Public Enemy, Yo-Yo, Kurupt, King T, Kid Frost, Egyptian Lover
Downtown, Gladys Ave. and 6th St.
Public Enemy is known for fighting the powers that be. So even when reports arose that the free “Occupy Skid Row” concert they were scheduled to headline was in doubt, we figured they would pull it off somehow anyway.
The Los Angeles Community Action Network had scheduled the festival on Gladys Avenue between 6th and 7th streets, and had obtained a permit to hold a festival, but not a concert. The police, apparently, could have shut it down if they wanted to. But as we approached the event around 2 yesterday afternoon, only a few cops stood around casually, and a familiar, husky voice was booming over the loudspeaker.
“Nothing makes us happier than to be in the middle of this,” Chuck D said. He proceeded to hop off stage, where he posed for pictures and shook hands.
Professor Griff took the pulpit to give a brief discourse on how the government splintered Black Power groups, while Flava Flav's testimony was more personal in tone. “We all got a gig, and my GIG is God is Good! This year I stopped drinking and smoking weed, and now I just gotta get rid of these damn Newports,” he sang out, grinning in his crazy, charming way.
Backed by DJ Lord, Public Enemy spun through a tight set of their most recognizable songs; by the third, “Bring the Noise,” they had galvanized the audience, which had swelled to around 500 or so people. Chuck D and Flava Flav threw their arms around each other's shoulders and even managed a little choreography to “Shut 'Em Down.” Clock around his neck and chunky gold rings clumped on his fingers, Flav climbed up on the speakers. By “Fight the Power,” the crowd had begun to crush the stage. Feeling claustrophobic, I imagined the frenzy of the day they filmed the video.
After they left the stage, Los Angeles Community Action Network's Pete White and others spoke about the aims of the festival, which was to call attention to the human right to housing, among others. The exuberance tapered off as people left or drifted toward an ubiquitous Kogi truck. Yo-Yo, her voice well-worn, revived the energy slightly with the bounce of “The Bonnie and Clyde Theme” and “You Can't Play With My Yo-Yo,” but it dipped again as soon as she finished. There was more talking — Medusa was especially strong — and then a reggae group took the stage, further relaxing the atmosphere.
A drum circle near the back of the crowd never stopped their beating and – though a sign posted at the end of the street read “This is a drug and alcohol free event – the sweet muskiness of weed almost overcame the sour scent of dried urine. Hippie grandmas and sullen, acid-green mohawked punk kids coexisted peacefully. The vibe was more reggae fest, less protest. The Chuck D of 2011 probably approved.