At Deer Lake Park on Monday, August 6
I walked into Deer Lake Park to see the legendary Chuck D bent over on one knee, tossing his cordless microphone around like a hot potato while his crew in Public Enemy (including some burly, army-suited hype men) thundered behind him. Flavor Flav bounced on the edge of the stage, the tiny hip-hop celebrity decked out in head-to-toe neon yellow and sporting his signature giant clock necklace, riling up the enthusiastic crowd in the pit which he eventually jumped into.
The crowd was going nuts.
Public Enemy was obviously doing whatever the hell it wanted on-stage and loving every minute of it. And who wouldn’t? There is a reason people aspire to be hip-hop stars, as opposed to septic tank cleaners and spa employees who specialize in male Brazilians: stars have fun. Before leaving his fist-pumping fans, Flavor Flav gave a monologue about racism and separatism, saying “fuck it” to both. Then 99.3 the Fox’s long-time DJ Jeff O’Neil took the stage.
“Remember we have rules at this park,” O’Neil warned. “So, if you are firing up some weed—make sure to pass it to your neighbour. Fuck yeah! Happy B.C. Day!” O’Neil captured the spirit animal of every man I saw drinking beer out of a Gatorade bottle. And there were many men drinking beer out of Gatorade bottles. The reason for this could only could be spill-free moshing (kind of like wine-in-a-can on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia).
Sometime later, Sublime With Rome took the stage. Sublime With Rome is, of course, not really Sublime. Sublime was the legendary ska-punk broband from Long Beach, California, that rose from cult favorite to mainstream stardom only to have their frontman, Bradley Nowell, die of a heroin overdose two months before to its major-label debut in 1996.
Sublime With Rome is the 2009 reincarnation of Sublime which features only one original member, Eric Wilson, on bass guitar. Rounding out the group is Los Angeles session musician to the stars Josh Freese on drums and Rome Ramirez, a 24-year-old Nowell sing-a-like. But the audience members at Sublime With Rome didn’t seem to mind that the man who wrote anthems they were proudly hollering along to—“Garden Grove”, “Right Back”, and “Date Rape”—wasn’t present. They were excited: pushing, moshing, smoking, and dancing barefoot.
Sublime With Rome barely played any songs off its 2011 debut album, Yours Truly, and instead stuck to the hits like “Slow Ride”, “Badfish”, and “April 29, 1992 (Miami)” (the latter inspire by the Rodney King riots, which took place when Ramirez was four years old). The trio kept the stage setup minimal, only adding a DJ whose prime responsibility was to play sound-clips from old Sublime albums, which jarred the memories of those in the crowd and got them excited for the next hit.
The band also covered songs by the Descendants and Nirvana as people screamed along like Deer Lake Park was a giant karaoke bar. In fact, the whole thing had a karaoke feel to it with two-thirds of the band gone.
As well-received as the covers where, those in the audience mostly wanted to hear Sublime’s hits as they danced and drank on B.C. Day, no one evidently caring who was performing the songs. When the band encored with Sublime’s chart topping smash, “What I Got”, the crowd’s singing drowned out Ramirez.
The whole thing, of course, was sacrilege, almost as tasteless as the idea of Nirvana With Milan, but the crowd loved it. If the night proved anything, it’s that mass karaoke is a powerful thing when thousands of out-of-it people are involved.