It sounds like the start of a joke, right? But I felt the need to title this post in a way to let the reader know where I’m coming from, or perhaps where I’m not coming from: I don’t do and I don’t know rap music.
When I mentioned to people my age that I was going to see MGK, the general response was “Who?” When I mentioned to twenty-somethings that I was going to see MGK, the response was a surprised “Really?!”
Why did I go? I went for my late niece, Brittany. When she was in a coma earlier this year, before she died far too young at the age of 26 because of her heroin addiction, I told her I’d love to take her on a road trip to see this guy (band?) she was so obsessed with. I certainly understand band obsessions.
When I saw that he was playing at Jannus Live, one of my favorite venues (but that caters to an entirely different generation these days), and found out that my friend’s daughters were going, I decided to tag along to see what this guy was all about.
One of the first things I noticed was that the fans didn’t look any different from me and my friends when we waited in the Jannus or Club Detroit line back in the ’80s: multi-colored funky hair, black clothes, Doc Martens, bandanas on heads and arms, shorty shorts, belly shirts, cut up t-shirts (although we had to cut them up ourselves, we couldn’t buy them that way) and just overall stoked for a show. The biggest difference looks-wise was the tattoos – usually only band members had tattoos in the ’80s, now everyone has them everywhere (my people included).
A band (artist?) called Mod Sun opened for MGK. It consisted of a long-blonde-haired, surfer-looking, leather-pants-wearing rapper dude…and a drummer. Just those two. A consistent distorted bass line blasted from somewhere, and occasionally some vocal tracks popped up from somewhere. He was a lively, bouncing, rap-arm-waving, decent act – and unlike anything I’m used to seeing.
The crowd loved to chant MGK…his fans are true, both male and female alike. Quite honestly, I kind of thought it was going to be a lot of screaming girls, but thankfully I was wrong.
Right from the start MGK put on a high-energy, crowd-loving, honest-to-god concert experience. The fact that he had a full, solid, and talented band with a slightly heavy sound was probably what saved my soul. A guitar melody could be detected here and there. For not knowing the music, I was impressed and understood the fandom. While the live music experience crosses many genres, it doesn’t always envelop the non-fan in the crowd – so it was nice to feel the love.
I didn’t catch much of what he said or sang – the “machine gun” rap style definitely being accurate – but I caught a few lines: a lot of f-bombs, m-fr-bombs, “smoke that shit,” “I be like uh uh.” I’m pretty sure I heard a little Sympathy for the Devil “woo woo,” and maybe a little While my Guitar Gently Weeps (not sure on that one, I couldn’t quite place it – it drove me nuts so if anyone can tell me what it was I’d love to know). The place smelled exactly like the Chris Robinson Brotherhood show I was last downtown for (or I guess any concert for that matter), and I was slightly amused with the “F**k Corporate America” comments as early punk and ’90s band sentiments came to mind. And as with other artists who do this, I got annoyed when he yelled “Tampa!” Dude, you weren’t in Tampa, you were in St. Pete.
I’ll also embarrass myself and mention that at one point what I called a “back-up rapper” came out and started back-up rapping. I say this thinking of back-up singers. But when I mentioned the “back-up rapper” to a young co-worker, she laughed and told me that was a “hype man.” Ha! Mind you, the closest I’ve ever been to a rap show is Kid Rock (always mind-blowingly epic), so of course I remember Joe C. and the “everybodyyyy screammmm” guy – I just didn’t know their job title. Learned something new ;o).
MGK strapped on a guitar and strummed a bit a few times – who doesn’t look cool with a guitar around their neck? And I’ll admit he looked and moved and worked that stage exceptionally well. At one point near the end some back-up vocal tracks appeared in a song that impressed me the most, Gone. It stood out because you could feel the emotion – that thing that makes an artist a real artist. The band, the guitarist in particular, rocked on this song (as they did throughout), and it tidied up the show as a memorable one. I have to admit it made me teary-eyed as Brittany came to mind…she’s gone from her kid forever. But I’m so glad that I got to see and feel the artist and music that made her happy. RIP, Brittany.
Two short MGK videos:
Great guitar solo clip: