MC Lars Review – The Key Club, 26th November 2016

A Saturday night unlike any other is brewing underground in Leeds. The Key Club, the city’s newest rock music venue, is tonight playing host to Californian rapper Andrew Nielsen – better known as MC Lars. Self-described as ‘post-punk laptop rap’, Nielsen’s music also fits into the nerdcore genre. Nerdcore is a type of rap that focuses on typically ‘nerdy’ subjects, from poetry to Star Wars. It’s not your average concert, and MC Lars is not your average rapper.

Lars arrives on stage to thunderous cheers, immediately launching into a track from his latest album The Zombie Dinosaur LP. His on-stage setup consists entirely of his laptop, which plays the beats for his songs. This means there isn’t much room for improvisation as there is with a live band, which leads to Lars somewhat looking like a rapping karaoke act. Nevertheless, the audience seems to enjoy it, heartily shouting back when requested at multiple points during the night.

The Leeds show is the first night of Lars’ UK tour to celebrate ten years since his album The Graduate. “This next song is the only song I did that charted anywhere,” laughs Lars before he plays Download This Song, featuring the vocals of Bowling For Soup’s Jaret Reddick.

The show is certainly a varied one. One song leads to the crowd raising their hands in a ‘Live Long and Prosper’ gesture like Spock from Star Trek and another has a large mosh pit. The most bemusing moment comes during a song about Moby Dick (Nielsen is an English graduate), when the audience is shown how to do a ‘whale dance’. The best part? The vast majority of the crowd actually do the dance when the time comes. The audience is up for a laugh, and this in turn fuels Lars to give them his best.

Support act Mega Ran is brought back on stage late in the evening to perform some songs he has previously recorded with MC Lars. The two rappers seem to have a genuine friendship, cemented by their announcement that they will be releasing an album together in 2017. For the finale, a local rapper by the name of B-Type is pulled up from the crowd to help perform a song about Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven. The crowd loves it, and as the song finishes and MC Lars leaves the stage, they yell for more. Their excitement is so palpable that Lars actually comes out and, despite a curfew, manages to perform a verse and a chorus of one more song before he definitely has to leave.

By most people’s standards, it’s not a normal concert by any means. But judging by the smiles on faces as the audience leaves, it is bloody good fun.

First Person Interview

“I was losing control…”

Rebecca Burnett, 20, from Sunderland, was a Judo champion before an eating disorder threatened to destroy her whole life.

 

When my anorexia started at 15, I fit the typical profile; a high achiever, a perfectionist. I was an A* student with a large group of friends in and outside of school. I was very sporty, artistic and academic, and so I put pressure on myself to exceed in all three areas.

In Judo, I was number one in Great Britain for my weight and age. I spent my weekends travelling to retain that spot and climb the European rankings, and at 15 I was Commonwealth and three-time British champion. This led to my selection for the British team and European cups. This happened around the time of my GCSE exams, so not only did I put pressure on myself to exceed academically, I upped my training. I wanted to conquer the European rankings, not just the British.

Something around this time caused me to crumble. I decided that in order to be the best, I had to eat healthier and train harder. I didn’t realise that I was already close to breaking point and that one step would tip me over the edge. Training six to seven times a week and eating less made my weight plummet.

I came back from my first European Cup in Ukraine with a silver medal. This was a big achievement for anyone, never mind a newcomer to the European Championship circuit. Rather than revel in the excitement of my friends and family, I was already pushing myself to do better next time. Everyone was thrilled, but not me. I had to do better, I had to be the best.

I didn’t realise at the time that what I was doing wasn’t normal. It was becoming obsessive. I was losing control. I started missing the bus so that I could walk the route to and from school, exercising in whatever time I had free. My parents and coaches were already becoming concerned. I realised I had to try and show everyone that I could cope with the pressure, so I started eating the extra portions of food advised by dieticians and nutritionists. I choked down every last bite and I filled myself with hatred for being such a failure. I was never going to become the best in Europe like this.

I didn’t do well in the next European cup. I had lost my strength and was at the bottom end of my weight category. I would put weights in my clothes and drink excessive amounts of water in an attempt to be a certain weight. Judo guidelines are strict – I had been entered into a certain weight category and if I didn’t weigh the right amount, I couldn’t fight. I convinced myself that gaining weight meant I would fail and miss my chance at the European Championships. In fact, the opposite was happening. Coaches pulled me aside and insisted I take the time to get better. This was much to my annoyance, there was nothing wrong as far as I was concerned

I began suffering with reflux, and this became a way for me to mask my eating difficulties. Everything I tried to eat would come churning back up. I now had an excuse for my weight loss, but countless tests showed that this seemed to be a sub-conscious reaction to eating, rather than having a physical cause.

I was admitted to hospital a number of times when my weight dropped. Each time I would tell myself I’d go back to ‘normal’ and start eating properly and resting. I did this while in hospital, but things would get worse again every time I left. There was so much at stake for me. If I couldn’t get on top of this, I would miss my exams, my friends, the European Championships. I had a deadline and I needed to get better or everything I had been working towards would be gone. I think the thing holding me back was the refusal to admit there was a problem. Each hospital admission became longer and harder.

