Public Enemy are my favorite rap act of the past 25 years, but somehow I had never seen them live until this past weekend, when I was lucky enough to catch their set at the Riot Fest in Chicago (my photo, from stage right, is Flavor Flav on the left and Chuck D on the right). It was as awesome as one would hope for, and a cool mix of classic material and newer tracks. And Flavor Flav closed the show with an impassioned speech about racism–he’s a clown, yes, but he’s not a dumb guy. A few things, outside the music, that struck me:
1. Chuck D’s habit of wielding his microphone with both hands like he’s a batter stepping up to the plate, taking some practice swings before digging in against a pitcher.
2. Flavor Flav’s electric sneakers, with blinking lights.
3. When the S1Ws drill onstage, it now seems less like a paramilitary gesture and more like a step show in fatigues.
4. Terminator X has retired, and according to Wikipedia, is running an ostrich farm in North Carolina. (His replacement, DJ Lord, did a great job cutting up “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”)
5. I was on the ground, just to the side of the stage, and people in my area kept passing their cameras up to whoever was hanging out on stage right so they could take some photos closer to the action. The various members of the PE entourage did this cheerfully–including Professor Griff.