Thursday, February 07, 2008

More Nerd News in Brief

Today begins the Year of the Rat.

I don’t know what that means, exactly, I just happened to notice it on my wall calendar and was kind of taken by the concept.

Further (half-assed) research at Wikipedia points out that this is more specifically the Year of the Earth Rat, which is kinda cool. Though personally, I would’ve preferred maybe a Were-Rat… or former Damned drummer Rat Scabies.

He deserves his own year, right?
  • But still, not very.: Arizona State University’s Web Devil has a nice article about MC Frontalot and the nerdcore scene entitled “The 1337 1if3.” (It seems that no nerdy mention escapes Church’s keen eye!) Rather than approaching the subject with that typical journalistic sense of disdain, the piece is actually fun and borderline complimentary. Check it out.
  • Calling all MCs: Decepticon-19 needs rappers. He’s just crafted a new club-banger and he’s looking for someone to help him flesh it out. He admits that the song “probably won't lead to a finished track, [he just needs] some practice mixing.” Check out “Apollo’s Son” at his MySpace, and holler at D-19 if you’re interested.
  • Calling all MCs again: Don Vito is also looking for MCs to add some supplementary verses to his new track “World of Whorecraft.” (Not to be confused with that other project of the same title.) Looks like Vito needs two more verses focus less on WoW and more on online attention whores. Check out the song so far at thesixtyone.
  • Take Back the Music: Sudden Death has just wrapped up a new album called Fatal Error. It features over an hour of music, all of SD’s hits from The FuMP, guest appearances, a video interview, and – get this – a video game. You can preview and pre-order the album over at the Funny Music Project. Hell, “My Atari” alone is probably worth the ten dollar price tag!
  • In Rai we trust: J-rap princess, otaku heartthrob, and cult leader Rai has a new demo available. “Hallow (Pinzu Bakudan Mix)” can be found at her MySpace. Rai admits that the quality is “teh suck” and that the track probably needs re-recording, but it’s definitely worth a listen.
  • Sadly, not a tribute act dedicated to my tattoo: Stan may be the worst ninja ever, but he’s got good taste in books and RPGs. Plus, as Church was quick to point out, he’s planning to make his first foray into nerdcore. One of several projects he’s working on in 2008 is a nerdcore hip-hop concept (or group or solo act) called D20. I don’t know much about the cat save that he writes a good blog, but he solicits for comments, questions, and ideas, and I figured who better to provide those than my own nerdcore legion?
  • But does it transform?: Knowing that I’m always on the look-out for more useless shit to buy, Matt sent me a link an Engadget post on the Autobot flash drive. One gig of storage? Check. Of questionable legality? Check. Runs on Energon? I’ll have to get back to you.
  • Untapped potential: Anthony from Game Music For All directed my attention toward the chiptunes doc Blip Festival: Reformat the Planet. It will be premiering at next months’ SXSW, and the screening will be followed by a musical showcase including Nullsleep, Bitshifter, and many, many more. Check out his post for more details.
  • Wrock Doc supplemental: Just as one Wizard Rock documentary is wrapping up, another is likewise making its grand entrance into the mainstream. We Are Wizards focuses not only on Wrock but also on other aspects of Potter fandom. It features everyone from Brad Neely to Melissa from The Leaky Cauldron. Most importantly, it too will be featured at this year’s SXSW film festival!
  • The years had gone by fast.: In other Potter-related news, Church also hipped me to this new retelling of Harry’s story a la Charles Bukowski. Yep, it’s full of foul language and allusions to naughty bits, just like Chuck would’ve wanted.
  • No more mess: As much time as I spend watching children’s programming with Li’l X, I somehow managed to miss this one. It’s a clip from Nickelodeon’s new show Yo Gabba Gabba! that features a track by ska greats GOGO13. Matt sent me this vid two weeks ago, and I’ve watched it religiously ever since.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Over the last couple of weeks, Dan Lamoureux has chosen a handful of insightful individuals to screen the rough cut of his documentary Nerdcore For Life. For reasons known only to Dan himself and the ancient gods of dorkiness, I made the cut. In exchange for my thoughts on the doc, I was granted permission to share with you my take on the film.

Out of respect for Dan, the project itself, and the artists included, I won’t be giving too much away, mind you. Just consider this more of a teaser review than anything else.