I ended up being sent home from my first exam in tears. My parents tried to make me eat my lunch when I got home, and I broke. The mask I had been wearing for months shattered, and I cried and cried. I admitted I needed help.

Recovery was far from easy. I slipped into depression and self-harmed as a way to punish myself. I ended up being sectioned under the Mental Health Act for refusing to drink water. I then spent six months in an adult eating disorder inpatient unit. Over this time I learned that only I can get better.  I have to accept help and reach out for support.

I haven’t been able to go back to Judo. It wouldn’t be good for my mental health.

Things are better now – I have an amazing family, and a wonderful boyfriend and group of friends. They accept me as I am, not who I used to be. I may not be there yet, but I am closer than I was yesterday, and I am proud of that.

Blog – Leeds Beckett Student Union, May 2016

Top 10 Tips for Freshers

So, you’re off to uni in September! It’s a very exciting part of your life, and the first step of your university journey. But it can be a little scary, too – after all, you’re headed to a new city and you don’t know anyone there! That’s why we’ve got some top tips to help you get through Freshers!

Bring some money with you

If you can, it’s a good idea to bring a little bit of money with you when you move in. You won’t get your student finance until you’ve fully enrolled on your course, so you’ll need some spends for things like food and going out.

Buy a doorstop

As soon as you arrive at your new halls, you’ll meet your flatmates. You won’t get to know them if you hide behind a closed door! Make sure you buy a doorstop, or makeshift your own so it holds your door open – it gives the impression you want to talk to people, and it will also make moving your stuff into your room a bit easier.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people

It can be scary trying to start a conversation with someone you’ve never met before, but it’s almost guaranteed they’ll be just as nervous as you are! The sooner you can break the ice with your new neighbours, the easier things will be, and it will boost your confidence too!

Don’t worry if you don’t make friends with everyone instantly

Everyone’s in the same boat when you move in, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to become best friends with everyone straight away. You may just not get along with some people, so try not to stress over it.

Go to the Freshers’ Fair

Not only is it a good chance to hang out with your new friends, Freshers’ Fair is THE opportunity to get some freebies! Loads of big companies come to the fair, and you can bag loads of pens, sweets and it’s usually a given that there’ll be free pizza. You’ll also get the chance to sign up for societies and sports teams too.

Join a society or sports team

The Students’ Union has something for everyone. There’s societies such as Architecture, BeMedia, Film, Law, Yoga – the list goes on and on! If the society you’d want to be a part of doesn’t exist, you can even set up your own society, subject to approval. Societies are a great way to try something new and meet people who have likeminded interests. There’s something for everyone, from Architecture to Yoga. It’s a great way to try something new and meet people who have likeminded interests.

Get some emergency food

While you still have your student finance, it’s a good idea to get some food such as soup, beans and rice. These foods have a long shelf life, and can be used to make a variety of meals, along with other ingredients. That way, if you start to run low on money later in the term you’ll have some food left.

Don’t buy textbooks straight away

Textbooks can be seriously expensive – only buy them if your lecturers tell you to. Otherwise, the library is your friend, and second-hand copies can be found online. Also, look into e-books if you have a device that can read them, as they are often a lot cheaper than physical copies.

Eat something before you go out

An empty stomach + alcohol = bad times. Make sure you have something before you start drinking, even if it’s just a snack. Carbs are the way to go.

Register for a GP

Hopefully you won’t need to go, but should you get ill throughout the year it’s a good idea to be registered with a GP. You don’t want to be defenceless when Freshers’ flu strikes!!

Those are our best tips to get you through Freshers! Follow them and you’re set for a great time at uni!

Communication Skills – Summary

Since the beginning of my university journey, my communication skills have been steadily developed.

Most, if not all of my modules have helped to refine my communication skills. In particular, the Writing for Communication module I took in my first year has been very helpful. In this module I learnt how to write a press release properly, a skill which has been used many times since.

It’s important to know how to communicate effectively to different audiences. This is something I have developed over the past few years. I am able to write in a more informal style as well as in a formal style. It all depends on what audience you are trying to target.

One of the pieces I have submitted is a first person interview I conducted in late 2016. This was part of my Reporting 2 module. It centers around an athlete who was a family friend, who suffered from anorexia. I think it showcases my communication skills well because I have managed to put her story into her own words, but in a way that is still engaging and concise.

I have also included a blog I wrote for the Leeds Beckett Student Union in May 2016. This was for my PR Skills module in my first year of university. This module required me to create a portfolio including work for real clients. The task of finding a client was something entirely new to me, and something I found surprisingly difficult. All in all, I am very glad that I had to do this, because the work I did is now a valuable asset in my portfolio. The blog itself was entitled “Top 10 Tips for Freshers”. It was intended to be a light-hearted article containing some helpful tips for those about to leave home for university.

The final piece I have used to show my communication skills is a review of a concert I attended in November 2016. This, like my first person interview, was part of my Reporting 2 module. The review gave me a chance to write with a bit more flair than usual, as well as providing my own opinions, which I don’t always get to do. I think the review reads particularly well as a snappy piece of writing. It also shows my interest in the music industry, which I hope to head into after graduation.

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