Date: October 12, 2017
Opening Acts: Schaffer the Darklord, Mega Ran
On what has been labeled the “Awesome Friendship Adventure Tour”, seminal nerdcore MCs MC Frontalot and MC Lars brought along some of their friends in Mega Ran and Schaffer the Darklord for a night of entertainment at Cattivo in Pittsburgh.
What exactly is nerdcore you may ask? To put it in layman’s terms, it’s a mixture of rap and hip-hop that has a strong influence of geek and nerd culture. There are songs about Final Fantasy, the Simpsons, dungeons and dragons, Spider-Man, Mega Man and Street Fighter to name just a miniscule sampling of subjects. Some are straight up goofy, fun tributes while others are personal and introspective but that’s no different from any other genre of music. With a lifetime steeped in nerd culture, anyone that knows me can easily discern why this genre interests me.
With a 6:30 start, which is much earlier than I’m used to, I had to hit the road early after work. Arriving close to the start time, I managed to say hello to MC Lars and MC Frontalot as well as pick up a shirt from MC Lars himself. Not long after that it was showtime.
Up first was Schaffer the Darklord who was decked out in a sweet purple suit reminiscent of a classic Joker ensemble. Schaffer the Darklord or STD as he may or may not like to be known as kicked things off with a fun set that immediately caught the crowd’s attention. I’m not that familiar with his discography but there were some catchy and interesting songs about sex with everyone in the audience and cat people. The appropriately titled “Cat People” was one of my favorite tracks from STD’s catalog of music. His style of rap was fast paced rapid fire and his beats were one part funky and one part doom and gloom which made for an evil sound befitting his stage name.
Mega Ran was second to hit the stage. Again, I wasn’t familiar with his music being somewhat of a noob to nerdcore. I have to say that Mega Ran was one of the highlights of the night for me. Not only did he favor a smooth 90’s hip-hop style but he mixed that with chiptune samples of classic video games. Mega Ran was also big on audience participation as the entire crowd would easily take part in whatever was asked of them. The zombie dance was quite entertaining as everyone in the audience would be stepping forward a few steps and then take a few steps back all the while holding their arms in front of them. It would be a sight to see that taking place with a festival crowd.
There were quite a few songs from Mega Ran’s repertoire that hooked me. “AVALANCHE (feat Barret Wallace)” which drops the namesake of the eco-terrorist group from Final Fantasy VII and is told from the perspective of one of the coolest FF characters of all time, Barret Wallace stands high on my list. “Your Favorite Song” was another great track that featured Mega Ran showcasing his soulful side with a chorus that is damn catchy and has been in my head since last week. Some other notable tracks were “Infinite Lives” and “OP” but my favorite song of Mega Ran’s was “Dream Master”, an introspective track that samples music from one of the greatest Nintendo games of all time…”Little Nemo: The Dream Master”. It’s also a song that hits home with me because I can totally relate to the comfort and safety that escaping into video games provided me from my youth and now even today.
I was disappointed that Mega Ran was done for the night but my disappointment was short-lived as the reason I was there that night was about to hit the stage. Throughout the night the other MCs had a different order for the show as they had noted that MC Frontalot would be up before MC Lars but for whatever reason there was a rotation. So, MC Lars hit the stage sooner than expected which was fine by me.
A little backstory on my discovery of MC Lars…being that I’m heavily into punk and ska I discovered some of the tracks that he had collaborated on with those within the punk and ska community especially the song “This Gigantic Robot Kills” which featured members of Suburban Legends as well as MC Bat Commander from the Aquabats. I didn’t really dig much deeper than that at the time but a few years later I was sent “The Zombie Dinosaur LP” to review for the site. Upon listening to it over and over again, I picked up MC Lar’s back catalog and have been rocking out to it ever since.
For those of you not in the know, MC Lars has a talent for mixing 80s/90s hip-hop beats with his love of classic literature. His set for the night had a heavy focus on that aspect and Edgar Allen Poe in particular. One of my favorite moments of MC Lars’ set was his audience participation for “Ahab”. He brought a couple of young sisters up on stage to perform the whale dance with the audience and they couldn’t stop smiling and laughing. This may have been their first concert and they’ll surely remember it forever. Another highlight was signing along with the chorus from “Download This Song” which samples the Iggy Pop song “The Passenger” but goes at a much faster beat than the original. “Download This Song” is also one of my favorite MC Lars songs so that was also a bonus.
It may be redundant to keep piling on favorite moments but isn’t that what makes a great show? So, another favorite moment was the MC Lars/Mega Ran freestyle rap which involved them asking audience members to pull things out of their pockets and those two would freestyle rap about it. Someone had a Sega Game Gear for some reason while another whipped out a grinder of sea salt (!?!)…and MC Lars and Mega Ran took turns freestyling like this for a good five minutes. Quite impressive, it was.
With the majority of the Awesome Friends done for the night, one of the originators of nerdcore was set to take the stage. To some, MC Frontalot is the godfather of nerdcore since he was one of the earliest rappers to openly and consistently produce songs of geek fandom way back in the early 00s. His musical style is all over the place with a lot of pop choruses, crazy voices and oddball beats. He is the mad scientist of nerdcore. He didn’t seem to have a particular set list in mind for the night so he would tab through the background tracks on his laptop and play what felt good to him from the top of his head. Mad scientist indeed. I did get to hear some of my favorite tracks of his like “Stoop Sale”, “This Old Man” and “Scare Goat” and it didn’t seem like anyone in the audience left so the crowd was vocal and having a good time. MC Frontalot fed off of that and got crazier as his set went on.
Everyone that performed this night seemed to have equal stage time as the show was only three hours long ending around 9:30. MC Frontalot came out for a short encore but I had to cut my time short for my long drive home. A night of nerdcore was a welcome breath of fresh air for me. The atmosphere was chilled and the floor wasn’t so crowded that people couldn’t dance around comfortably. I had a great time just enjoying the music and not trying to fight for my life in a random mosh pit for once. All of the performers were approachable, friendly and seemed genuinely happy to be there. Everyone took turns performing with each throughout the night, the audience enjoyed every act and overall, it was just a damn fun show. I felt like I was a full-fledged, card carrying member of the Awesome Friendship Adventure Tour and that is absolutely A-Ok with me!