When I learned that the Crocs Next Step Campus Tour would be coming to Rutgers University, it immediately piqued my interest–headliners Cartel would be bringing along MC Lars, an innovative “post-punk laptop rapper” that criticized the Band in the Bubble. Walking around campus during the day I ran into Lars who informed me that he would be playing at 9PM sharp; I had no interest in Cartel or direct-support Young Joc, so I arrived at 9PM and left around 10PM after speaking with Lars for some time at his merch booth.
Opening with “Space Game” from The Graduate, MC Lars set the tone for his thirty-minute set immediately. With a projector behind him, various lyrics (“I’m on fire tonight”) would appear with photos of the space-themed subjects discussed in the song (Star Wars’s Boba Fett, Futurama’s Fry, etc). A brief interaction with 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s HAL even cut into the song midway. With a full band behind him and a host of samples at his disposal, Lars continued into “21 Concepts” which proved to be one of the more interesting videos of the night: numbered concepts of failed song ideas appearing on the screen.
Only a few fans in the crowd knew his material, but Lars still put his full energy into the performance. Unfortunately, the sound wasn’t stellar–vocals were way too low in the mix and the guitar was excruciatingly loud and overpowering. Even knowing the words to most of his material, it was difficult to make out many of Lars’s incredibly witty lyrics; would-be fans in the crowd complained after the show that it was just too difficult to make out the MC’s verses. “Mr. Raven”, a shoutout to “America’s favorite anti-transcendentalist” Edgar Allen Poe, was an extremely tight performance, however. The crowd, enthused with the pounding chorus and Brand New bassline (“Okay, I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t” from Deja Entendu), began to respond to Lars.
“Download This Song”, probably the most well-known song Lars would play, was solid. With Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” as a foundation, the song was incredibly well-received and well-performed. On the topic of music piracy, Lars offered a tip for peer-to-peer college downloaders: “set your uploads to zero” to avoid RIAA detection.
Dedicated to the southern states dealing with Hurricanes Hannah and Ike, The Scorpions-sampled “Hurricane” followed before “iGeneration”. “Singing Emo”, on the setlist, was unfortunately not played. Lars closed with “Hot Topic Is Not Punk Rock”, a song built around an early ’90s Southern California 4/4 drum beat and a thrashing bassline.
Speaking with Lars after the show, I learned a little more about the “Bubble incident” and Lars being added to the tour after it had already been booked. Apparently Cartel was “pretty pissed” about the video, but they’re “cool dudes” and it’s water under the bridge. After a brief discussion of great venues in the area (Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church seemed to top both our lists), I learned that he would be returning with MC Frontalot in November. This current tour, however, continues around the country until the end of September; if it comes through your area don’t miss the chance to see MC Lars.