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LIVE: Public Enemy (Pitchfork ’08)

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Chuck D.JPG

Because I grew up on Public Enemy, and because It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back is one of my favorite hip-hop albums of all-time, I was both thrilled out of my mind and scared to death to see P.E. perform it in its entirety.

(left: Nothing like taking pictures of Chuck D on the jumbo-tron when the lighting gets bad.)

On one hand, if done correctly, by letting the Bomb Squad’s instrumentals breath freely on the turntables and hoping that Chuck D and Flavor Flav could co-exist in perfect harmony, this performance could be downright legendary. On the other hand, if Public Enemy’s backing band decided to overpower the turntable mix–and if Flavor Flav was given too much free time to self-promote on the microphone–this performance could be a car wreck. Why such cynicism? Well, let’s just say I saw a TV show once where Bridgette Nielson joined Public Enemy on stage and it almost made me weep.

Though Public Enemy’s live backing band was present, they did a good job (most of the night) of letting the legendary beats on It Takes A Nation do all the talking. I was overjoyed when the set began with “Countdown To Armageddon”–English announcer guy, sirens, the works! I was also excited when P.E. played the album version of “Bring The Noise,” rather than the Anthrax remake appearing on Apocalypse ’91 (you’d think with a live band they’d be tempted to do the latter).

The performance of “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic” was one of my favorites of the night, and though Terminator wasn’t on hand, Chuck D did preface the track by dedicating it to their “Hall-of-Fame DJ who retired in 1998.” Another stand out, probably just because P.E. doesn’t break it out that often, was “Night Of the Living Baseheads.” Hearing Chuck D say “BASS!” never gets old.

To my surprise, Public Enemy was very faithful to It Takes A Nation, everything from the intros and outros to the interlude tracks like “Show ‘Em Whatcha Got” and “Security of the First World,” where the S1W’s stood center stage and performed a military step routine.

Throughout the set Chuck D was also treating the crowd with some Public Enemy trivia. I almost didn’t believe it, but before “Caught, Can We Get A Witness,” Chuck D said that this was the first time P.E. ever performed the song live in America. Before “Cold Lampin’ With Flavor,” Flavor Flav explained that the sample at the beginning of the song was of New York City DJ, Mr. Magic, who called the group a bunch of suckers after playing P.E.’s first single on his radio show. “Cold Lampin'” was a response to Mr. Magic’s diss. Later in the set, Chuck brought out Hank Shocklee of the Bomb Squad and told the following story:

It Takes A Nation was an album created for tape, hence Public Enemy crafted two sides. Up until the album was being mastered, the first side was going to be the second side and vice versa, meaning the album’s opener was originally going to be “Show Em Whatcha Got,” with the second side beginning with “Countdown to Armageddon” and ending with “Caught, Can We Get A Witness.” At the last second Shocklee decided the album needed a little more bass and speed at the beginning, so he swapped sides.

Oddly enough, the only time Public Enemy didn’t stay consistent with the studio recording of It Takes A Nation was during its signature track, “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos.” Without that classic-sounding piano loop and back-masked record beat, the live drums and bass just didn’t stack up. The only rock-influenced song on the album, “She Watch Channel Zero?!,” curiously didn’t use Public Enemy’s backing band. Hmm?


For the most part Flavor Flav behaved himself tonight (at least during the It Takes A Nation performance). There was only one time during the set when he talked about being the #1 reality TV star in the world. After hearing some boos from the crowd, Flavor got defensive and angrily asked the crowd why they weren’t happy for his success. I don’t think the crowd was discrediting Flav’s accomplishments, but I believe the heckles were unleashed because some of the reality shows he’s been a part of could ironically be the same type of programs rallied against in P.E.’s “She Watch Channel Zero?!” (Falls a fool–for some dude–on a tube.)

(above: Flavor Flav only talked about being a reality TV star once tonight, he did however, plug his new sitcom a handful of times.)

All in all though, I thoroughly enjoyed Public Enemy’s performance of It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. I even enjoyed their surprise encore for a brief moment.

Following “Party For Your Right To Fight,” Chuck D told the crowd, “And after that, we wrote this.” P.E. then launched into Fear Of A Black Planet’s “Welcome To The Terrordome,” followed by Apocalypse 91’s “Shut ‘Em Down,” which would have been a perfect and logical end to the evening, but Public Enemy, as they’ve been known to do with their live show over the last 10 years, don’t know when to call it a night.

Public Enemy, claiming to have only a few more minutes of set-time left, ended with:

“He Got Game”
“911 Is a Joke”
“Harder Than You Think” (a more recent P.E. offering)
“Can’t Truss It”
“Public Enemy No. 1”
A five-minute DJ Lord solo
Flavor Flav drum solo (Neil Peart he is not)
“Fight the Power” (extended soul jam version)
A lengthy self-empowerment speech delivered by, you guessed it, Flavor Flav

Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing P.E.’s back catalog, but on a night celebrating the 20th anniversary of It Takes A Nation, I just wanted to savor the magic they delivered earlier in the evening.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.