Posts tagged ‘Public Enemy’

What I learned in 100 Days

May 5th, 2009

Here goes: the last and final “What I learned…” post. But this time, for the whole 100 days.

This is the most exciting time in music that I’ve ever experienced
And I grew with Motley Crue, Guns ‘n Roses, R.E.M. Metallica, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, U2, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Run DMC, Red Hot Chili Peppers and more. These are all legendary, amazing bands. But I’m telling you – right now this is the most exciting time in music. At least for my generation and those younger than me. Here’s why.

The old music model is broken, but that’s okay: the power has shifted to the artist. The Internet is killing majors, but fuck majors. You don’t need them. But bands need you, now more than ever. Bands may not make any money selling records, but they never did anyways. Fans have the power to keep music alive by simply going to see live music, buying merchandise (and yes, records) directly from bands. This has never been more true than ever before. Fans have direct access to more music than any other time in music.

Some might say there’s no quality control anymore. But fuck that. You are the quality controller. You decide. Any band that has access to a computer can record a song, put it on the Internet and let the people decide if it’s any good or not. That’s exciting because there’s more of it, and you can decide what’s worth your time.

Not only that, but look at the music itself. Take the genre of “indie rock” for example. Listen, I hate genre monikers like this (remember “alternative rock”?) but it’s exciting when one “genre” can be as diverse as to include bands like Belle & Sebastian, Matt and Kim, Sufjan Stevens, Feist and Blitzen Trapper, alongside Animal Collective, N.E.R.D., Kings of Leon, The Avett Brothers, Of Montreal, Bell Orchestre, Black Lips, Wolff, and Wilco.

The ’60s sounded like revolution. The ’70s sounded like rock and disco. The ’80s sounded like pop, new wave, DIY and glam. And the ’90s sounded like grunge and hip hop. So what does the ’00s sound like? All of the above and them some. And that’s pretty damn exciting

People like to see other people do things they couldn’t imagine themselves doing
People remained curious about this project from beginning to end. At first, I think they wanted to know about the music. Later when they asked me, “How’s the project coming?” I think what they really meant was, “How the hell are you still awake or alive or sane?

People like being a part of something
This goes for all the friends who joined me on the journey, the musicians, PR contacts, managers, etc who I met, plus the random people who emailed me and generous people who sent donations. When I started out, I hoped a lot of my friends would go to some shows with me, but I figured I’d do most of it alone. Boy was I wrong. Friends came out of the woodwork for this, and it was awesome.

I also tried to meet as many musicians as I could. I would approach them after their set to tell them what I was doing. About 98% of the time the response was really great. A few musicians blew me off, but fuck them. They were too self-involved anyhow, so who cares. I got to meet some great people. And they were as happy to be a part of it as I was to be doing it. See The Wrens entry for an example of how happy.

As you know I also took donations. These were not only a way to help me get through the 100 days, but for everyone to get involved and feel apart of the 100 days. Some were as small as $1, some got as big as $200 or $250, but I appreciated them all equally.

Finally, I was fortunate enough to get on a lot of guest lists. Sometimes that was a result of me unabashedly requesting it, but more often than not they were offered up by different contacts I made, or people who contacted me along the way. The generosity of PR folks, band members, band managers, label people and so on was helpful, humbling and appreciated.

The band (almost always) starts an hour after the venue says they will
Keep this in mind if you’re going to see a show in NYC, at the Bowery or Mercury for example. If they say the band goes on at 8pm, they actually go on around 9pm – or later. This is just how it is, at least in NY. Why? Alcohol.

Venues want to get you in and sell you as many overpriced drinks as they can before you notice that you’re waiting for the band to start. And they’ve gotten pretty good at timing it out. Which meant I got pretty good at timing when I needed to show up. Unless I wanted to see the opening bad, then I was screwed.

But, there are a few exceptions:

The “Early show”
These is the show before the show that’s scheduled to bring in the real crowd that night. The doors for these shows are usually at 6:30pm or 7:00pm, and the bands tend to start 30 minutes after they say they will.

Shows start on time in Europe. I learned this one the hard way when I missed Ben Lee at La Fleche d’Or. But it wasn’t just France. Shows in England started at or near the listed time, too. Just a word to the wise if you’re gonna see a show in Europe.

Random, unforeseen bullshit
You show up hoping to see the band that starts at 10pm only to find out that they pulled out and aren’t playing. Or their timeslot got swapped with the band at 9pm. Or the band that was supposed to play at 8pm didn’t show up, and so each band got bumped up an hour. All of these happened to me, and it pissed me off, but what can you do?

Beer is only as good as the tap it comes out of
I drank a lot of beer over 100 days, which is why I’m not drinking any for another month or two. But I didn’t do this for me. I did it for you, the readers. Ok, that’s what I tell myself. But either way, I did it, and now I’m here to report back.

Here is your guide to the best/worst beer taps in NYC: (from worst to best)

Mercury Lounge: Shitty
The PBR is the worst, but it’s also the cheapest, which makes it tempting. Don’t do it. It tastes and smells terrible. The Bud Light is ok, but I would step it up if you’re at the Merc.

Bowery Ballroom: Just ok
Stella isn’t bad here, but can be a bit average, and lose some of the sweetness it should have. And it’s $7, which is bullshit, so they should clean the taps and figure a way of making it worth the price.

Webster Hall: Not bad
Plastic cups suck, but the beer wasn’t bad.

Pianos: Pretty Good
I drank mostly PBR cans at Pianos, but the times that I drank from the tap, I got a Stella and it was pretty decent – mostly because it comes in a glass, not a plastic cup.

The Bell House: Good
Didn’t really drink too much from the tap here, the cans are too cheap ($4), but the one time I did, it was good.

