Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Insert Clever John Waters Reference

I don’t get out much. That shouldn’t exactly come as a huge surprise, but I felt like reiterating. And even if I did hit the club scene regularly, there is a definite dearth of dorky entertainment here-abouts. Thankfully, I have my own private army of geeked-out operatives who act as my eyes and ears when nerd culture rears its homely head in their individual locales.

Church is my Baltimore area point-man, and he recently caught an mc chris show at a neighborhood bar. He was even nice enough to do a little post-gig write-up.

Behold his nerdly musings:

Thanks to Z's NNIB post, I got a late heads-up that MC Chris was coming to town, and better yet, was playing up the street from me. I don't hit the clubs much these days, but I had to check this out. Ideally, I could get some video.

There were three opening acts, and I was deliberately trying to miss them. Partly because I had never heard of them, but also because that meant fewer parties who could object to me wandering around with a camera. I did the math: three bands, figure 30 minute sets and ten minute changeovers... Chris should be on about 11:00. As it turned out, I got there ten minutes later than I planned.

The Ottobar is set up a bit odd. The main entrance can be either the front or the side door. When it's the front door, as it was today, the entrance is right next to the stage. This was good on one hand, because the place was packed, but it made it hard to converse with the doorman. I asked when Chris went on and the doorman said something and pointed to a note taped up behind him, "MC Chris 11:05." Cool, I had only missed five minutes!

I asked if there were any objections to shooting video, and he ruffled through his papers. That was a good sign, since it meant the club didn't have a blanket policy. To my surprise, though, Chris apparently allowed only still photography. What? I double-checked. The guy has a fan video section on his web site. How are people getting footage? Nope, still photography only. Maybe it's some kind of nerd arts challenge. Once you snatch the footage from the club you get your blastic belt. I decided I was content with Padawan status.

I walked up to the stage, which took about four steps. There's a wall by the entrance that blocks the back half of the stage, so I was at extreme stage right. The stage is spacious, in club terms. The area directly in front of the stage held the most enthusiastic attendees, naturally. The back connects to an elevated room that holds the main bar and a few tables. That was well filled also. On stage left there is an odd balcony that is taller than the main room, so you can look down onto the main floor and stage area, but you pretty much have to be sitting. That was full as well. I noticed a bit wryly that some people with newer digital cameras were spending a LONG time framing their shots. (Congratulations, grasshoppers!)

Chris was bantering with the audience. I don't know if he had messed up, or if he just really knows Charm City, but he went into a spiel about how he saved his "A" stuff for California, and we only rated his "B" material. It's an odd way to play an audience, but it works in Baltimore, which has a bit of an inferiority complex. He then moved on to a hypothetical situation involving himself and some lovingly described pot.

Naturally he resumed his set with “Wiid.” He continued on covering a lot of older material. “The Tussin” got huge cheers, as did “Fuckin Up My Christmas” and “Fett's Vette.” He was cueing the audience to do various gestures, and everyone followed enthusiastically. When he got to “Dare to Be Stupid” he "fucked up" halfway through, restarted, and did it again seconds into it. I didn't catch the mistake, so I'm not sure if it's part of the act (screwing up a song about being stupid?) Either way, it's an interesting way to engage the crowd, and they were fully with him.

And then it was over.

An EN-CORE chant went up, while I double-checked the time. Half an hour? He's the featured act and it's 35 minutes long? No wonder I misjudged how long the opening acts were. And he only did one song from his last album? Waitaminute... that start time must have been Bar Time. Fuck! I missed twenty minutes of his act!

Of course, he got up for an encore. This seemed even more loose than his main act. He'd ask for requests, and work off that. He'd tease a song, such as the opening of Transformers theme, or abandon one that he wasn't liking. He had everybody do the robot, and then did “Robot Dog.” It wasn't a direct lead-in, more like he reminded himself that he had that song. It was obvious that he was having fun, because if he wasn't he'd just stop and start doing something else. It was very punk rock in that sense.

One girl was fading as the night wore on, and she became the object of some light ridicule from Chris, which she was thrilled by. One of the groundlings had made it up to the balcony and was managing to rock out while hanging over the edge. About this time I realized that his encore was lasting at least as long as a normal set. Is this planned? Does he just go on until he's tired? I have no idea, but I loved it. It's like flipping through the radio would be if Clear Channel only played MC Chris. It's a hell of a lot of fun.

Chris promised us a return visit in the fall to support a new album. He ended with “DQ Blizzard,” and the crowd went wild. (Note to other performers: good reason to have some of your stuff available free. Everyone in the club knew the song.)

I'm probably showing my age, but I was struck by the fact that after the show he just jumped back on stage, stuck his mike in his pocket, put his laptop in a backpack, and headed over to the merch table. (Yet another adjustment to my set-length math.) I was going to hang around afterwards and talk with Chris, but I had to be at work in about eight hours. I just bought a CD (free sticker! I love free stickers!) gave him a thumbs-up and a "Good show," and headed home.

-- Church

Postscript: After I got home, I gave the GF the recount - she didn't come along because she assumed I'd be "working" (filming) — and expressed my surprise at how many people were there. I attributed it to a "pent-up demand for Nerdcore in Baltimore." She found that phrase hilarious, and insisted that I include it in my review, so there it is. I'll grant that that was likely an overstatement, but it's friendly territory at least.


Nygel said...

he does that encore thing all the time, just for clarification.

ChurchHatesTucker said...

Thanks, nygel. It was (what's the near opposite of disconcerting?) on several levels. My getting there a bit late, then realizing it was later than I thought, THEN realizing that he was just going to have fun up on stage until he got tired or bored or whatever.

Whatever it was, it sold me. I'll be there next time around, guarantee.

Z. said...

Sounds like you had a blast, Church. Thanks for the write-up, bro! :)

Matt S said...

This seemed even more loose than his main act. He'd ask for requests, and work off that. He'd tease a song, such as the opening of Transformers theme, or abandon one that he wasn't liking.

Z, have you ever heard the Replacements "bootleg" called When The Fit Hits The Shan? The boot is of a show where the band is obviously trashed (schocker!!!) and play a ton of covers. Except they never acctually finish any of them. They start playing a track then someone gets bored and the whole thing falls apart.

The above comment reminded me of that.

Church, good review. Next time I need to do a better job of not having work commentments that conflict with shows. Gotta get my priorities straight.

Z. said...

Damn, I haven’t heard The Shit Hits the Fans in ages. I really gotta try and track that down. Thanks for the reminder, Matt!

Matt S said...

So that was the title? I couldn't remember which it was.

If you do track down a copy, let me know. I'd love to hear it again as well.

Z. said...

I wanna say it's The Shit Hits the Fans, but I got nothing but my own fragile memory to back it up. I'll holler if I track it down, whatever the hell it's called.