Public Enemy and Matt & Kim - Sunset Strip Music Festival - 8/20/2011
(See also: Our review of Motley Crue at SSMF.)
Neither Public Enemy nor Matt & Kim seemed particularly well suited to under-headline Sunset Strip Music Festival's Saturday blowout. The latter announced as they took the stage that they were "from Brooklyn, New York!" (as if that's a thing) while PE's hype man wanted to know: "Where all my real hip hop heads at?" (Um, Rock the Bells?)
PE at least have an Anthrax collab under their belt, but Matt & Kim, who came on just after five, have only the loosest connection to "rock and roll." She bangs the drums, he plays keyboards and sings, and that's it. It's maybe a bit White Stripes-ish in that no one seems to know if they're married or not. And, at least yesterday, they wore matching outfits.
But though few people in the crowd seemed to be familiar with them, they had mucho gimmicks up their sleeves. Kim showed us her "vagina tattoo" (which turned out to be less than promised) and they passed out balloons to the crowd, which, as you can see, looked pretty cool.
"Hipster entertainers" sounds oxymoronic, but they're both super high energy, and though there's not a lot they can do sonically without bass, guitar, horns, or strings, they did have the good sense to mix in other folks' songs -- "Let Me Clear My Throat," "Just A Friend" "Better Off Alone" -- which the crowd actually recognized. They even probably won over some new Twitter followers with tracks from their three albums, particularly "Daylight," which is excellent even if its lyrics make little sense to me. ("In the daylight I don't pick up my phone/ 'Cause in the daylight everywhere feels like home.") I could have sworn the girl with the penciled-on eyebrows, smeared makeup and vaguely-schoolgirl outfit was singing along.
Public Enemy came on a bit after seven, and were able to keep the crowd's attention for about an hour, before the mass exodus toward the west stage where Motley Crue were getting ready to perform. (We'll leave the Crue review to Lina Lecaro. Look for her Nightranger column tomorrow.)
PE has long had a tough time staying relevant, and even more so on the eve of their silver anniversary. Social awareness, you may have heard, is not big on Americans' minds right now. It didn't help that the issues Chuck D raised -- immigration policy and striking Chilean teachers -- are not exactly dominating the news right now. Even worse, when Flavor Flav came out he wasn't wearing his clock! Actually, he was, but he didn't pull it out until, like, the fourth song. It was underneath his yellow shirt, on which was emblazoned a large portrait of Flavor Flav.
Though I'd imagine it was unplanned, Chuck matched with him by wearing his trademark Pirates cap. (Gotta credit that guy for actually supporting the underdog.) He kept tossing his mic in the air and then pantomiming hitting it out of the park, which was kind of awk. Flav gave a speech about how he's really not into two things: racism and separatism, which is good because a whiter crowd would have been hard to find in Topeka, let alone Los Angeles.
They, and I, all lost our shit, then, when Scott Ian came on to perform "Bring The Noise," which is a hundred times better rock/rap mash-up than "Walk This Way." Guys in cowboy hats made out of Miller Lite twelve packs suddenly found themselves moshing, perhaps hypnotized by Ian's flavor saver.
We were all brought back to earth after Chuck encouraged us to go downtown to check out conditions on skid row, and then Flav paid tribute to (and dissed) the not-long-passed Mr. Magic all in one breath.