Documentaries are – much like these Internets – serious business. Still, it’s hard to pin down exactly how realistic these films can be. Such questions generally hinge on the amount of directorial control exhibited over the movie; will the man behind the project ultimately take it upon himself to spin the tale he wants to hear or reflect on the events as they happened?

In my interview with Dan last year, I proclaimed that he was telling our story. Upon seeing the almost finished piece, I would like to recant that statement.

The truth is, within the bounds of the Nerdcore For Life documentary, we are telling our story.

Dan’s there, of course, but I failed to see many of the directorial fingerprints that I’ve come to expect from the modern documentary. Unlike Moore or Spurlock, Dan never portrays himself as a player in the film. He is unseen, and, for that matter, unheard. The voice of the picture – the voice of nerdcore – is the voice of the artist and that of the (informed) fan.

More often than not, that voice takes many, often conflicting, tones. From the characteristic swagger of High-C to the measured and conversant ponderings of Jesse Dangerously, nerdcore hip-hop is approached as both a movement and a musical umbrella. From the self-effacing Ultraklystron to the totally outlandish Lords of the Rhymes, it is both touted and deconstructed. From the calculated ambivalence of mc chris to the rampant enthusiasm of Krondor Krew, it is portrayed in all its many guises. Some of my favorite musings come from cats as disparate as Beefy, Nerdcore News’s Gabriel, and MC Lars. These are men of blindingly different artistic outlooks, but the underlying thread is that it is through their own words and actions that they are characterized.

Nerdcore For Life is, and I’d like to stress this part, a warts-and-all portrayal of the birth of the nerdcore hip-hop scene. Some of the moments portrayed therein are not our finest. Some of the artists featured may not be our biggest names. Some of the gigs are far from our greatest draws. But the truth is, these things are realistic. The verisimilitude of the film is anchored by the fact that our highs are documented and also our lows.

We see Optimus Rhyme take the stage at PAX as a king mounts a bejeweled throne, but we also see passersby refusing to accept handbills for the Nerdcore Night gig at The Shark Club. We hear countless artists praise the skill and vision of folks like MC Frontalot (who is, of course, covered despite the fact that he’s featured in his own documentary), and we also revisit a handful of beefs that would be better forgotten. We bear witness to the scene as it was during the time in which the doc was being filmed, for better or for worse.

And with that, let me broach the sticky subject that is “the morning after.” As you all well know, a number of artists featured in Nerdcore For Life have since left the fold. Karl Olson took a bit of a sabbatical to focus on more pressing issues, mc chris broke very publicly with the community after the brief acceptance of his role as a driving force in nerdcore, and recently MC Router departed amid a firestorm of controversy.

The film, as I saw it, didn’t end with any where-are-they-now placards. (Alas, we’ll never know what happened to Waldo!) Yet I am of the opinion that it doesn’t have to and, on some level, probably shouldn’t. This film, this project, is a time capsule. It recounts the events as they transpired to the folks who lived them. In the end, whether this person went on to greatness or that one faded further into obscurity is of little consequence.

More than anything, Nerdcore For Life is about that moment when nerdcore hip-hop became a blip on the radar. Much like nerd life in general, some grokked it and some did not. The same goes for the film.

If you are looking for a reason to hate it, be it the focus of the doc, the players portrayed, or the timetable included, you’ll certainly find something to complain about. Of course, if you are hell-bent on enjoying the show you’ll probably find this to be the finest geek-centered film of its generation. But, and this is the kicker, if you watch the movie hoping to be entertained, informed, and maybe even a little enlightened – be you a nerdcore devotee or a casual naysayer – I think you’ll be pleased with the tale.

Nerdcore For Life isn’t just about nerdcore hip-hop; it’s about people, it’s about ideas, and it’s about that glorious – if tentative – modern acceptance of the self-identifying nerd (of which I believe we are a symptom rather than a root cause.)

If the film has a star it could be Beefy. It could be Former Fat Boys. It could be the Sucklord. It could be Monzy or MC Plus+. But I think that the real star is the music, and, more specifically, the music’s message. What that message is differs depending upon whom you ask and in what context, and Dan portrays that through the thoughts and deeds of a myriad of musical freaks, geeks, and misfits.

It’s his film, but it’s our story. It doesn’t go out of its way to glorify us or to vilify us; it simply gives us a mechanism through which to express our unique set of attitudes and beliefs. And I think it does so skillfully.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Nerd News In Brief

I didn’t really watch the Super Bowl last night. Seriously.

