Men relieved themselves in the bathroom sink. A woman told me to "get your d*ck out of my *ss" moments after she forcefully elbowed her way around me. Another inebriated celebrant spilled her beer into the Riot Room's soundboard during the headliner's set, causing a burst of static to fill the room. "Sorry!" she shrugged.
These are Mac Lethal's people. And so help me Larry Moore, I am one of them.
Securing a drink at the bar was an epic challenge, the club was packed tighter than ticks and the cigarette smoke was so thick that even Mac Lethal complained about it. Yet I stuck it out in spite of the brutal conditions.
There was no way I was going to miss Mac Lethal's unofficial homecoming show, even if it meant getting home at two in the morning. Mac's career is at a critical stage. 11:11, his 2007 release on the Rhymesayers label, is finally achieving traction. He just performed at California's prestigious Paid Dues festival and Friday night at the small Westport club represented the first date of a national tour.
If he was sensing the pressure, he didn't show it. Mac's late night performance was masterful. As might be expected of a guy who insists that "I'm a rapper and I don't really like rap," it was a lighthearted, interactive affair. He may be a dead ringer for Charlie Brown, but the soul of O.D.B. beats inside his stocky frame. Mac has Tupac Shakur's mind and Scottie Wedman's heart.
Although he's only 26, Mac is well on his way to joining Gates Bar-B-Q, Ida McBeth and scorched summers lawns as a Kansas City institution. His raps reference the Royals' futility, local beers and Shawnee Mission West.
While I may never tire of shouting along with lines like "I hate my songs/I hate Mac Lethal/I hate people," a few minor details made my night. Mac picked up on a chant of "Die Slow" instigated by my very loud friend Shannon. Mac addressed accusations of "selling out" before he performed "Sun Storm," the final song of the night. It's a good thing, Mac insisted, that viewers of MTV's America's Best Dance Crew heard "a song about Kansas City" every time a contestant on the show lost.
Still, Mac has plenty of weaknesses. It's disappointing that he wastes his razor wit on obvious targets like Fergie, Soulja Boy and George Bush. And no disrespect to the talented DJ Sku, but Mac's shows would be enormously enhanced by the addition of a few live instruments. He shouldn't let the unfortunate set by the night's token rock band scare him off the idea.
While reviving The Tubes' "White Punks On Dope" concept is a clever conceit, it's not at all what I had in mind. I spotted Zach Phillips serving two-dollar draws of Flying Monkey's Mac's Beer. (That's right- the beverage is named for the rapper.) I wished Zach's mighty band The Architects had played instead.
Mac's new protege, a scrawny kid from Seattle named Grieves, put the show back on track. He won me over by explaining his unlikely obsession with Westside Connection's "Bow Down". I also liked that he came to the defense of his impromptu female DJ when a couple of "real" DJs tried to push her aside.
Grieves admitted that "I look like I'm 12 years old," but his gloomy self-loathing is far from immature.
The video for Mac's "Calm Down Baby" premiered immediately prior to his performance. It's certainly good enough for broadcast on MTV, BET and Fuse. For his sake, I hope it brings Mac a massive new audience. But it doesn't really matter to me.
Whether it transpires at the Riot Room or the Sprint Center, I hope to be front and center at Mac's next hometown gig. I just want to be able to wash my hands.
(Image of Friday's show appropriated from a fan at MySpace.)