TransmetroNerdian: A night of hip-hop nerdcore and internet caution in the City of Legs

TransmetroNerdian: A night of hip-hop nerdcore and internet caution in the City of Legs

On a San Francisco late summer evening in early September, I drove with my partner to the DNA Lounge to see the legends of the Nerdcore scene. As we walked up to the building I recognized Mega Ran standing outside the door. I warmly spoke his name as though I'd known it for ages and I was greeted with a big, radiant smile; Raheem had our names written onto the guest list mere seconds into our introductions. We made our way up a flight of stairs together to a small room which, after years of attending shows in the main room, I wasn't familiar with. However, with such intimate space and a 2' high stage, I found all the right angles I needed for capturing the spectacle of the venue's stars. 

The crowd huddled about the merch booth of Mega Ran and MC Frontalot; while they sifted through albums, shirts, stickers, and monikered-USB drives, my partner and I waited for the show to begin. The opening band, Alice Knows Karate with its singer Keiko, the drummer, and their puppeteer, opened the evening with electronic Chiptune fantasy and an absolute smash hit single She’s Got Legs, You Idiot. Together, they got the necessary energy to spark the light of the night; the eager vibrancy and cheerful character of SF flowed through the crowd with each shutter of my camera's lens. 

Then, after the calm of the break, the crowd was ready for the main attraction. Dressed in a baby blue tracksuit, iconic square framed glasses and brandishing a gold mesh mic, Mega Ran delighted the crowd with tracks from his new album Buddy’s Magic Toy Box! Between songs, he told the audience back-stories and his most recent parenting experiences that inspired his lyrics. During the Ska song Recess, he invited a member to Skank Dance, then came into the audience (as we made a circle) for the track That’s Okay and free-styled select names among the crowd. Near the end of the set, Mega Ran asked the audience to have a seat as if class was in session: he sat at the edge of the stage and sang Lovable and Capable with all the passion and humbleness the inspiration for that song drew. The next song required a prop, the Mega Buster, to perform Tractor Beam and the crowd cheered in excitement at the sight of tangible 8-bit nostalgia. Finally, Mega Ran went into his 2009 hit Splash Woman bringing his set to an end with a call to MC Frontalot to take the stage.

From the quiet demeanor behind the merch booth, MC Frontalot unleashed his talent on stage with linguistic rhymes and Invader Zim-esque undulating arm gestures that pantomimed his internet savvy style. The audience was prepared for his energy and sang along with MC Frontalot as he sang from tracks off his 2019 albums Net Split or The Fathomless Heartbreak of Online Itself: Internet Sucks, Extremely Online, First World Problems, Pr0n S0ng, Memes Are Stupid and Power User had been memorized by heart and echoed with the thudding warmth of one great big heartbeat. For me, the wit and delivery of MC Frontalot is reminiscent of the comic series Transmetropolitan: exposing the secrets of the government secretly controlling you, and “listening on the mics on your cell phones…” For the encore, Mega Ran joined MC Frontalot on stage for a duet of I Hate Your Blog. After the show, we made our way back to the merch table to buy stickers, and Mega Ran’s book Dream Master a Memoir: From The Stoop To The Stage To The Stars

The event left us with a warm-alertness: the artists sang of passion and caution over the influence of internet culture. It was a night that left my partner and I the need for anonymity, yet a desire to seek the harmony our technocentric future promises us. It was another Tuesday in the City of Love and a venue we loved every second of. 

MC Frontalot’s Nerdcore Headquarters
The progenitor of nerdcore hip-hop, and still that subgenre’s final boss.
Mega Ran | Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Twitch | Linktree
View megaran’s Linktree. Listen to their music on YouTube, Spotify here.
Alice Knows Karate alt pop born of chiptune ▪️ East Side San Jose but make it High Fantasy ▪️ pop culture as folklore

Tour Dates for MC Frontalot & Mega Ran:

Sep. 8 - San Diego, CA @ Casbah w/ Bit Brigade
Sep. 9 - Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar w/ Bit Brigade
Sep. 10 - El Paso, TX @ Rockhouse Bar & Grill w/ Bit Brigade
Sep. 12 - Austin, TX @ The Far Out Lounge & Stage w/ Bit Brigade
Sep. 13 - Bryan, TX @ Grand Stafford Theater w/ Bit Brigade
Sep. 14 - Houston, TX @ Rockefellers w/ Bit Brigade
Sep. 15 - New Orleans, LA @ Southport Hall w/ Bit Brigade

Edited by Kerry Luna

Korey Luna

Korey Luna

Cofounder of Piqued
San Francisco