‘Weird’ and wonderful Al
He didn’t perform at Michael Jackson’s funeral. He’s more likely to play the Orange County Fair than the Staples Center. And he’s commonly viewed as a quirky pop music footnote. No matter. At a Holiday Inn in Costa Mesa, more than 100 of his most ardent fans will gather to pay tribute to “Weird Al” Yankovic.
Although it doesn’t attract Comic-Con-size crowds, the day-long Al Fest offers immersion into the not-so-weird world of “Weird Al” fandom. There are performances by members of Yankovic’s band; a variety show staged by fans; a memorabilia auction; a 20th anniversary screening of the movie “UHF” with participants acting out the film a la “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”; and opening remarks by comedy music DJ Dr. Demento, who will preview clips from his new online show “The Real UHF.”
It was Demento who gave the comedy musician his first break, playing Yankovic’s homemade demos of “My Bologna” (riffing on the Knack’s “My Sharona”) and “Another One Rides the Bus” (parodying Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”) on his radio show.
In 1984, Yankovic hit the big time with “Eat It,” a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” that reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart. Like many fans older than 30, that was when Vikki DeVries, one of the organizers of Al Fest, first heard “Weird Al.” “I just thought he was the best parody artist I’d ever heard,” she says.
Since then, Yankovic has steadily churned out material, releasing 12 albums, winning three Grammys and touring aggressively. From his first studio album in 1983 to his latest album, “Straight Outta Lynwood,” the seemingly ageless Yankovic has turned his laser-sharp satire on all music genres. In 2006, he had his biggest hit yet with “White and Nerdy,” a parody of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’.” The song, the first of Yankovic’s to crack the Billboard Top 10, went to No. 9 and introduced his music to a new generation of listeners.
Yankovic never went away, so it wouldn’t be accurate to call this a comeback, but he’s certainly experiencing a renewed cultural prominence. You can find him all over YouTube. And the Al’s Brain exhibit at the O.C. Super Fair (through Aug. 9) offers a goofy, informative 3-D trip through the human brain -- with Yankovic as tour guide.
But for devoted fans like DeVries, it’s all about Al Fest. There’s only one thing missing: Al himself. Yankovic, who declined to be interviewed for this story, is spending the summer vacationing with his family in Hawaii and won’t be attending the festival.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed,” DeVries says, “but we will still have a blast.”
Where: Holiday Inn, 3131 Bristol St., Costa Mesa
When: 10 a.m-10 p.m., Saturday
Price: $50, general; $30, children 5-10