Over the weekend I was immersed in an incredibly creative community. I was asked to rock a live demo (and donate a piece to charity) at VidCon, the official unofficial YouTube conference. Well over 7,000 attended as well as many of YouTube’s best and brightest including Ze Frank, Mystery Guitar Man, iJustine, The Epic Meal Time Crew, and Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen to name a few.
The bulk of the community came from the curators of the conference- the VlogBrothers. The “Nerdfighters” as they are known in their hometown are among the most positive, energetic, and creative communities I’ve ever interacted with. More on that in a moment.
Leading up to the conference I struggled to decide the best object to serve as a canvas for the demo. My biggest goal was to create something interactive. Past events have taught me that collaboration is rocket fuel for creativity.
With STILL no solution 3 DAYS before the conference began… it (FINALLY!) hit me. I became obsessed with the idea of creating a piece on a piano. An entire day of franticly searching craigslist, sending countless emails, making countless phone calls (receiving responses from ONLY 2!) I found this gem:
A white, student sized, piano that was over 100 years old yet somehow in good condition, and (most importantly) still up for grabs.
Now just to get it to the convention center. Another round of emails and phone calls turned up no solution within reason. Just as I was out of options I reached out to my good friend Brian Johnson. Brian offered his time and his truck ROUND TRIP! I’m completely humbled, thankful, and forever in his debt.
The final piece of this three day puzzle was finding someone to tune it. (What good is a piano if it’s not playable). Found someone (again, on craigslist) willing to do it on such short notice. He showed up on time, was crazy nice, and in under an hour had it ready for the show!
I can’t express the energy from the crowd. As the doors opened, 7,000 people flooded the expo floor. As the day progressed the size of the crowd ebbed and flowed with the various speakers, events, and other happenings.
The text on the piano was created with the assistance of the official VidCon Twitter account (Thanks Chrisia!) People were asked to tweet a response using the hashtag “#TEKSTart” and their message was added to the piano.
As the piano started to fill in people started to stop and play. Some for a simple chord or two, some for a half an hour or more. Over the course of two days well over 100 people sat down to play. I was truly baffled by how many people could walk up in the middle of the expo hall and transform the space into a temporary concert hall. (Fortunately it was the only piano at the conference.)
Of all the players that sat down for a sizable amount of time, three stood out. Tom Milsom (pictured above) played well, played loud, and attracted a sizable crowd.
The second was a young girl (I feel terrible for not catching her name) who played a series of impressive Regina Spector covers. (If you’re out there, message me or leave a comment & I’ll get your name added in here!)
The third person who stood out was David Russell, a humble kid from West Virginia. He must have logged close to an hour playing, he improvised song after song and even took requests. Part of the last song I watched him play can be seen in the video below. The audio is not great, and the camera’s a bit shaky, but even with all that you can see this kid has true talent.
As the show came to a close, the back portion of the piano (pictured below) was donated to the “charity auction to decrease world suck”.
It was a complete whirlwind of a weekend that almost didn’t happen. I want to thank Brian again for the transportation, Lindsay and Chrisia for help durring the show, and of course Hank and John Green for inviting me. See you all next year. :)