Despite the late start they only run a few minutes over. Between sound check and their VIP Meet and Greet Darren pulls extra time with the band to run through the solo numbers he'll be adding to the show while the rest of the group retreats up the staircase for some downtime. The gang has learned the art of the tour nap, and finding quiet moments in the chaos. Joe sprawls, eyes closed, as Meredith Stepien, a perpetual jokester, explains her favorite tour-snack creations from their daily platters of veggies, chips and salsa and fruit. Dip a chip in ranch then in the salsa, she offers. The carrots always go first from the platters, and by the time Meet and Greet rolls around mostly the squash sticks remain untouched. Dylan bravely tries a bite and then chucks it at Meredith's head.
• PHOTOS: Candid Team StarKid
The group sells two levels of Meet and Greet for their voracious fans. The Crystal Skull VIP (priced between $100 and $125 per person, compared to $35 for general admission) allows 25 diehards to come into the venue early for a relaxed party format with the StarKids and to pose for pictures and claim the front rows or the front of a more structured signing line that they open to the next tier of Meet and Greet (priced between $75 and $85). During the first portion girls and boys move in pairs excitedly around the room, waiting for each StarKid to be free for a moment of solo time, diligently snapping cell phone pictures. Most of them come with gifts, and many are in costume -- from a Batman and Robin in homage to the most recent production, to throwbacks to Joey Richter's iconic Ron Weasley ensemble, complete with blue sweatband and tub of Red Vines.
The second Meet and Greet stretches over 100 people long, and while it only officially consists of the StarKids who appear on stage, fans wander up to the tour crew and get autographs as well, something you'd never see at your traditional rock and roll show. There isn't a line in fans' minds between an acting member and a tech member or band member; they're all StarKids. The group comes away from the hour with all sorts of fan gifts, ranging from snacks to homemade necklaces, art and toys. One fan this stop made a mounted poster of cartoon versions of every single StarKid member across all their shows wearing an amalgamation of all of their individual characters' costumes. The group can't get over her dedication and attention to detail, but it's just one in a vast collection of homemade fan trinkets. Upstairs the green room is littered with the spoils of these Meet and Greets - felt dolls for each StarKid embodying an iconic character, ribbon leis in Michigan colors that the StarKids wear around for a while, but eventually end up as part of the colorful clutter backstage.
Things move faster once the doors are open. Dinner is served and group members wander nomadically, eating and chatting in various clumps. They have access to a porch, but fans are still lined up down the block to get in, so Dylan lies across a bench to take a phone call outside unnoticed. When Joey pokes his head out the window even he's taken aback by the screams that echo back at him. Darren corrals Brian H. for some additional dance practice before putting together his own version of a StarKid costume -- all things he grabbed just before he left home this morning -- knee-length khaki shorts, and overlong tie and straw cap.
"I never eat before a show but I ate just now and my stomach is going crazy," Darren tells Julia as he paces the length of half the coffee table -- there's not much room for walking with more than 20 performers and crew getting ready at the same time.
Meredith and Lauren Lopez camp out on the floor in front of the mirror, applying make up. Soon Meredith will primp Lauren's hair -- she acts as tour hairstylist for the girls of the group. Civilian clothes start to come off and their archeological dig attire replaces it, all in varying forms of khaki and green. June Saito, who designed the costumes, said she pulled most of it together (aside from Jim's elaborate Mayan deity get-up) just a week before tour started.
"That's just the StarKid way," she laughs.
Brian Rosenthal has the worst end of the costume stick, though, since as the temperature rises as more bodies pack the venue he's wearing the most layers - tweed jacket over a vest and shirt, with a hat on top. He'll eventually change for a number into an all red tux and top hat to portray Joey's heart. On the other end, Joe is barely wearing anything, with cut off shorts and an open top that elicits screams from the fans when they finally see him. Joey has woken up from a stolen nap to find that Jaime has put pieces of Red Vines all over his tour costume, in his pockets and in one shoe so far. "I keep stepping on Red Vines, I'm going to lose my mind if I find them in the other shoe," he deadpans. Jaime holds back a smile as Joey discovers another handful of candy in the right foot. Opening act Charlene Kaye, fellow Michigan alum, applies last minute nail stickers before heading down to warm up the 900 plus person crowd. They scream and sing along as if she were the main attraction; StarKid fans are fiercely loyal to side projects and associated performers that the group promotes.
With the curtains drawn the group gathers on stage for a hushed pep talk, ending in a "Super Friends" cheer before most of the StarKids pile into a small 3 by 6 foot tent in the corner of the stage and await their entrances.