Cake Shop: Good
The music room may be a dive, but the tap beer is good.

Rockwood Music Hall: Good
Pretty decent, but I’d suggest getting a glass of wine instead. They pour them pretty deep.

Music Hall of Williamsburg: Very good
Probably because it’s new, but all the beer I drank here was good.

Le Poisson Rouge: Very good
I hate the stupid mandatory 20% tip if you use your card at LPR, but it’s a new enough venue that the beers come out of the tap tasting delicious.

Joe’s Pub: Excellent
It’s a nicer and more expensive venue, so naturally, they care about their bar.

Going to shows alone isn’t as bad as it seems
Before this project, I would go see a band alone, but not that often. And I’d feel sorry for myself, and hate that I didn’t have anyone to talk to, and waaaaahh waaaaahh waaaaahh… Then I realized, seeing a band can be like seeing a movie. Once it begins, being alone is fine. You shouldn’t be talking during the music anyhow. Granted, some bands are a lot more fun to see with friends. But don’t let the fact that no one else wants to go keep you from going. Just go.

Get to know unknown bands
It’s only natural to want to blow off bands you’ve never heard of before. You’ve never heard them, so why would you care? That is, unless you need to see music every single night, like I did. And sometimes there’s a night where you don’t know who to see, so you have to pick a band at random – as I did. And you know what you’d find out? It’s worth taking chances on unknown bands.

Music will never cease to amaze me
The fact that I can find live music in downtown Hartford, CT on a random Monday night amazes me. How I can still see Les Paul, the 93-year old man who invented the solid body electric guitar, every Monday night, have him flick me off for a picture and meet him afterwards amazes me. The fact that I can be asked on stage to perform with a band that’s been together for over 20 years, to a sold out crowd in NYC amazes me. And the fact that I can see 100 consecutive days of live music and still love music amazes me.

Thanks for reading. Now do yourself a favor and go buy a ticket to see a band, right now.

3/15/09: Public Enemy @ B.B. King Blues Club (52/100)

March 16th, 2009

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Happy 50th Birthday Flav. Thanks for giving me such an amazing gift for your birthday.

That’s right, Flava Flav is 50 years old today, and I helped him celebrate when the clock struck midnight at B.B. King’s in Times Square. There with Flav, Chuck D and all their friends and family for what will most certainly go down as one of the best rap shows ever. No joke. This was by far the best show of the past 52 days. And probably in the top 5 best shows I’ve ever seen.

Believe the hype.

Believe it. Believe it. Believe it, because Public Enemy is still one of the greats rap groups of all time. Maybe the greatest. Modern hip hop artists just can’t beat these guys. Yes, I’m one of those old guys who saysthey don’t make ‘em used to – because they don’t.

Think about it. Back in the day, when P.E. was at the height of popularity, we also had NWA, Eazy E, Beastie Boys, Run DMC, LL Cool J, Ice-T, Two $hort/Geto Boys, Big Daddy Kane, The D.O.C., Eric B & Rakim, EPMD, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and 3rd Bass…just to name a few. Like Chuck D said last night, those were rap “groups,” for the most part. They made records as groups. They didn’t just get some studio time, and then invite all the other hot rappers to come in and make a record because it would sell. You wrote records as a group. And that’s what’s missing for me in modern hip hop – it just took Chuck D articulating it for me to realize.

But enough of that. Tonight wasn’t about bagging on other rappers, but celebrating Flav’s 50th Birthday party. Chuck was the host for the evening, throwing his partner in crime for over 20 years a birthday party to remember. When Chuck took the stage early in the night, he announced that for Flav’s birthday, he wanted to play It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back straight through. Top to bottom, every track, in order. That’s when I nearly lost my shit. That’s the record that put PE on my radar, and into my top 5 favorite groups of all time. I couldn’t think of a better way to see them for the first time.

But first, we got an all female group who weren’t bad. Then a solo R&B/Soul singer, also not bad. But we were all there to see Public Enemy bring the noise. And around 11:30, that’s exactly what they did. And they brought all their friends and family along to help.

Ice T and Coco, Eric B, Melle Mel, DJ Lord, DJ Kool Herc and a bunch of other guys I don’t know. Professor Griff was back with the S1Ws. Hadn’t heard from him since they had to kick him out of the band back in the day. It was incredible. Everyone was there to help me revisit my youth (save for Terminator X).

To kick off the set “someone” walked on stage, wearing a skeleton jacket, and skull mask. Hmm, who could this mysterious person be? Yea, ok. It was Flav. He tore off the jacket and mask, called out for Chuck D to “Bring the noise…” and A Nation of Millions bega

The place went nuts as they ripped through song after song from this classic record. Even if Flav did jump the shark a bit and forget to let the first track “Countdown to Armageddon” start it off. But that’s ok. They went back and played it anyhow.

Throughout the set, they had different guests up on stage. Including Ice-T who grabbed the mic for one song with Chuck and Flav. Right after I met him and shook his hand outside the bathroom. Melle Mel did some verses from “The Message.” The guy who made Flav his now iconic clock hanging around his neck came up. Flav brought his wife on stage, then jumped off the stage into the crowd, etc.

Random note: As I updated my Twitter during the show, I noticed that the Beastie Boys, who I had just started following, were no following me! Damn, this night just kept getting better.

There was no less than 5 different birthday cakes delivered to Flav on stage, after the clock stuck midnight. He blew out the candles, and I half expected them to pass out pieces of cake to the crowd. But would’ve gotten messy, I guess.

That was the night. One I was glad I could share with P.E., all their family and friends and my friends Jeremy, James and Suif. I wish I Flava Flav would turn 50 every year.