MC Chris Celebrates Ten Years on the Road at Birmingham’s Syndicate Lounge

The Ten Years of Touring Tour feels more like a house party than a concert. It’s an impression that may be partly due to the venue. The Syndicate Lounge in Birmingham, AL was intimate and casual and had every appearance of a buddy’s game room or basement bedroom. There’s a small bar in the back, a room with a couple of sofas off to one side and a smaller room around the corner where a merch table sat instead of a ping-pong table. Three laptops were set up on a small table in the middle of the stage, like someone tried to put together an ad hoc LAN party.

But the house party vibe didn’t lie entirely on the shoulders of The Syndicate Lounge. MC Chris and both of his opening acts are among some of the most affable and approachable artists you’ll ever meet. They engaged the crowd and gladly bullshit with fans after the show about classic NES games and iconic wrestling moves while signing autographs and posing for selfies. They’re all proud nerds.

Former schoolteacher and Philadelphia native Mega Ran was a perfect primer for the night. Funny and friendly, it’s impossible not to smile back at the man when he grins. Mega Ran served as an unofficial master of ceremonies for the show. He expertly warmed up the crowd, directing dance moves and bringing fans onstage to participate. His set was peppered with anecdotes about his teaching experiences and his disappointment in his kids’ love of Drake. For his big freestyle finale, he had the audience empty their pockets in search of props and spontaneous subject matter.

One of the perks of seeing a bill with three MCs means not having to suffer through a full breakdown, set up and sound check between every act. A jiggling of a couple of cords and a quick mic check was all that was required before MC Lars was ready to go on. Lars’ onstage persona was jubilant and childlike. He bounced from one side of the stage to the other high fiving fans while espousing his love of Weird Al Yankovic and Edgar Allen Poe. Mega Ran returned to the stage for a few tag team raps to close out the set, including a full rap rendition of Poe’s “The Raven” complete with a raven puppet.

It’d be reasonable to suspect that Mega Ran and MC Lars performed an off stage Dragon Ball-style fusion dance to form the headlining act. MC Chris is a veteran artist who embodies both the tangent-prone, audience taskmaster of Mega Ran and the loveable goofball of MC Lars. Chris was quick to work the crowd, making them laugh, dance and sing on command. Despite touring on a new album, his set was very fan-conscious. He leaned on older, pre-Foreverrr material, only slipping in a couple of newer tracks. It was a disappointing and perhaps an overly cautious decision given the popularity of his previous album and that his newest albums deal in Halloween-appropriate fare. Considering that he hosted a mid-concert costume contest, one might’ve expected more Ghostbusters and Freddy Kruger-centric tracks to work their way into the set. But long time fans were guaranteed to hear all their favorite songs. The set list included everything from “Pizza Butt” to “Fett’s Vette.” Chris even opened with “I Want Candy,” a deep-cut from his Adult Swim alter ego MC Pee Pants.

As anyone familiar with an MC Chris show might expect, his set was filled with nerdy rants about Star Wars and Jaws interspersed between raps. Underneath the “funny voice” and the nerd rage façade, Chris is a respectable comedian with a sharp sense of timing and the ability to flip a flub into a laugh. One bit involved continuously interrupting his own song to return to a previous rant about the Millennium Falcon as if he were a politically enraged Facebook poster, culminating with the angry non sequitur, “Jared Leto was a bad Joker!”

Ten years is a long time to spend on the road, but MC Chris and his compatriots have only improved with age. It’s well worth your time to release your inner geek for an evening. There are few shows that are as fun as an MC Chris show and you should see him live at least once, no matter what Alex Trebek says.

CD Review: “MC Chris is Dreaming” by MC Chris

freddy-krueger

Even when tackling more personal topics, the self-proclaimed king of nerd-core hip-hop has consistently maintained a chipper demeanor, but his 10th album is an exception. There’s still the occasionally danceable track like “MC Chris the Shit” and the typical collection of goofy skits, but on the whole MC Chris is Dreaming is an album besieged with personal demons.

Inspired by the synth-laden score of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” Dreaming is driven by creepy but catchy keyboard melodies that dreamily underscore the subject matter. If MC Chris was being haunted by his past ghosts on his previous album, he’s possessed by them on this one. MC Chris is blunt about his fears and insecurities, rapping about everything from his weight to his fear of becoming like his alcoholic father. He effectively uses pop culture boogieman Freddy Krueger as an avatar for his mounting anxieties and attempts to overcome him by focusing on what he has in front of him. It’s surprisingly deep for an album that contains a song about nocturnal emissions.

The dour attitude even seeps into the normally light-hearted skits, featuring bits where Freddy dangles success in front of MC Chris only to snatch it away. But he does eventually find closure, meditating on why a demon capable of conjuring up any dream world imaginable would choose to reside in a personal hell, especially when he could have waffles. Always self-aware of his indulgences, MC Chris calls his album out for being depressing and maudlin in the final skit. But this is an indulgence that can be forgiven. No longer anxious to please by turning out silly Star Wars dance tracks, MC Chris is growing as an artist and Dreaming is evidence of that.