I mean, it was on on the small TV in the bedroom – Li’l X. was getting his game on the larger set in the den – but I didn’t pay it much attention. Last week I managed to snag both Advance Wars: Days of Ruin and From the Abyss, so my mind was elsewhere.

I did put the DS down for halftime, though. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are, in all honesty, the band that got me into music in my early double digits, and any chance to catch them perform is like Christmas for me.

I dug it and it looks like some other folks did too. That’s good. Petty and Co. have been bringing solid, expertly crafted rock ‘n’ roll for longer than many fans have been alive, so it’s always nice to know people still get it. Despite performing a truncated version of “Freefallin’” and Mike Campbell’s weird white-guy dreads, it was an affair to remember.
  • Kryptonite Lightsaber?: Church pointed me to this Gizmodo post asking the age old question: Which is more powerful, the Man of Steel or a Lightsaber? The answer may surprise you. Actually it probably won’t. Now that this is settled, on to more pressing matters.
  • See mc: Once again mc chris will be opening for Pinback on there forthcoming tour. You can catch him throughout February at the following venues: 02/05/2008 07:00 PM - San Diego, CA - House of Blues; 02/06/2008 07:00 PM - San Diego, CA - House of Blues; 02/07/2008 07:00 PM - Pomona, CA - The Glass House; 02/08/2008 09:30 PM - Visalia, CA - Cellar Door; 02/09/2008 08:00 PM - Santa Cruz, CA - The Catalyst; 02/10/2008 07:00 PM - San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore; 02/11/2008 - Arcata, CA - Humboldt State University / The Kate Buchanan Room; 02/13/2008 08:00 PM - Bend, OR - The Domino Room; 02/14/2008 08:00 PM - Seattle, WA - The Showbox; 02/15/2008 07:00 PM - Vancouver, BC - Richard's On Richards Cabaret; 02/16/2008 07:00 PM - Portland, OR - Wonder Ballroom; 02/18/2008 06:00 PM - Berkeley, CA - University of California, Berkeley / Bear's Lair; 02/19/2008 08:00 PM - San Luis Obispo, CA - Downtown Brew; 02/20/2008 07:30 PM - Ventura, CA - Majestic Ventura Theatre; 02/21/2008 08:00 PM - Los Angeles, CA - The Avalon; 02/22/2008 11:00 PM - Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle; 02/23/2008 09:00 PM - Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle.
  • Geek the vote: As Super Tuesday creeps ever closer, more and more geeks are sharing their thoughts on the current political clime. While Ron Paul and Mitt Romney have both been getting a bit of nerd love, it looks like the choice of two prominent nerdy rappers is none other than Barack Obama; MC Lars has long been promoting Obama, and recently mc chris did the same.
  • Challenge of the Superfiends: February 1st marked the start of this year’s RPM Challenge. For those of you not in the know, the contest challenges musicians to create 10 songs (or 35 minutes) worth of material over the span of a month, similar to NaNoWriMo or the Crate Digger Death-match. Notable nerdy contestants for his year include funky49 and Redvoid and new duo Calvin & Hobbes (consisting of DJ Snyder and Entity).
  • Remix the Ran: Random has the opportunity to get his Mega Ran track “Grow Up” on a movie soundtrack, but he needs you to make it happen. As that song is backed entirely by samples, Ran’s looking for someone to supply some original beats. Ran says that in return you get: “your name in the credits, my love and respect, and on top of that I'll gladly record anything new for your own project that you might need.” You can snag the 181 BPM aca easily enough, so get to mixin’!
  • You’re strange to me: On the topic of remixes, Optimiss has a new remix available on her MySpace. It’s her take on the mc chris classic “Geek.” Should you check it out? Yes you should.
  • More Beats: Ran isn’t the only man searching for beats. Nerdcore For Life is “on the brink of being done,” but the film requires more music (in the form of beats) to run under interview segments. Dan’s looking for “stuff that’s interesting but also subtle; beats that will add flavor and emotion to the film without distracting the viewer from the primary action.” If you’re interested in contributing, hit Dan up:
  • Math Rock for the rest of us: To wrap things up, here’s a vid that Matt turned me on to. It’s Lena from Wrock outfit The Butterbeer Experience. Apparently she’s trying to launch her career as an incredibly passionate Muppeteer.