In hip-hop's adolescence, Public Enemy was the group for punk rock fans. Dense wall of sound, shocking political stances, gritty lyrics, black nationalism.
Their audience was white. Or at least it was when I saw them in 1990, 1992, and 1994.
It was one of those only-in-America stories -- at each venue, hundreds of white kids would pay up to watch black men bash white people. Rather than enjoying pop culture they could relate with, the audience almost literally had nothing to do with the performers. The problems of PE -- police harassment, oppression, economic devastation, the need for revolution -- were not of the people chanting along.
Fast forward a million years, to Vampire Weekend performing last week in Oakland.
Vampire Weekend are as unapologetically preppy as PE was unapologetically black nationalist.
You couldn't fill the Fox Theater with the Bay Area's preppy-types. Instead, a thousand people showed up and listened to songs they couldn't relate to at all, ditties about Cape Cod vacations, Ivy League romances, and using seasons as verbs.
Yay for America!