Skitzo Calypso: Revived & Live!

When I began doing concert photography, one of the first shows I covered was at the House Of Rock, north of Baltimore, in 2013. My wife (girlfriend at the time) and I were there to see Eye Empire perform, but there were a slew of openers to test our lenses out on first. One of those bands, it so happened to be, was Skitzo Calypso. In fact, I distinctly remember holding the door open for Brad Cox and company as we were making our way into the restaurant, unaware of who it was until later that night. So, how wonderful is it that five years later I had the honor of photographing their return to the stage, not to mention getting to see several other great acts alongside them, at Transcendent Events’ Halloween show on October 27 at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore?

Rise Among Rivals: Facebook | Twitter | iTunes | Amazon

One of those acts is a fairly new band called Rise Among Rivals, whose debut, self-titled EP only dropped in June. Yet, it was very clear from the moment they took the stage that they possess a large and enthusiastic fanbase. And I can understand why: they deal out a heavy-yet-catchy band of hard rock, and it’s executed extremely well. Throw in the fact that they’re all extremely animated individuals, and you have a set which is not only fun to listen to, but watch to boot.

Skitzo Calypso: Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

Skitzo Calypso’s return to the stage — after a two year absence — was well received. Particular highlights for me were two songs off their recent release entitled A.L.I.C.E., “Reaching For An Emerald Sky,” and “The Tortured and the Hare,” both of which exploded with energy and drove the band and the crowd forward into the night. Of course, I state that as someone who was pressed up against the stage, banging my head to the rhythm of Gary Holmes’ bass drum. Still, looking around and making sure not to headbutt anyone as I lost myself in the music gave me a decent sense that I was not alone in my enjoyment. One person who was definitely enjoying himself was bassist Tyler Garrett, who was like a man possessed the entire night. He’d scream to the sky and fall upon the floor, all while keeping the foundation in place for the dual-guitar assault of Patrick Sise and Bryan Holmes as they ripped through track after track. Part way through the set, frontman and vocalist Brad Cox took a moment to speak from the heart about the late Chris O’Rourke, former Skitzo guitarist and friend, and dedicated their song “Until My Heart 5tops Beating” to his memory. Though obviously an emotional moment for him, he carried on in his usual manner, literally sweating energy and belting out note after note. Fans were enjoying the show so much that, by the time the end arrived, the band had to convince them to leave. Reluctantly, they dispersed, but certainly happier than they arrived after having received a healthy serving of rock n’ roll, not to mention a bag of Skittles in standard Skitzo Calypso fashion.

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.