The Protomen closing out Nerdapalooza at The Beacham
After my first real nerdcore encounter at Nerdapalooza’s first (and FREE) day, we at The Dropp braved the trenches of downtown Orlando once again to have battle with hip hop, metal and math punk’s searing kinetic energy. For a while now, I’ve been revealed just how much nerd culture has spread and filtered itself among a vast range of eclectic artistic outputs. Even Brooklyn’s fantastic 17-year-old MC Joey Bada$$’s mixtape, 1999, featured him spitting lines about Pokemon, Comic Con and more.
I think that there’s a budding nerd in every single one of us. We all innately desire to have a story, to fight for something and to take part in an image that’s larger than life itself. So when Tennessee’s progressive, highly theatrical rock group The Protomen closed out Nerdapalooza’s second night with their rock opera re-imagining of Mega Man’s story I could completely understand the ocean of raised fists in The Beacham. It was a call to action, an enlistment for a story that you could take part in, and it was happening right before my eyes.
But first, we caught Captain Dan & the Scurvy Crew, a group of rappers who dress up in full pirate attire. Hailing from South Florida, these pirates are the “only rap crew with Buccaneer technique.” They were actually featured on America’s Got Talent, but let’s just ignore the “judges’” judgment. They rapped about rum, Captain Jack Sparrow and all around catered to the kid pirate most of us have at least once dabbled with. I can honestly say this is the only pirate rap outfit I’ve heard of.
Captain Dan of Captain Dan & the Scurvy Crew on stage at The Social
Random Encounter, who actually happen to be a local nerdy rock band in Orlando, Florida—and who were recently voted Orlando Weekly’s #1 indie music act—hopped over to the larger half of this dual-stage festival/convention over at The Beacham. Armed with an accordion, Russian accents, uniforms and a penchant for guitar solos, this five-piece’s name is no coincidence. Their eclectic mash of genres mostly fall into the rock category but with even a bit of folk-ish influences sporadically thrown about. Mixing original numbers and some covers, such as The Legend of Zelda, they gave a performance equivalent to the Beacham’s size and matched it with the heart and soul they put behind their music.
Random Encounter on stage at The Beacham
Following suit, Austin, Texas’ Descendants of Erdrick played a similar progressive guitar solo-loving set of video game recreations at the Beacham. Featuring guitarist Amanda Lepre’s headbanging anthems and even a flutist via Lauren Liebowitz.
Descendants of Erdrick on stage at The Beacham
Asian nerd rapper Adam WarRock took The Social by storm with some 8-bit-inspired hip hop. Enlisting help from a long line of pop cultural influences such as Wacka Flacka Flame, Lord of the Rings and Ron Swanson, he blended his spitting skills with his seemingly endless bank of internet sensational references. It was like watching YouTube videos on fast forward (with much more groove and flow than if you were to actually do that).
Adam WarRock facing the audience on stage at The Social
In proper blackened uniform with blue and black Adidas, The Megas from L.A.—the first from this festival to come all the way from the West Coast, as far as I know—played some grungy synth-based rock in full Mega Man inspiration. Although they didn’t rip directly from the Mega Man story, it seems to be their own recreation of it.
The Megas at The Beacham
Affectionately nicknaming himself “STD,” New York City’s comedian/rapper hybrid Schaffer the Darklord brought anxiety, depression and split personalities to the stage with a crisp suit and tie, Guy Fawkes masks and a puppet version of himself. “I’mma do sex to all of you,” Schaffer proclaimed to the audience at The Social, and he wheeled through a number of subjects from medication to—of course—Star Wars.
Schaffer the Darklord appealing on stage at The Social
Metroid Metal brought another video game re-imagining to the stage at The Beacham and, thankfully, it wasn’t Mega Man. With love from the heroine Samus Aran, Metroid was metal-ized with this progressive group of rock-n-rollers.
Metroid Metal guitarist on stage at The Beacham
We were all then ushered quickly over to The Social for the most insane, high-energy, spastic set to come to Nerdapalooza that weekend. It was the female-male duo of Rhode Island’s Math the Band. And as if punk met hardcore met electronica met math-rock time signature schizophrenia, members Kevin and Justine assaulted our eardrums with a raw fervor and complete disregard for our sonic comfort. It was abrasive with a heavy, heavy hand of chaos and when Kevin instinctively slammed his head into the microphone just to ready himself for the next song, we all knew what we were getting ourselves into. With Sleigh Bells-esque drum machines, a smashing floor tom, an incessant cymbal/synthesizer combo and seizure-inducing light show, it was something I can’t forget even if I wanted to. My ears were ringing and I felt like someone punched me in my gut, but my blood pressure was rising with excitement as we were again herded back over to The Beacham for the band that everyone around me had been buzzing about: The Protomen.
Math the Band’s Kevin on stage at The Social
The Protomen seemed to be something of a staple for this geeky music festival. They headlined both of the main nights—Saturday and Sunday. What I found before me was a war-themed set of raised fists; black and white montages of photos from projectors flashing images of wars, churches and World War II-era looking propaganda; and a progressive style of rock opera with a very attuned drummer (he literally jumped up in the air and hit the toms on the way down). One of the guitarists donned an 80s style suit and twisted his way around in a smooth dance number while the rest of the members adorned themselves with face paint. Also, a character by the name of K.I.L.R.O.Y. introduced the band’s epic story as he wore a mysteriously plain silver mask.
Ultimately, the shrouded history of this band has left a lot up to questioning, but they seem to be telling a story based around—you guessed it—the Nintendo Mega Man series. But thankfully, The Protomen’s take on it is steeped in their own dystopian view of the story. It’s interesting if you dig into their back story to find that their take on Mega Man is one where Dr. Wily reals over the world Earth that we’re actually familiar with. His “iron fist,” if you will, forces Dr. Light to create the failed “Protoman” to protect the human race. After the Protoman’s death, Light eventually reconstructs him into “Mega Man” to be a perfect being who will surely save the world. The story—while it’s still in progress with them mapping out the third act—seems to be strangely tragic and heading for the destruction of mankind.
I watched countless fans rally behind this band as they raised their fist and looked upward to the projector screens above them which flashed messages of “We Have Control” and “We Are Your Hope.” To be honest, it seemed absolutely cult like. But like most fantasy and fiction, there’s nothing wrong with a little role play (and a little cosplay), and if taking part in The Protomen’s encompassing story made the weekend for at least one nerd at Nerdapalooza that night, then I think the Tennessee outfit did their job.
Raul Panther of The Protomen on stage at The Beacham
On the first free night of Nerdapalooza I was introduced to nerdcore for what I felt what was probably the first time. It was new but exciting territory and I was simply enamored with passion of the people surrounding me. If there was anything I took away from the next night, it was that everyone reeeeally likes to make their own spin on the little blue guy. It was almost overwhelming. But when you rake in acts from all over the country with the same dweeby love for video games and super-hero characters, then you’re bound to get some overlap. Maybe this should have been Megapalooza, or Nerdapalooza: Mega Man Edition, but semantics will get you caught in a never-ending trap of bickering, and if you find yourself picking at all of the little details then you’ll miss the bigger picture: nerds can seriously rock.
Check out some more photos from the second night of Nerdapalooza below:
Math the Band:
Scaffer the Darklord:
The Descendants of Erdrick:
Mon Aug 27