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Is Nerdcore Dead? 

mc chris in Arcata, plus the debut of Magnum and Flogging Molly's Celtic punk

click to enlarge mc chris
  • mc chris

Don't be surprised if you see zombies walking the streets of Arcata Thursday. It's not that Halloween has come early, and no, they're not extras in a Jon Olsen video -- they're probably on their way to see mc chris at Humboldt Brews, as he brings the mc chris is dead tour to town. The überironic rapper is asking his fans to dress as zombies in part because the YouTubage for the title track on his new album pays homage to Michael Jackson's classic "Thriller" vid.

Pop culture references abound in the work of the lowercased rapper aka Chris Ward IV: Star Wars characters, stuff from TV, the gamers' world and so on. Ward comes out of the world of überironic television, specifically the hip Cartoon Network show Adult Swim, where he contributed in various capacities to Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Brak Show andSpace Ghost: Coast to Coast.

He doesn't like it, but mc chris is also the uncrowned King of Nerdcore, a genre and a "movement" he claims as his own -- and dismisses. Follow the link on the rapper's website and you'll find a New York Times piece from last year about nerdcore featuring mc chris and, incidentally, mentioning the fabled Nerdapalooza festival (also name-checked in the Washington Post) that was supposed to bring 40 nerdcore bands to Eureka last September. (The fest did not come off as planned, mostly due to a lack of critical mass.)

The rapper has complained bitterly about being associated with nerdcore. "it's this fuckin press," he wrote on his blog. "the stories are never about me. i'm a figurehead that signals a cultural revolution, that's their angle and they will stick to it ad nauseum. i wish the press didnt turn out to be a bunch of lemmings that doesn't mind insulting their subjects, because they think in generalizations, in categories. no one wants to know about me. they want to know about my movement. my genre."

He would later declare that nerdcore is "a genre I do not endorse," although he apparently changed his tune when 60 Minutes decided to investigate nerds for an upcoming segment. He noted, "sixty minutes hollered at me ... that's right. MCCHRIS IS GONNA BE ON 60 MINUTES!!! in a piece on nerd culture and nerdcore. not something i usually want to be associated with, but im not gonna be stupid and say no to the biggest news show on tv."

Opening the AS Presents mc chris show is Totally Michael, a one-man pop-punk band: just Michael singing and playing cute, bouncy Blink-182-esque rock on guitar backed by a beat-producing laptop.

In Eureka that night (Thursday, Oct. 16) at Aunty Mo's, it's the debut of Magnum, a new band that may or may not be ironic in its intent (I'd say the name can only be taken as irony). The quartet rose from the ashes of the Judas Priest tribute Sad Wings of Destiny and includes Deric, Terrence and Steve from that band along with Steve 2 from Weepel, a Weezer cover band. Terrence promises: "high-octane bar band barrage with heavy doses of cat-killing screeches and guitar shrieks -- for the ladies." Interesting Magnum factoids: Magnum, P.I. was an ’80s TV series starring Tom Selleck as Hawaiian private investigator Thomas Magnum. MAGNUM is an acronym for the headache sufferers association Migraine Awareness Group: A National Understanding for Migraineurs. Terrence points out that Magnum is also, "a malt liquor, world's largest handgun and a brand of condoms." Magnum is the second local band whose name makes reference to the film Zoolander. Can you name the other?

Magnum's Humboldt Free Radio debut Thursday finds them sharing a bill with Mammatus, "a mind-meltingly progressive psych rock band from the magical forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains," and Wildildlife, a trio from Seattle that "summons up a wicked whirlpool of dense distorto crunch and freaky singing, raging metallic percussive pummel, tribal rhythms and crushing effects-soaked guitars, subdued floatational drones and ecstatically gorgeous melodies." Ready to rock? Mo's is the place.

More rock? You'll find various flavors Friday night at the Arcata Community Center where Flogging Molly is the headliner. Dublin-born bandleader Dave King came out of the ’80s L.A. metal scene where he played with members of Motörhead and Krokus. When he decided to find his own way, he began looking back to his Irish roots. In 1997 he met fiddler Bridget Regan and over time the two of them assembled a rockin' Celtic band that played a long string of Mondays at an L.A. pub called Molly Malone's, thus the name Flogging Molly. "We're not a traditional band," says King of the band's neo-Celtic sound. "We are influenced by traditional music and inspired by it, and we put our own little twist on it. If it didn't have mandolin, accordion, fiddle and whistle, it would be punk rock, and if it didn't have guitar, bass and drums, it would be traditional Irish music," he adds, noting, "You can't be bothered being labeled."

Whatever you call it, it's proven quite successful. As the bio on the F.M. website puts it, the band is "marketable." They've been a hit on the Warped Tour more than once and wowed the Coachella crowd this summer. The spring release of their latest disc Float shot them to No. 1 on the Billboard indie albums chart and No. 4 on the top 200. Opening the Arcata F.M. show: Pacific Palisades politi-punk trio Jackson United and Chico-based acousti-punks Nothing Left.

Also on Friday, an Un-Dam The Klamath benefit at HSU's Goodwin Forum as part of the anti-Columbus Day Indigenous Peoples' Week. Headlining the show is Audiopharmacy, an organic hip hop crew from San Francisco with duel turntablists, Spanish- and Middle Eastern-style guitar, flute, melodica, "dubbish fretless basslines," and two MCs/poets: Pasha and Zygoat. Also featured: raw, indigenous hip hop by Savage Family, and Cihuati-Ce, aka Xela, co-founder of Los Angeles-based womyn's group Cihuatl Tonali.

At Cecil's in Garberville Monday, a campaign meet-and-greet for SoHum Healthcare District Board candidates Judi Gonzales and Ed Smith with music by pianist Joey Edelman and jazz flautist Matt Eakle, best known for his work with the David Grisman Quintet.

Coming up Wednesday, Oct. 22, an all ages Bad Kitty show at the Manila Community Center with Detroit-based punkabilly power trio Koffin Kats.

That same Wednesday night at the Red Fox, eDIT from Glitch Mob joins DJ Touch of Deep Groove Society and Danny Corn from 3WS for a night of dance music. Expect some serious grooves from all, especially eDIT who is more laptop musician than DJ, playing what he calls "digital crunk shit." What's it like? The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones uses the descriptive term "lazer bass," honing in on the prominent low-end electro boom. A Glitch Mob remix, "West Coast Rocks," now in my iTunes rotation, starts out gently enough with snatches of familiar raps over a loop of mid-’70s Isley Brother sweet soul, then it stutters before mutating into a throbbing digi-bass thing decorated with glitchy blips, building to a bombastic body-rocking barrage and concluding with a snippet of Ice Cube declaring, "Today was a good day." Great beat, and as the kids used to say on American Bandstand, "You can dance to it."

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About The Author

Bob Doran

Bob Doran

Freelance photographer and writer, Arts and Entertainment editor from 1997 to 2013.

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