy, nerdy 16-year-olds (said, as a former 16-year-old nerd who is now the sort of person at nearly-23 who attends live recordings of podcasts by herself, with all the love in my heart).

The teens were just nakedly enthusiastic about being there, and half of them treated it like a mini-Dragon*Con. In addition to the expected number of Welcome to Nightvale shirts (the rule about not wearing a band’s shirt to its concert does not apply to live podcasts), there were an unexpected number of cosplayers. Cecil with tentacles, Cecil without tentacles, an angel, a hooded figure, several secret police officers, and—I heard him described but never confirmed it myself—a man in a tan jacket. There were a few gothic lolitas in attendance for good measure.

Before the show started, I saw the hooded figure, two Cecils, and the angel take a photo together.

Since I was trying not to run my phone battery down before the show started, I spent a half-hour or so eavesdropping on the girl beside me and what appeared to be her mother. The girl was excitedly pointing out each of the costumes to her mother, who seemed to be putting on her best game face in terms of respecting her child’s interests. It warmed my heart, as my parents spent most of my nerdy adolescence doing the same.

In addition to the heartwarming parenting, there was the additional hilarity of watching the show’s particular weirdness be explained. I heard multiple variations of:

PARENT: Is that girl dressed as a boy?
CHILD: Yes.
PARENT: Is she wearing tentacles?
CHILD: Yes!
PARENT: Does she have tattoos on her arms?
CHILD: Yep! That’s Cecil. He’s the main character. He’s never described as definitely having tentacles, but also he’s never described as not having tentacles, and Nightvale seems like a place where that might happen, so.

It was an enjoyable way to ring out 22. Well, that, and my planned ceremonial burning of that Taylor Swift song. For cleansing.

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