Medical Marijuana Festival
with Piller, MT Minds, Blind Alley, Ghettoblaster, Jo Jo
Will’s Pub, WInter Park, FL • 6.5.98
8:30 PM on a Friday night in Orlando. Not just any night, mind you — an NBA finals night. Now, anyone who has ever passed the porcelain pipe with a few bud-possessing buds during playoffs can tell you this: weed and b-ball go together like hash and eggs. Heh. But if you follow the politics of pot, you’ll know that C.A.M.M. (Coalition Advocating Medical Marijuana) is pushing to introduce a bill in the state of Florida that will decriminalize medical marijuana. Tonight’s show was a benefit for the cause, and a diverse crowd of folks, including some passionate Jazz/Bulls voyeurs, showed up in support. Let the game be damned, sort of — this was more important. Besides, three of Will’s television sets were broadcasting the game anyway. A table by the barber chair held a petition, informative pamphlets and voter registration cards — the show was scheduled to start at 9:00 PM… I had a purple haze. A real one.
9:19. The jukebox is playing an old ’80s tune and a couple of fun-loving girls hop up on a pool table and begin dancing. Standing behind the bar, Will rolls his eyes as if to say “it starts,” and takes the PA mic down from its holder. “Be sure to tip the ladies,” he says.
9:51. Jo Jo storms the stage lightly, and no one seems to notice until guitarist Mike Lynchard begins to test his equipment. Lead singer B.K. got right to the point, “we’re here to reform some marijuana laws!” he shouted to the assembly. The band blasted into “Syrup” and plastered everyone’s expressions on their faces. The sheer force of the chorus and its white noise start/stop doohickey, well Christ almighty, it’s music for the non-stoned, was that a heat flash? Bassist Pete Sison molested his instrument and coaxed strange un-basslike noises out of it. This is like hot musical quicksand — it hooks ya, then cooks ya. They followed this with “Blow Up.” Which did. Lynchard broke out with some Technicolor fretwork on “Kill Control,” slinging little darty notes at my musical itch. Thank you man. B.K.’s voice drips angst, and here he gets counterpoint vox from drummer Will Hunt in angry bursts. “Sometime” starts off sounding a little like the Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away” and then morphs into a whole other fiery animal. This gets a couple of girls into heat and they storm the stage during “Sleep,” their final number. Some guy attempts the same, and Will (the pub owner, not the drummer) quickly ushers him off-stage. The love in the room is amazing. The crowd gives up much props and the changing of the bands begins.
11:00. Ghettoblaster hits the stage looking like they want to hurt somebody. Lead singer James Converse struts about to an exotic drum beat, a-filled with the toms of Thatcher. I blinked twice and thought that Colm Meaney was playing guitar, but Randy Melser only looks like him. With bright blonde hair. And a wizardly style that exercises what seems like oodles of restraint. The ethereal and tripped-up “Phat” kicks a funky groove that features hyperactive thumb-pops from bassist Matt Gallagher and a rapid-fire rap from Converse. “Debo’s Dance” turned into a stabbing slice of ear candy with great leaping chasms of sound. Converse leapt out into the crowd several times and sort of elbowed his way through, trying to get people to jump around a little bit. A few asses began to move. The vibe began to get loose.
11:23. Ghettoblaster finishes their energetic set with the lead singer screaming “again!” continuously into the microphone after the song ends. He turns beet red like Jim Carrey in the bathroom scene from Liar Liar. Whistles and applause greet his passion. Sweet.
11:32. The Bulls are leading 85-81. A great deal of the bar seems to be tuned in as Blind Alley sets up their turntables. Quite a few people mill around the petition table including congressional candidate Al Krulick, who is running against Rep. Bill McCollum this coming November on the Democratic ticket. He stepped on-stage and introduced himself, mentioning that he wasn’t there “to make campaign speeches” but rather wanted to let us know that he supported medical marijuana. Krulick seemed to be stuck to a script as he addressed the group (at one point calling the establishment “Nick’s”) but put specific emphasis on getting out the vote in general. “Don’t stand there and say you can’t do anything,” he urged. “This country is sliding down the road towards a police state.” Talking with Mike from Jo Jo after the candidate had cleared the stage, I got the feeling that Krulick’s aim was true but his delivery was a bit too reserved for the room. Hopefully, he can loosen up and put in more appearances at benefits like this in order to prove that not all government officials are hand-slapping adults. Or something. A small cheer goes up. The Bulls have won. There is no justice for some.
