Author: Ashly Burch
The words “rap concert” do not usually conjure images of skinny 20-somethings dressed up in medieval armor and grown men sporting Speed Racer costumes, but then Chris Ward, a.k.a. MC Chris, is not the most conventional rapper and does not attract the most conventional crowd.
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, the Troubadour in West Hollywood opened its doors to L.A.’s nerdiest citizens – and what seemed like a few lost, drunk cheerleaders – eager to relentlessly shout requests for the same two songs at MC Chris. The Troubadour was Chris’ 24th stop in his “Race Wars” tour, a promotion for his latest album of the same name.
One of the leading voices of “nerdcore,” a sub-genre of rap more concerned with references to Star Wars than possession of “hos” or money, MC Chris is best known for his voice work in the Adult Swim series “Sealab 2021″ and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.” Since his first album, “Life’s a Bitch and I’m Her Pimp,” released in 2001, Chris has acquired a dedicated and incredibly diverse following.
Chris’ three opening acts, Adam WarRock, MegaRan and MC Lars, were somewhat hit and miss. I found Adam WarRock generic; his back beats were bland and repetitive, and they did not inspire any real desire to dance or rock with the beat. His best song of the night featured the back beat of Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” and although lyrically the remix was a vast improvement upon the original, it was difficult to give him full credit for a song he only half-produced. However, WarRock exuded an infectious effervescence. He seemed genuinely appreciative of the audience and their participation, and while his music was not particularly engaging, his showmanship made him enjoyable to watch.
MegaRan, on the other hand, was inarguably the best act of the night. A high school teacher turned rapper, MegaRan acquired his monicker through his wildly popular Mega Man remixes. They are so catchy that developer Capcom recently caught wind of his operation and decided to license his music. His second song of the night, “Avalanche,” a rap about Barrett Wallace from the JRPG Final Fantasy 7, blends the game’s battle music with lightning fast lyrics that fit effortlessly with the back beat, so much so that it is now difficult for me to hear the game’s original score without mentally inserting MegaRan’s accompanying rap.
MC Lars, the final opening act, was a crowd favorite that I personally found uninspiring. Lyrically, his raps are interesting and refreshing – he primarily riffs on historical figures and famous literature. His most impressive piece of the night was a translation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” into rap. However, I found his voice a bit abrasive, and his needlessly loud accompaniment – a guitarist and a drummer, which contrasted with the highly electronic beats of the preceding acts – translated more as noise than as music.
Having seen only one really engaging act that night, I was eager for MC Chris’ set. I had seen him once before in Arizona, and recalled the show fondly. He gave a tremendous amount of energy throughout its entirety, and between each song, performed what felt like truncated stand-up routines that were surprisingly really funny.
Chris’ set was ultimately disappointing, but for good reason. A few songs before the end of his set, Chris divulged to the crowd that, prior to going on tour, he had said goodbye to his dad, who was losing his long-term battle with cancer. As a result, Chris was noticeably low-energy. His negative mood was only exacerbated by the crowd, which had become incredibly unruly. Literally moments after Chris announced the death of his father, a drunk audience member ran on stage, almost running into him. It was only after the same fan tried a second time that a security guard tackled and restrained him. The show only got worse after that. During his encore, Chris snapped at a couple for intensely making out and distracting him during his set, and it was obvious by that point that his heart was no longer in the show.
What should have been a carefree, nerdy-reference-filled night ended up being mostly disappointing and unexpectedly depressing. Regardless, one ill-fated performance does not a bad artist make. If Chris decides to return to Los Angeles, I will be there, eager to hear him rap the lore of Boba Fett for the third time. Hopefully next time the audience members will behave themselves, or, at the very least, the security will be faster on their feet.
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