When I first started writing this column nearly a decade ago, many of my early subjects were so-called "geek culture" events like comic book conventions and video game tournaments. Back then, those were niche topics, but today the nerds have had their revenge, with superheroes and sci-fi emerging from the underground to dominate mainstream entertainment. So what's a grown-up geek to do in a world where fandom has taken the front seat, but has become increasingly fractured and fickle in the process?
One person who understands my perspective better than most is Orlando singer-songwriter Marc Sirdoreus, better known by his stage name, Marc With a C. Normally I leave the music reporting to my colleagues, but I've covered Marc for the majority of his 18-year career, from his freak leg injury while performing at Nerdapalooza 2010 to his annual Halloween concerts with the Rich Weirdoes.
For much of that time, Marc With a C's music has been associated with the "nerdy music" movement, but that's not a label he acquired intentionally.
"I was just a DIY indie musician. It hadn't really dawned on me that it was geek music, I had to be told," Sirdoreus told me over Ziggy Stardust tea at Pom Pom's. "I thought I was in the tradition of these heart-on-your-sleeve songwriters. It just so happened that [mine] was a really geeky heart."
During 2017, Marc released a full-length album (Unicorns Get More Bacon) and EP (Half Serious, Half Kidding), but what warmed my geeky heart the most was the limited vinyl pressing of his Shock Treatment soundtrack covers. Recorded on analog four-track tape during self-described "majorly depressive cycles" between 1998 and 2005, these songs from the little-loved (except by the two of us) sequel to Rocky Horror were also recently included as a bonus feature in the film's official Bluray release, which is unfortunately unavailable outside the U.K.
For the new year, Sirdoreus is surging forward into Obscurity, his newest and most ambitious album yet. Obscurity represents the culmination of a trilogy and the fulfillment of Marc's longtime dream to work with producer Jordon Zadorozny of Blinker the Star, "literally the producer I've wanted to work with since I was 16 or 17."
After years of planning, months of fundraising via Patreon, a week of recording in Canada and a final mastering by Kramer (Butthole Surfers, Low, Daniel Johnston), the resulting record represents an exciting evolution in Sirdoreus' traditionally self-produced sound, fleshing out his folk-influenced guitar fingering with fiery drums and thundering bass worthy of arena rock.
More importantly, Obscurity's lyrical themes, which revolve around "the literal and figurative gaining and losing of a voice," tackle the complexities and contradictions of modern communication in a thoughtful way without neglecting the ironic witticisms. On the first side, Sirdoreus satirically inhabits a series of misanthropic identities, from the acidly anti-romantic "Your Goddamn Birthday" to the peppy paranoia-stoker "Low Rent Truman Show." The second half is more personal and uplifting, as Marc reconciles with his physical appearance and fans' expectations, building up to an elegiac ending in which he imagines his own funeral. There are still geek-friendly references to Lost and Harry Potter, but they aren't sprinkled in Big Bang Theory-style for cheap laughs of recognition; instead, they serve to underpin the songs' implicit sense of nostalgia for the illusion of unity that pop culture once provided.
Most exciting of all, Obscurity's release on Friday, Feb. 2 (which will be celebrated with a preview live on WPRK at 7 p.m. and a release party at the Geek Easy the following night) won't be the end of the story. Right now, Marc is moving forward on a one-man theatrical project he first mentioned to me back in 2011. "I thought that if Bruce Springsteen is doing it, it's OK," says Sirdoreus, explaining that while he plays a version of himself in what's tentatively titled The Obscurity Show, "Marc With a C is more liable to exaggerate; Marc Sirdoreus doesn't lie to you under any circumstances."
Marc's Jan. 14 "Almost-Birthday" concert at the Geek Easy served as a dry run for the musical play, which combines songs from the new album and his lo-fi back catalog with insights about social media and low self-esteem. "I've tried so hard to be obscure, and make the right people smile," Sirdoreus sang at the show's climax. Judging by the audience's enthusiastic response last Sunday night to the new material, he's accomplished his goal.