- Vancouver, British Columbia - I took the train downtown dressed as the Riddler. People were doing their best not to stare at the green suit, purple tie, and cheap bowler hat with a question mark. I walk down Granville Street amongst the crowds feeling a little out of place, even though Vancouver is a host to many people from many walks of life. I should feel like I’m perfectly blended in with this eclectic crowd on this Friday evening.
It’s not until I get within sight of the Cellar nightclub on Smithe that I see a line up of others dressed in a multitude of costumes. I breathe a sigh of relief, and then feel a little ashamed that these hundreds of people in costumes better (and some far more revealing) than mine have no issue letting their inner geek out.
“I'd say [the crowd we attract] are hard to pinpoint,” says Fairlith Harvey, organizer and creator of Geeks After Dark. “Some are people who are really shy and geeky are trying to get out there in what they feel is a safe environment; there are people who wander in off the street, hipsters, outgoing geeks, cosplayers who just want to show off their work, and just people who have an affinity for geeky stuff that they don't necessarily show in their day to day life.”
I first met Fairlith through my cinema, as she was the contact for the Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast, who perform regularly at the Rio Theatre. She’s a charming lady, with the much-sought after ability to command an audience’s attention, and absolute ease in front of large crowds. “I went to VCC for event and wedding planning, and (irrelevantly) went to theatre school right out of college,” she explains.
The idea of an adult party celebrating the geek culture had humble beginnings with Fairlith and friend Tyler Nicol coming up with it while organizing a convention that never wound up happening. The first Geeks After Dark was held at the WISE Hall, but from the second one on, every event has been at the lovely Cellar. Before long, the two were joined by Cameron Russell, and the three have been serving in a multitude of roles.
Walking downstairs into the Cellar, I noticed Fairlith was manning the sound just off the side of the stage.
“I do DJ, but my role is that of producer,” Fairlith explains. “Cam runs social media and writes, Tyler writes and does stuff like press releases and sponsor emails, and both help where it is needed. But I deal with sponsors, run the errands, usually make the costumes, write the trivia, come up with initial playlist (with denial rights going to Cam and Tyler), coordinate volunteers, put prize packages together, book and pay performers, and run the board on the night. Cam spends hours and hours a week on social media, and Tyler helps with ideas and errands and everything. Everyone does a lot of work.”
Once the event started, Cameron and Tyler took to the stage dressed as Woody and Buzz from Toy Story in entirely too-convincing costumes, and I was immediately impressed with the extremely funny banter, chock full of intelligent innuendo. The crowd was super pleased, hooting and hollering.
“Everything that happens onstage is scripted, and they write all that.” I express a lot of surprise at this, seeing as how natural the two are on stage. “Not ad-libbed at all.”
It was a surprisingly jam-packed evening with the burlesque (and other risqué) shows, with both trivia and costume contests backed up by prize packs from local sponsors, like Golden Age Collectables and Gotham Collectables. “The idea of sponsors didn't even occur to me,” Fairlith tells me. “Then Tyler's boss at Gamedeals was excited by our idea and gave us some stuff. Then Gotham heard and offered. We have only actively approached one store; everyone else has come to us.”
Such sponsorship is any endeavor’s dream come true, and Geeks After Dark was very quick to acknowledge and thank them over the course of the evening. I couldn’t help but wonder if any of the costumed fellows were employees.
After the structured part of the evening came the socializing and the dancing. With Fairlith at the helm, we were treated to a variety of dance and nostalgic songs, as well as theme tunes to television shows of days past. Fairlith recalls an earlier event which holds surreal significance for her: “The first time we played the Bill Nye theme during the dance party and everyone was going 'Bill! Bill! Bill!'... I just felt, weirdly, like we had stumbled on something kind of special.”
Naturally, I was curious as to the obstacles they encountered trying to build notoriety with the program, and any other issues that came about while pulling this all together. Surely, anything this passionately created with so many variables ran into its own fair share of hitches, right? “It has honestly been a fairly bump-free journey,” Fairlith assures me. “Everyone has been really supportive; I think GAD is important in that it has received such a happy reception from people. I think it was needed.”
Looking around at the 250 happy people that night was quite the experience, and attendees ranged from those dressed in casual duds to the most spectacular and inventive costumes. Even costumes completely unrelated to the theme were welcomed, as anyone with balls enough to stomp around downtown dressed as Pikachu was worthy of respect (and a $2 discount).
Fairlith has high hopes for the program, aspiring for it to be a full-time job, and with each program being so successful, it doesn’t seem lofty. So on July 14th, why not pop down to the Cellar and see for yourself? And give Fairlith, Cameron, and Tyler a wave, as it’s a hard job reinventing a city’s nightlife.
Editor's Note: Here’s the Facebook event for the next Geeks After Dark: A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy