Critical Role art gallery + The Search for Grog live show in Los Angeles

Hello, it’s me! I still exist! After a few hectic months, I decided to treat myself to a 4-day vacation in California. Big surprise, Critical Role was the main reason to hop on a cramped Frontier plane and visit the other side of the country. Back in December, the team announced their first art gallery and one-shot returning to their Vox Machina roots. I couldn’t pass it up, you guys. I’ve always been too poor or busy to attend previous live shows, and as far as I know, this was my last chance to witness my favorite dysfunctional family, Vox Machina, in person. After getting the time off approved from work and the okay from a friend to let me crash on their floor, I snagged my passes and proceeded to cry for an entire month with eager anticipation.

Now, I’m going to talk through this for anyone who has never been to a live show before. I didn’t know what to expect. Sure, I had conventions like C2E2 and SDCC under my belt, so I knew that being in this fandom can be a little chaotic when securing tickets. Since this was such a big trip for me, I decided to go all out and shoot for VIP. I was a little hesitant to drop $250 ($275 after fees) versus the $70 general admission, but now I’m really glad that I splurged! (More on this later.) The art gallery reception was free with a RSVP and my round trip flight from Atlanta to LA was $175. Altogether, this trip cost me around $550 (those Uber rides add up) and it was worth every penny.

I should also backpedal real quick and mention that 7 months ago, I created a Critical Role fan account that really took off. It’s called critrolecloset and is on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr. I track down what the cast wears on the show, and uh, people really like it. It has 22,500 members at the moment and I legit thought maybe 300 people would care at most. Doing this project has been a really wonderful experience since I don’t have much time to draw or cosplay, plus I get to utilize this strange skill I have at finding basically anything on the internet. I posted on Instagram that I was getting ready to leave the terminal when someone messaged me back saying they were on the same flight! What are the chances? We met up and hit it off immediately. It was like that “did we just become best friends?” scene in Step Brothers. My new friend, Sarah, told me she was also taking this trip alone, so we decided to be vacation buddies and spent the remainder of the day exploring an unusually dreary Los Angeles once we landed. One of the highlights was checking out 826LA, which is a non-profit writing and tutoring organization that Critical Role has been supporting since they began streaming. The time travel mart was super cute and worth checking out if you’re in the area. They had a Deck of Many Things dedicated to the community available for $15, so of course I had to snag one. Sarah and I also checked out The Last Bookstore, which Taliesin recommended on an episode of Talks Machina. It was definitely a cute spot, but since I couldn’t really bring anything big on my flight back, it felt a little defeating to look at a bunch of awesome books I couldn’t have.

 

Once Friday evening rolled around, it was time for the art gallery! Man, I haven’t felt that nervous with excitement in a long time and I felt a little silly for it. I mean, this was literally a fan art gallery dedicated to a show about voice actors playing Dungeons & Dragons. But it was overwhelming to be there for a new experience and not knowing what to expect. Despite the event being RSVP, Sarah and I rolled up half an hour before doors and there was a line already wrapping around the building. They reached capacity around the time we got in, so in the future I would definitely get there about an hour before doors open to secure my spot. Once we got inside, we slowly made our way around the gallery. The mix of art was really everything I could’ve wanted and more. There were some classic favorites from both the first and second campaign, but also a handful of ones that I’ve never even seen before. Seeing the detail and craftsmanship of these pieces up close was such a gift and I really hope the crew continues to do these in the future. Being in the presence of so many talented people that I’ve fangirled over on the internet was such a cool feeling, and the best part was that none of them had egos. There tends to be elitist snobs in any fandom, but I feel like Critical Role has been mostly spared from it. The cast and majority of the artists would mingle in a private space upstairs and would come down for a few minutes to chat and take photos with fans, which I thought was a really cool way of keeping it casual while still respecting their privacy and desire to step away if things got too overwhelming.

 

Throughout the night, I was fortunate enough to get to chat with Sam, Liam, Marisha, and Ashley for a bit, and was really blown away to find out that they love my fan account! Some of them follow critrolecloset and will occasionally like a post or comment, but I was completely floored at their overall enthusiasm, warmth, and encouragement. They really do continue to make me feel loved and accepted in ways I never expected, no matter how involved or low key I am. If I’m being honest, though, the best part was meeting other critters. There was such an electric energy in the air all night long and nothing beat the feeling of whispering your online username to someone and squealing with excitement when you realized who the other person was. Putting the faces to names was so overwhelming in the best way possible! It felt like this beautiful, second family reunion. Altogether, Sarah and I spent 4 hours at the gallery but it seriously felt like 45 minutes!

The next morning, the friend I stayed with was sweet enough to drive me to Hidden Treasures in Topanga, which is where Taliesin and Marisha get a lot of their vintage clothing. (When you think about it, that was probably the most on-brand thing I could’ve done.) The area was kind of a hippie getaway spot which I found absolutely hilarious, but it was probably one of the coolest thrift stores I’ve ever been to. Majority of the clothing was Native American or cowboy inspired, so there wasn’t much up my alley, but I did find a pair of sunglasses Marisha owns and also swooned over these tiny, adorable boots.

 

After bumming around LA for a bit–which included trying a vegan burger at Carls Jr.–it was time for the Critical Role live show. The venue was absolutely gorgeous and of course, me being me, didn’t take any photos because I was so enamored and overwhelmed at how beautiful it was. Having VIP was really nice because the seats were already chosen for us, so there wasn’t any need to line up super early or rush inside of the venue. When I got to my seat, there was a mysterious black plastic bag waiting for me, which included a number of goodies. A velvet drawstring pouch contained a set of beautiful, copper dice (valued at $30) and a copper Mighty Nein pin, which was a variant version of the normal pin they carry on their website (the variant version is $13, standard is $10). One small hiccup was The Search for Grog poster, which most people assumed would be included in the VIP bag, but actually needed to be bought separately at their merch table for $10. On the bright side, there was a beautiful Vox Machina poster included…and it was fucking signed, y’all. My heart leapt out of my chest at the complete surprise of that! I feel like I’ll never get Matt or Ashley’s autograph, so that meant a lot to me. Considering all of their signatures together would cost around $200, getting the $250 VIP was actually a really great deal and made the splurge worth it to me.

 

VIP attendees also got an exclusive pre-show Q&A panel hosted by Brian W. Foster, which was a huge treat. All of the questions were really thoughtful and the mood felt so light and happy, despite knowing the following one-shot would probably be really intense. There was an hour long break afterwards so that general admission could get seated, and once the show began, it was complete madness! Since the VOD has yet to be released, I won’t reveal any spoilers, but it’s so hard to articulate how incredible this experience was. I cried probably 8 times altogether (bless the girl next to me who cried just as much) and other times found myself screaming like a grown man at a football game. Getting to see the cast play Vox Machina in person was an experience I’ll cherish forever, especially because of how incredibly hype this episode was. The only downside is that it went for 5 hours, and by the time it was finished, my poor east coast brain thought it was 6 AM. It’ll definitely be easier on me if I go to Gen Con or one on this side of the country, but hey, that ending was so worth it.

I had to leave the following morning, and boy, was it rough. I was that weirdo tearing up in my Uber on the way to the airport. Someone even recognized me from my fan account in the LAX bathroom, which was probably the coolest thing I could tell my mom. Flying back to Atlanta and away from all of my friends, old and new, was really difficult. I’ve never had such a hard time getting back to reality, and I think that’s why it’s taken me three weeks to write this. People will tell you how beautiful and and welcoming the Critical Role community is, but really and truly experiencing it in person has made the whiplash of returning to my day-to-day life more difficult to process. This trip has made me reevaluate the course of my life and what I need to work towards so that I’m always feeling this happy! If any of you reading this are people I’ve met throughout the weekend, know that you’re all on my mind and I can’t wait to reunite with you all again.

Wrapping this up, I’m going to assume I probably won’t be posting again until my next big trip, which is Japan in late March. My whole life has been leading up to this massive dream vacation of mine and I can’t wait to share it with you all. Thank you for reading!

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So. Many. Feelings.

Personal favorites of 2017

I typically don’t write year-end lists, but man, 2017 was kind of a dumpster fire. So many terrible things are happening in the world right now, but the art of storytelling makes me believe in a better future. Maybe that’s naive of me to think, but I also feel like it’s more important than ever to talk about the things we love. I didn’t go too deep here, but the following list contains my three personal favorites from each category, including some rambling thoughts. Happy 2018, everyone!

Movies

  1. The Shape of Water. I was totally that weird, grown woman in the theatre softly crying throughout the whole movie. Guillermo Del Toro is known for his dark fairytales, but none of them have captivated me this much since Pan’s Labyrinth.
  2. Baby Driver. A lot of “fun” movies are usually too cheesy for me, but Edgar Wright’s work might be the exception. From the opening 6-minute car chase to the very end, I was completely immersed in Baby’s story and had the biggest smile on my face the entire time.
  3. Dunkirk. I also don’t really care for war movies, but Dunkirk is one of the few exceptions. Everything was so gorgeously done. Christopher Nolan has mastered his craft and it’s one of the few blockbusters I’ve watched in a long time that truly valued the art of “show, don’t tell.”

TV shows

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s not exactly fun to watch, but it almost feels necessary. Margaret Atwood’s story resonates more than ever, and I think we’re only a few years away from our country potentially falling into the same trap. Also, this scene with Alexis Bledel’s character (warning: there is a hanging shown onscreen) was the most affective thing I’ve seen on TV in years.
  2. Legion. One of the first shows in a while where I truly had no idea where it was going, which somehow made the experience even better. Aubrey Plaza is a queen.
  3. Big Little Lies. Everything about this show was on-point. The directing, cinematography, soundtrack, acting, everything. To see a story so focused on the nuances of marriage, abuse, and motherhood was also very refreshing.

Video games

  1. Horizon Zero Dawn. Ugh…this game, man. It’s so perfect. Everything from the open world design, to its addicting combat system, to Aloy’s quest for answers made this one of the most riveting titles I’ve ever played.
  2. Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. This somehow managed to improve on the small imperfections in the first installment and exceed all of my expectations. Don’t let the loot box controversy deter you–this game fucking rules.
  3. Nier: Automata. I’ll admit, I wasn’t as immediately smitten with this game as everyone else, but it has lingered with me months after playing. The story will leave you questioning just about everything, but Yoko Taro knows how to craft a story that will challenge and reward you all the same.

Records

  1. Lorde – Melodrama. My favorite pop record of all time. I tried writing something and I honestly couldn’t. It’s just perfect. Favorite tracks: “Supercut”, “Liability”
  2. St. Vincent – Masseduction. There’s a lot of Prince and Bowie worship on here, but Annie Clark continues to be a dazzling creative force in her own right. Favorite tracks: “Fear the Future”, “Los Ageless”
  3. SZA – Ctrl. One of the most personal records I’ve heard in years and SZA reminds us to keep it real in the way we express ourselves–even if that means being selfish or manipulating. Favorite tracks: “Prom”, “20 Something”

Comics

  1. Saga. Alana, Marko, and Hazel dealt with the aftermath of Alana’s miscarriage, which led us to a new, Spaghetti Western-esque planet! We got a peak at what The Will has been up to! Ghus is also still alive by the end, so I’d say it’s a good arc.
  2. Snotgirl. Get hooked on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s storytelling and stay for Leslie Hung’s gorgeous, anime-influenced artwork. Lottie continues living it up as a somewhat popular blogger in Hollywood, but there’s still some murder and obsession to worry about. The slow build-up of this comic is such a treat and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
  3. The Wicked + The Divine. The Imperial Phase closed with what was probably one of the best issues I’ve ever read in a comic book series. Seriously, Kieron Gillen is on some next level storytelling and WicDiv‘s upcoming, final arc will be one you can’t miss.

Live performances

  1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, IL. I’ve gone to a few hundred shows at this point, but nothing could prepare me for the intense, blissful experience of what this band had to offer. I was in such humbled disbelief the entire night, constantly shifting from ugly sobbing to screaming with utter joy.
  2. Nine Inch Nails at Riot Fest in Chicago, IL. Trent Reznor and co. have been taking it easy on shows, but thankfully they made room in 2017 for Riot Fest. NIN are known for their tight, well-constructed live sets, and it was such a gift to finally see it happen during a beautiful, warm Chicago evening.
  3. Paramore at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA. Paramore has changed so much in the 10 years since I’ve first seen them, but their energy and passion onstage is unrivaled. The highlight of the evening was a stripped down version of “26”, dedicated to the shooting victims in Las Vegas. I don’t think there was a single dry eye in the room.