mc chris and Bitforce at The Hi-Fi Indy 04/26/18
By Laura Fox - assisted by Michele Livingston
I admit, I’m not a huge fan of rap; I’m more of a head-banging kind of girl. So why did I jump at the chance to do a live review of mc chris at The Hi-Fi Indy? Because mc chris isn’t your stereotypical rapper – he raps about nerdy stuff. And he’s wicked funny. And the opening act was a nerdcore band called Bitforce. (And yes, nerdcore is really a genre.) I expected a fun show, and that’s exactly what I got.
While waiting for the show to start, I couldn’t help overhearing bits of conversation around me. There were animated discussions about game characters and strategies, superheroes, bitcoins, wizards, and the latest Pokemon Go! raids. Although much of it was completely foreign to me, it was hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm for all things nerdy. It was interesting (but not surprising) to note that the crowd was mostly male, bearded, and under the age of 40.
What did surprise me was that there were moshers during Bitcore’s set! From the futuristic opening notes of “Exordium of Heroes” to their last triumphant chord, Bitforce commanded respect from the audience with their warrior attitudes, LED-lit uniforms, and kick-ass metal music. The San Antonio-based trio played a nine-song set that included original compositions, as well as metal versions of movie, game, and TV theme songs. Crowd favorites included the Power Rangers theme song, a Batman/Teen Titans medley, “Castlevania,” and the Pokemon theme song. Vocalist/guitarist Joey Devine (AKA Banta), Bassist Marc Lopez (AKA Ryokuen), and percussionist Toph Lawrence (AKA Shiden), were polished, yet edgy, throughout the set, and when they decided to get heavy, they got REAL heavy. They were great fun to watch!
Things were pretty casual when mc chris first took the stage, munching on a cookie and chatting with the audience. Then he suddenly switched gears, launching into “mc chris the shit,” a frenetic, autobiographical rap that’s both self-promoting and self-deprecating. His distinctive voice meshed well with the synth-y background tracks, and although I had trouble catching all the lyrics, Chris’ in-your-face attitude came through loud and clear. The audience clearly had no trouble understanding the lyrics, singing along lustily to “Neville,” “Pizza Butt,” “Hoodie Ninja,” “Wiid,” “Smackababy,” “I Want Candy,” and “DQ Blizzard.”
With over 17 albums and EPs, along with numerous movie and TV show credits under his belt, mc chris has a vast repertoire, and his setlist is always different for every show. His set at the Hi-Fi Indy was comprised of 15 songs, and included topics such as Star Wars, pot, Mario Brothers, obesity, pot, drug dealing, Harry Potter, pot, and cannibalism. Many of the songs drip with irony and reference things only fans of nerd culture and fans of mc chris would understand. Others appear straight rap/hip-hop, but take a corkscrew twist when you listen closely to the lyrics. And they all are insanely fast-paced and energetic, with mc chris spitting out the words like machine-gun fire.
One of the things that struck me about this show was the incongruity of every element of mc chris and his music. Logic says combining references to General Patton, Legoland, The Avengers, and Elizabeth Warren – all in one song – should not work. But it does. As does the unique blend of hip-hop, rap, pop, and cartoon theme-song styles. What’s also a little strange is that the artist himself is a vertically challenged, helium-voiced, 42-year-old white dude from Libertyville, Illinois.
The other thing I noticed was the way Chris interacted with the audience between every song. He went beyond the typical, “Hey Indy, how ya feeling tonight?” and cracked jokes about politics, drugs, tour life, sex, food, and the ridiculousness of life. He also took song requests, as well as talked about his wife and son, his nephew’s battle with Cystic Fibrosis, and the inspiration for some of his songs. It made my night when he asked a very tall man in the front to move over so the shorter people behind him could see, and later addressed me as “my Linda McCartney,” which was very sweet. (Google the story if you don’t know it already.) His mid-show, funny t-shirt contest was a hoot, with so many potential participants they wouldn’t all fit on the stage. (The winning shirt had a Luigi graphic on it I didn’t really get, but the crowd loved it.)
The only negativity of the night came when a drunk heckler got so out of hand that mc chris stopped performing his last song to chew him out. Fortunately, the guy settled down a bit, and Chris was able to pull it back together. Starting “Fette’s Vette,” over, mc chris rounded out the set on a positive note, with the crowd cheering and singing along, sharing in the super-cool nerdcore experience.