One of Comic Con's most intriguing offerings was at the House of Blues, where the Battlestar Galactica Orchestra performed on all the nights of Con. We were there last Friday, to see a nerdy obsession morph into something else entirely.
I honestly didn't know what to expect when I took the ten-minute cab ride from the Convention Center to the House of Blues, where Bear McCreary and the Battlestar Galactica Orchestra would be performing. I suppose, as much as anyone can be a fan of television incidental music, that I'm a fan of the music on Battlestar Galactica, but I was at a loss to see how such music could sustain two hours worth of concert. The only stuff I could actively remember was the opening music with the hymnal singing and the drums, that sort of Irish music they played when people were sitting feeling sad, and "All Along the Watchtower", which I wasn't even sure counted as orchestral music. (In case it's not clear, I know absolutely nothing about music.)
What piqued my interest upon my arrival was a sign outside the House of Blues announcing Edward James Olmos and Grace Park as the evening's masters of ceremonies. If nothing else, I would at least be able to get in a little stargazing. After some not particularly brief confusion over the House of Blues's photography policy, whether I could bring my 20-year-old friend with me into the show (I couldn't), and a misadventure that may or may not have involved me swiping a Coke Zero from the VIP area (I'm still not sure what happened there), I was standing on the floor beneath the stage, waiting for the show to begin.
It was hard to tell who were the local music fans and who were the BSG diehards in for Comic Con, although I guessed those wearing the T-shirts with toasters on them or the word "Frak" were among the latter. I appreciated the simplicity of a shirt that has nothing more than a pretend curse word on it, but none of this did much to dispel my worries that tonight was basically just a nerdy novelty act.
But then, a good hour after my ticket said the show would start (which is admittedly pretty good for your average concert), I heard a voice. Thankfully, it was Edward James Olmos, introducing himself in Spanish over the microphone. I suddenly realized that this really was going to be Edward James Olmost leading us through the night's activities, not Bill Adama. He was not here to recite a greatest hits of his work on Battlestar Galactica. There would be no talk of toasters or skinjobs, how all this had happened before and would happen again (although considering there were concerts on Thursday and Saturday as well, he actually missed out on a good advertisting opportunity there). He did lead us all in a hearty round of "So say we all!", but that seemed to be the exception that proved the rule. And no, I'm not sure where my life can go now that I've chanted "So say we all!" with Edward James Olmos. I'm pretty sure I've peaked as a nerd.
In any event, he was here because he genuinely loved the music of Battlestar Galactica. This was equal parts out of an obvious appreciation for great music (he spent much of his time castigating the people sitting in the balcony for not joining the standing section down below, which he felt had better acoustics) and out of his feelings for the show itself. This was just another manifestation of the same open, unreserved passion that had led him to talk a few hours earlier about Adama/Tigh team-up movies and a Blade Runner crossover.
The show began with an opening act called Brendan's Band. I was now really starting to suspect that, for all my doubts, these people had come to rock. The band played six songs that were hard, fast, and loud, and not a one had even a whiff of Battlestar Galactica about them. It was only with the last song that the opening act acknowledged the driving force of the night's events, as they sung about all the troubles on Caprica and Aerilon. To be sure, the presence of Bear McCreary's brother (the titular Brendan), wife, and who I would soon discover were other members of the Orchestra made it clear why Brendan's Band had gotten the opening gig, but even so. Brendan's Band had come out and rocked hard, by and large just playing whatever music they felt like playing. Maybe this wasn't going to be entirely geeky evening after all.
Not that Edward James Olmos could ever be considered too geeky, but most people lack his gift to turn obscure references to a low-rated genre show into the height of badassery. It was as though he was actively challenging himself with the seemingly least cool material he could work with, as he decided to just read the Orchestra's songlist, all of which were met with thunderous applause. I could understand - perhaps - the crowd wildly applauding a title like "The Cult of Baltar." But "Precipice"? "Epiphanies"? I might be able to explain at length the geopolitical tensions between the Twelve Colonies of Kobol prior to the Cylon genocide (I can), but even I was dumbstruck by this response. Did everyone else assembled in the House of Blues actually know the music well enough the recognize the pieces by title? Or was the applause just Comic Con's conditioned, Pavlovian response to the name of any creative work whatsoever being said out loud? (Hell, I had heard a similar reaction to Gossip Girl the day before, so it's certainly possible.) Or was Edward James Olmos's passion really that infectious? (That was probably it.)
He was interrupted midway through, first by the entrance of Grace Park, who is about a foot taller than Edward James Olmos and at least twice as pretty. (At least.) Before he could even resume his list, Bear McCreary jumped out onto the stage. His flowing hair and messianic pose made him look unmistakeably like Gaius Baltar addressing his followers, something I was far more comfortable with than I probably should have been. Bear just about summed up the tone of the evening with his greetings, which began with two heartily exhuberant screams of "So say we all!" which was quickly followed by a rather sheepish, "Hi, everybody." He was clearly here to be the charismatic leader, but I'm not entirely sure it was his natural role. Thankfully, he was far more at home as conductor of his orchestra, as I fast discovered.
Because then the band played. Edward James Olmos had noted the musicians here had been responsible for every single note of music played on Battlestar Galactica, with not a substitute or replacement among them. Their expertise was readily apparent, but I was shocked by their enthusiasm. They all looked like they were experiencing the giddy thrill of performing together for the first time, and it was hard not to get lost in the moment. I recognized some of the music (particularly when Bear McCreary's wife reentered to provide that haunting singing), but even that which I didn't was unmistakeably Battlestar Galactica. The crowd was going wild, and the energy in the musicians' performances was unbelievable, particularly that from the violins, flutes, and other instruments not typically associated with rocking the fuck out.
It was then that I properly understood. This was the Battlestar Galactica Orchestra, the group that had done the incidental music for a basic cable science fiction show, and they were all rock stars. At that moment, Battlestar Galactica was suddenly no longer nerdy. It was cool, and not cool in a nerdy way, nerdy in a cool way, or even frakking cool. For those two hours, as Bear McCreary's orchestra rocked out in the House of Blues, Battlestar Galactica was fucking cool, simple as that.