Welcome to Night Vale - All Hail! Tour
I've been crazy tired all week, and it's all Welcome to Night Vale's fault. See, their 2017 live tour, All Hail!, made its way through Atlanta which is a little over 2 hours away from me. I was flying in from Boston on Monday and decided to stick around the city for the show, because how often do you get a chance like this? The show started at 8 and ran for about two hours, so I didn't get home 'til midnight. Because of that, I've been dragging at work and trying to catch up on sleep all week. Was it worth it? Was it worth the long drive and exhaustion?
Oh hell yes.
For those unfamiliar with it, Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, starring Cecil Baldwin as Cecil Palmer, the voice of Night Vale's community radio show. Night Vale is a scenic little desert community where all of the weird things that have ever happened on X-Files, or dreamt up by David Lynch or H.P. Lovecraft, are part and parcel for its citizens. It's a wonderfully weird world filled with forbidden dog parks, hooded figures, floating cats, and mysterious lights in the sky (mostly void, partially stars). The show began in 2012 and releases twice a month, alongside numerous live performances (like this one!) and three—soon to be four—books. We previously talked about it on Geekundspiel's first (and so far only) Podcast Corner.
The Atlanta show took place at Georgia Tech's Ferst Center for the Arts, with musician Erin McKeown as The Weather. The show opened up with a performance by Ms. McKeown, playing a fantastic set. She's a blast to watch as she tells stories about her songs and career, cracks jokes, and at some points makes some pretty specific political statements (more on that later). She saves her Weather song, "The Queer Gospel," for the actual segment midway through the performance.
Disparition is there of course with some new music and an awesome set that, as always, compliments Cecil and guests as they tackle the issues that plague their normal, totally average, and not-at-all terrifying desert town.
Speaking of which, Cecil was every bit as fantastic in person as one can hope, filled with charisma and delivering his lines with a lot more energy to appease the very excited crowd. (Also, he was wearing an awesome white coat that I couldn't see that well from where I was sitting, but I totally want it.) Alongside him are some recurring voices, including Meg Bashwiner who introduces and closes out the show (and acts as sentient-patch-of-haze Deb), and several other guests that I will keep as a surprise.
Of course, the real star of the show is the Glow Cloud, which is the focal subject of the All Hail! tour. Introduced in episode 2, the Glow Cloud has become a Night Vale staple and remains to this day one of my favorite recurring "characters." And I'm not alone in this regard: when it comes to Night Vale cosplay, I've seen almost as many Glow Clouds as Cecils. There were even a few people dressed up at the show, but almost everyone was decked out in some form of T-shirt or Night Vale-centric clothing (we felt like we were missing out, so we grabbed some All Hail! tour shirts and that amazing tour poster at the top of the page).
The live shows thrive off of their audience's participation and reactions. It definitely seems like the writers add a lot more fan service to the live shows, which makes sense since it's for the fans, and in the end it's just a wonderful time. Moments of audience participation are delightfully absurd and hysterical (everyone gleefully took part in).
There's a political message not-so-subtly hidden in All Hail! WTNV has become popular with so many people because, besides being brilliant and funny, it has introduced several LGBT characters and people of color into their world and treated them as completely normal. Night Vale is a place of diversity and tolerance, and it doesn't draw attention to this because it wants to show the world that even in the weirdest of places, this is acceptable. So even though the show doesn't always directly address current events or political agendas, everyone knows that 2017 is not the year for people to keep quiet. The script doesn't make direct references to any specific events or (ahem) leaders, but it does ask us, begs us, pleads for us to consider how we act as people, and what it means to be good and to do good. It's a sweet and hopeful message that builds off of WTNV's inherent optimism and sits well with its audience, which is made up of many "weird" and "strange" people who proudly bear these titles and flock under its beautifully progressive banner.
Per the request of the show, I will not be spoiling anything plot-wise that happens, and I highly recommend that when it's available as a pay-what-you-want download, that you send a couple of bucks their way and give it a listen. It was two hours of pure talent and joy, filled with heart, humor, and the existential terror that either puts us to bed or makes us get up in the morning. And it is glorious.
When the performance finished, we were told to pick up some postcards that advertised their next upcoming book, It Devours!, to be released this October. I read the last one as an ebook, but per contributor Jeff's suggestion, I might try listening to this one in digital audio.
The upcoming show schedule can be found here. Erin McKeown will be touring with them through May and then again in September for the European tour, while the July-August shows will be split between Eliza Rickman and Jason Webley (whose songs "Pretty Little Head" and "Last Song" are among my favorites of The Weather). If they're coming to a city or state near you, I highly recommend checking it out. Those unfamiliar with the podcast won't get as much out of it I'm afraid, but the experience is a blast nonetheless. And if you're not familiar with it, get cracking on listening!