Midnight. Damn, this is a lot of music for one night — and diverse. Blind Alley hits the stage to the waxwork of DJ C-Smooth. C.J. and Mario brought the party back to throbbing life with some old-school beats. “Straight from the heart/ I represent hip-hop” coming out of big black Mario’s chunk basso is almost a threat, walking out into the crowd, which widens out respectfully. After throwing down a bit of a ‘tude mosh, Mario walks back on-stage saying “we’re only playing, goddamn” as C.J. poses and flips off a camera. The two are competent rappers and work the stage like pros. C-Smooth is a scratch-monkey — you don’t hear a lot of syncro-madness like this, old-time disc flips that involve constantly shifting beats of fluctuating framework for Blind Alley to work their voodoo around. After a brief set, the turntable falls into the hands of DJ Time of MT Minds and everyone runs for a quick smoke.
12:26. It’s local band celebrity look-alike night. Bassist/vocalist MC Cheez looks like Tom Hulce, a manic grin plastered on his mug. The wild and woolly MC Stonehenge has a guitar that is the weirdest shade of green I’ve ever seen. It begins to spit out a thin and hazy fuzz of notes as The Cheez rips into “The Dope Side.” These guys must eat aggro for breakfast, aggro for lunch, with a sensible show for dinner. DJ Time cuts in beats along with the drumwork of Stevel Knievel, and the two meld together like zipper halves. A lazy bass motif rolls under the rap. Looking completely out of his head, Cheez makes his voice get ghostly and then chills out — gulping out notes and eating the backs of other ones. “Dropped out, pissed off, riding out our luck,” sounds like an anthem to me. All disenchanted youth having at with The Say. They’re doin’ The Say, expressin’ themselves all over the place and the glass all around the pub is quaking. A few timid souls walk outside to have a cigarette.
12:38. MC Cheez and MC Stonehenge trade off a series of shredded raps in quick counterpoint during “Groove,” which takes the tired Chili Pepper blend of funk and punk to a new level of glossy brilliance. It’s not un-hip to be pretty every once in a while, and for a moment, the grunge and aggression become all chimey guitar and rippling waves of bass — an intricate passage of sonic niftiness. A jagged and stripped-down version of “I Shot The Sheriff” brought the head-bobbing back. After winding up their set with a powerful display of turbo-tightening highs, a visibly weary MT Minds moved off-stage and made room for “fuckin’ Piller.”
1:29. An unusually thick crowd is rewarded for their patience as Piller does their final set check. The aura and buzz of anxiety surrounding this band had me curious — bands referred to them in hushed tones of respect, folks who have seen them simply say, “fuckin’ Piller, they rock!” Dat dey do, dat dey do. Lead singer and guitarist Shaun Williams also has the Rock God Presence mastered, whamming out fuzztones and dueling with other guitarist Will Adams — an incendiary force on his axe. I haven’t heard decent surf music live since leaving Southern California, and Piller takes the basic formula and injects it with a monumental dose of testosterone. The sound of thundering curls and pounding breakwater is all present and accounted for in the drum thrashing of Jason Williams (Shaun’s bro), and the nervous bass grooves of Chris Bordner tightly sync with everyone else during the countless timing changes and rhythmic psych-outs. “I hope everyone is as stoned as we are,” Shaun says in between songs. The smoky opening of “Sorry I Made You Live” gets a mid-song kick in the teeth with rat-a-tat drum cadences and thick unison melodies. “Cool Poseidon” is a song that turns the joy of surfing into an orgasmic break-fest of head-banging intensity. By far, the most mind-blowing song of the evening — “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” on nitrous.
2:15. The temperature inside of the pub is rising thanks to a song called “Last Memory.” It’s a fun dance tune that has several girls doing the Molly Ringwald dance from The Breakfast Club — a dance of dorky innocence, one that says “I don’t care if I look like a fool, just try to stop me from dancing!” After briefly segueing into a down-tempo (and fairly straightforward) version of the Police’s “Message in a Bottle,” Shaun grabbed a gray drum while his bro cooked up an erotic rhythm. Joined by Will on bongos, the three percussionists offered up a beat-bord of serpentine rhythms that ebbed and flowed like tidal water. Bordner’s bass looped in and around the web and band sped it up, slowed it down, mixed it up and demanded boogie ransom. They received payment in much butt-shaking.
2:30. I don’t know whether the number of registered voters in Orange County went up on this evening/morning and didn’t spend a lot of time polling the crowd on what their personal stance on medical marijuana use happened to be. As one person commented jokingly, “I’m all for it — I’m pretty sick, don’t you think?” The point is, all the bands played for free in support of a cause and most everyone there put da money where their mouths were, simply by attending the show. As a consciousness-raising event, results are still at the lab. As a brain-melting night of local heaviness, this was certifiably one that you shouldn’t have missed.