so i went to the pitchfork music festival last night to go see public enemy perform their now 20-yr. old album “it takes a nation of millions to hold us back,” cut for cut in its entirety.
i went by myself, as i do a lot of shows. the night started out on a weird vibe, because i came home from work and ended up lying (laying? what’s a good mnemonic for that?) down and napping in one of those super hardcore coma naps. i woke up and dragged myself out of the house. the main reason i bought a three-day pass was there was something i wanted to see each day. and public enemy was it for friday (more on that later).
i got over to union park, headed into the festival and tried to see where the best spot would be for me to watch the show. i couldn’t see the stage and i wasn’t going to fight my way up to the front, so i found a screen that was okay and just stood. i already felt out of place — people just seemed like they were already good and lubed up and ready to have a good time. i was out of sorts and feeling sort of lonely. i asked my HP to keep watch over me, to keep me sober. this is the sort of situation that can go bad … where if one is not spiritually fit, one can find oneself in a ‘strange mental blank spot’ and then i’m drunk or something.
the bomb squad was warming things up. the strangeness started off slow … a guy leaned over and said, “can i ask you a question?” i said “yes…” he asked me if it would be okay if he smoked hitters with a kid by him. the kid was on her dad’s shoulders a little ways away from us and in front of us. i thought about it and told him i thought it would be fine if he blew the smoke in the other direction or down to his feet. he said “you don’t think i’m committing some terrible sin?” i said no. it was strange. i’d never had someone be thoughtful about their pot smoking before. again, god was looking out for me, though, because although he wasn’t afraid to let it be known that he was smoking pot, he didn’t offer me any. protective shield or something.
moving on from that, public enemy came on. i wasn’t sure if i’d know any songs, truth be told. it kicked off with “bring the noise” and “don’t believe the hype” though, and i knew those to be sure. another strange piece came on and off through the night as i continued to look out and around at the sea of white people around me. it was so strange. first of all, i had to admit that i was there under full poseur status. i didn’t listen to this record in 1988, and i was here because i knew this was a historical music outing. it was good and i enjoyed it, but it’s not like i’ve been a public enemy fan for years. the other thing that struck me was that a lot of these people around me barely were born in 1988, and i wanted to ask them if they understood what was back of this album. the anger, the rage, the powerful emotions. we weren’t part of “us,” we were part of the “nation of millions,” guys.
and the weirdness continued. about three songs in, i started to become aware of shouting. right in front of me there was a drunken (very) smallish dude with his friend (also smallish) inbetween another big frat guy dude who also appeared to have had some, but not near as much, and even if he was as drunk, he was MUCH bigger and would have kicked this guy’s ass in a hot second. it started with the requisite “do you have a problem?” and “let’s take it over here” and kept going with a bunch of “fuck you”s. i could see this was going to devolve very quickly. little dude’s friend knew the seriousness of the sitch, and was trying VERY hard to get him to shut the fuck up. another dude next to big frat guy ended up saying “hey, be the better man.” this ended up stopping things. for now.
i don’t really even know what the fuck happened. raging frat dude kept saying that he ‘got hit in the head.’ i can only imagine that with all the “hands in the air” and whatnot and the other dude’s extreme drunkenness, that he probably just accidentally bumped the dude in the head. and this dude is an angry fuck who just is always sort of looking for a fight. yeah. awesome. it was also apparent that this was NOT over. and it wasn’t. they started up again … and i started looking for some security. we were kind of behind the sound booth, so there wasn’t anyone around us. i knew if it got started, it was likely that no one was going to save drunk bravado dude from getting his ass kicked. and i wasn’t going to have any of that. i located a security guy. i knew where to go if i needed one. i went back to the situation, that was still going on. i leaned in to dude’s friend and said, “you have two options. 1. get your friend out of here. this guy will NOT let this go. or 2. i go and get someone.” to his credit, he said, “i am TRYING to get him out of here.” and he was. and then they left. just then, everyone around drunk frat dude decided to rise up and shame him for ruining their music-listening experience. “shut up! move on! let it go! what are you here for?!!” i don’t know if it was because i said something or slightly intervened or what, but i was glad that was over. but it definitely put a weird vibe on my whole night.
the other thing i find myself doing in big crowds/music events lately? even when i know there’s no way in hell that it will happen …. like because if he showed up with public enemy, he’d be fucking up his image beyond belief*? or at stevie wonder if he had showed up, he’d be fucking up his image cause jesse jackson was there? …. i keep hoping that barack will show up places. apparently, he’s supposed to show up at lollapalooza, which i am not attending this year for the first time since it’s been in chicago. i’d love to see him speak live. oh, obama. how i love you.
so, then it was done and i walked up to the green line and went home by myself. it was super weird and strange and i felt weird. so, that’s that. weird pitchfork night.
*note. i don’t think he’d be fucking up his image by showing up at a public enemy concert, but i definitely think there’s a contingency of people who must be mollified into thinking that barack is not a secret muslim/angry black man. i think that’s for SHIT, but i think it factors in. i think these people might even be people much like my parents. not outright redneck KKKing racists. but people who are pretty sheltered in communities that are all people who look exactly like them and have very similar thoughts on religion and such. and they could be confused by smoke and mirrors, i fear. and so i think there’s situations that obama’s campaign is just going to have him stay away from. wilco: okay. public enemy: not so much. does that make sense? sad, but true.