Wander up to the merch stall inside Kingston Peel tonight, and you’d probably notice a guy sitting behind it, wearing a Minor Threat t-shirt and baseball cap. To the casual observer, he could be just one of the increasingly packed crowd in this small suburban venue; in fact, he is none other than MC Lars, the self-styled ‘post-punk laptop rapper’ whom everyone has come to see. His anonymity may be on the wane, thanks to some recent high-profile support slots and his duties as compere at last year’s Give It A Name festival, but he’s clearly staying true to the DIY ethics that have served him so well; by playing local shows such as tonight’s and happily chatting to the crowd of fans congregating around him.
Although Mr Lars is a huge hip-hop fan, he’s better known (and possibly more respected) in punk rock circles, and hence local(ish) hip-hop quintet Top Chess are greeted with a mixture of amusement and disbelief. Sure, they can’t rap very well, and Goldie Lookin’ Chain do this kind of thing far better, but it’s hard not to raise a smile at songs about ‘Celebrity Big Brother’, plumbing problems and accidentally locking yourself out of the house.
The Riverclub may tackle heartbreak and other emo-friendly topics in their brief set, but thankfully are not too distressed to rock out, with addictive pop-rock choruses and squiggly synth in abundance. They’ve got a great stage presence for a band with only one EP behind them, and songs like ‘Call If You Want To’ deserve the ensuing sing-alongs and mini moshpit from the devoted few down at the front.
Opinion is divided as to MC Lars’ rapping skills, but it’s undeniable that he’s a born entertainer; devoted to ensuring that he and his audience have as much fun as possible. Touring for the first time with a three-man band (as opposed to just his trusty laptop), beefed-up versions of early efforts such as ‘Mr Raven’ soon have the whole venue bouncing and waving in approval.
Lars has plenty to say, too; ‘Download This Song’ and ‘Signing Emo’ are amusing but accurate critiques of the state of today’s music industry, whilst a short spiel about safe sex leads to an unexpected cover of the Bloodhound Gang’s ‘The Bad Touch’. Intrinsic to the success of his show is the intimate atmosphere; as Lars talks and jokes with the crowd, it’s as if he’s performing to a group of close friends. And why not? We know all the words, after all.
It’s all about the paradoxes with MC Lars; the fact that he plays local shows whilst writing world-class tunes; the fact that he can bring a party atmosphere to any venue whilst rapping with a sense of social awareness. If he can keep this balance up, who knows how far he could go? Don’t bet against him.