I'm a bit of a nerd about some things, although I prefer the term "geek" myself. I'm a film geek, of course. I've worked as a technical writer and editor, and I know my blogger slang. I'm married to a Linux developer, which would make anyone a geek. So I felt right at home with the documentary Nerdcore Rising, even though I had never heard about the hip-hop subgenre "nerdcore" before or the primary subject of the film, MC Frontalot. I can't resist a guy who rhymes "braggadocio" and "Ralph Macchio" in a song.
Nerdcore Rising uses the standard "road trip around America" structure to show us MC Frontalot's first nationwide tour in 2006. The nerdcore rapper is more used to recording his music than performing it live, but gathers a band to tour from the small college-town bars in South Carolina to the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. We get to see the usual trials and tribulations of a band on tour -- missing or damaged equipment (an opening act spills fake blood all over the drum set at one gig), MC Frontalot's chronic back injury (I loved the scene where he tries to explain what he does to a medical professional), and the lone groupie who follows them for several states. None of this is especially new, but the band members are funny enough to keep you interested, especially if you like group Wookie imitations. The movie also features several of MC Frontalot's songs in a music-video type of format, with animation and cool graphics. I didn't like the animation intruding into a scene where the group was performing live, but the standalone music-video sequences were fun. It helped that I liked some of the songs, especially "Crime Spree." I'm not enough of a Star Wars fan to get into "Yellow Laser Beam," though.
The part of Nerdcore Rising that strays from the usual band doc is its examination not only of the nerdcore genre but of nerds in general. First-time director Negin Farsad neatly manages the challenging trick of showing us the varieties of the nerd world in a respectful manner. Even the scene where one of the band members takes an inordinately long time to explain the "Magic the Gathering" game is treated with gentle humor. Sure, these people wear t-shirts with tech and movie jokes we might not get, but the movie shows us real people behind some of the nerdy stereotypes. I have trouble with documentaries that mock their subjects, which this movie doesn't do. The explanation of the nerdcore genre and how it fits in with hip-hop and contemporary music is also well-explained from other nerdcore rappers, hip-hop musicians like Prince Paul, and Weird Al Yankovic, who is no stranger to nerdy lyrics.
The Nerdcore Rising audience at SXSW seemed to be very much a nerd-and-geek crowd, naturally receptive to the movie and its music. But I think the documentary would also appeal to a wider audience. Perhaps this could lead to peace and understanding between nerds and the people who normally mock them? Well, probably not, but Nerdcore Rising is a crowd-pleaser for at least one type of audience.