By Laura Keeney
The Denver Post
For many adults, the notion of returning to high school ranks up there with root canals and tax preparation.
And, the idea of reliving prom — that sacred and awkward American teen ritual of taffeta, tuxes and horrific power ballads? Well, that could be cause for many to assume a fetal position under their desks.
But what if that prom was a place for Batman to boogie — a place where Dungeons & Dragons references get rewarded with laughter instead of wedgies?
Straighten your bow tie, McFly. It's time to go meet your density.
The second annual Nerd Prom, hosted by Denver band Bop Skizzum, will take over the Summit Music Hall on Friday, bringing with it 1.21 gigawatts of pure nerd power. The dress code is "geek to chic," so anything from that old, puffy-sleeved frock to your fully functional Iron Man suit will be considered haute couture. No matter your style or obsession, this party is one place where you can be yourself and let your geek flag fly high.
"What's going to be awesome is seeing indie hipster kids hanging with people in Batman and superhero costumes, and then other people dressed like it's an '80s prom," said Andy "Rok" Guerrero of Bop Skizzum. "Besides everybody's a little nerdy about something, so this is a chance to come celebrate that. You're allowed to be as nerdy as you want to be."
The event will feature four bands and a DJ, video games in the lounge and a photo booth, including a contest for Nerd Prom King and Queen.
Such elaborate events are par for the course for Bop Skizzum. The band loves to create an immersive experience for its audience; such was the motivation behind the first Nerd Prom in February 2012. After last July's successful inaugural Denver Comic Con, it didn't take Spock logic to see that holding the prom for a second year — this time with DCC as a partner — made sense.
"The Comic Con was expecting 7,000 people, but 30,000 people showed up to their event," Guerrero said. "Nerds were representing in Denver and Colorado! Nerds are taking over everything. It's cool to be a nerd."
Denver residents Melinda-Catherine Gross and Caitlin Petticord are among those going to the prom this year. The pair spends thousands of dollars each year creating costumes for their travels around the country to various comic cons. The dynamic duo has been hard at work crafting custom, superhero-themed cocktail dresses for the prom.
"For us our heroes are those we found in comic books, in the literal and rhetorical sense," Gross said. "The people who we look up to, the people from whom we learned moral systems, very much helped shape who we are today, and we want to do them justice by showing how much that we love them in fashion."
Tara Quick is coming from the northern Colorado burg of Wellington for the event. She, along with Gross, Petticord and more than 20 others, are competing for the honor of Nerd Prom King or Queen. Online voting for the contest has been vigorous. And while such activity may seem contrary for a cultural group that scoffs at popularity contests, Quick says it's just a fun way to celebrate a shared identity.
"There will always be detractors who will vilify a gathering like this prom as nothing more than exploitation of a subculture," she explained. "However, this prom is being put on and attended by people who are comfortable in their own skins, and who embrace their geek side as merely another aspect of their person."
Unbeknownst to the contestants, there is more involved than just votes in the quest for nerd king and queendom. The top three males and females with the most votes will have to run the nerd gauntlet by competing in dance-offs and video gaming for the honor of wearing the Lego crowns.
Also, expect break-dancing and an iconic '80s prom song for the newly-crowned king and queen's first slow dance. Like its high school inspiration, it will all culminate in a free-for-all dance party.
"For a lot of folks, Comic Con is the only time you can dress up, so this is another time you can get out that Wolverine costume or Jean Grey outfit and come show off," explained Guerrero. "But you don't have to dress up. Come geek to chic. Ultimately we're still a funk-soul hip-hop band, so you can actually dance to us."
If only all proms could have been so cool.