Sunday, April 30, 2006


Mets complete 6-4 road trip

The Mets' 8-5 loss to the Braves today shouldn't upset die-hards. They went 6-4 on their first extended road trip, winning 2 series and splitting one. Not bad. The Mets kick off a three-game match-up with the weak Nationals tomorrow at Shea.

Steve Trachsel's poor performance in today's game is par for the course for the Mets' No. 3 starter; win one, lose one. After Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine, the rotation is thin and getting thinner with Brian Bannister on the DL (hamstring pull). Who will the Mets promote? John Maine, acquired in the Kris Benson trade, or Mike Pelfrey, their single-A phenom? I think it will be Maine - unless GM Omar Minaya makes a trade. Again, in light oif the Mets sudden shortage of starters, you have to question the wisdom of the Benson deal.

I'll be back in New York tomorrow after a week in New Orleans. I miss my Metsies.


Jazzfest: Day 2

Thousands of Jazzfest fans encountered windy, overcast conditions on Saturday, in contrast to the sun-tan hot opening day. But the only rain that materialized came second after the Dave Matthews Band closed out Day 2's amazing program.

To understand the extent of Jazzfest, know this: a total of 48 bands performed on the fairgrounds' 10 stages yesterday. I saw 19 of them. The stages have very distinct flavors. Two feature non-stop jazz (Jazz Tent and Economy Hall Tent), one is strictly devoted to gospel music (Gospel Tent), another to brass bands (Jazz & Heritage Stage), one to cajun and zydeco (Fais Do-Do Stage), one to black world music (Congo Square Louisiana Rebirth Stage), one to blues (Blues Stage), one to interviews and storytellers (Lagniappe Stage), one for the youngest attendees (Kids Tent) and lastly, one for the biggest-name bands Jazzfest has to offer (Acura).

Most Jazzfest aficionados set up lawn chairs at the big stages (Blues and Acura) and use that as home base to wonder to and fro throughout the day. For me and other members of the media, home base is the Press Tent, which provides a refuge from the sun, necessary information, free computer stations and clean restroom facilities. Yesterday, festival founder Quint Davis conducted a press conference at 11:15 am in the tent.

As Davis laid out the difficulties him team faced to produce this year's Jazzfest, he explained, "The festival has a 37-year mission to be an indigenous self-celebration of our culture. But coming into this year it had these other missions, because our fate has changed. Can we restart tourism? Can we prove that New Orleans can have an event of this size and scope? It's incredible that we had a normal festival day [on April 28], not some strange partial-Katrina day. Normalcy is a non-existent term. We had no idea what to expect. We don't know what's normal anymore."

When I asked a question, identifying myself as a High Times, and the assembled press seemed to snicker a bit, Davis took offense. "When I said, 'Oh, cool' [to me], I want you know that going back to the very early years of this festival when very few people knew about this outside of New Orleans, High Times magazine was the first national publication that ever wrote a national story about the festival in the mid-'70s."

That said, I left the Press Tent with a big smile on my face and began my Day 2 tour of Jazzfest duty. This is what I saw and ate, in order, starting at high noon:

Crawfish Bread
New Yorkers might call this cheesy delight stuffed with little mud bugs a calzone. I call it delicious; $6.

Jambalaya Cajun Band
Fiddle, accordian and acoustic guitars, songs sung in French.

Mahogany Brass Band
Trumpet, trombone, saxophone, tuba, bass drum, trap drums. Instead of playing hip-hop like most other urban youth, New Orleans's African Americans pick up horns and march the second line; moving version of "St. James Infirmary."

Tony "Oulabula" Bazley
Jazz drummer Bazley dates back to his days with Eric Dolphy. Tight ensemble with sax and trumpet.

Clarence "Frogman" Henry
Funny bluesman who croaks like a frog on such classics as "Aint Got No Home," which speaks volumes at this year's Jazzfest.

Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers
The son of zydeco legend Rockin' Dopsie (pronounced Doopsie) leads this band as the washboard player. For those who don't know, zydeco is cajun's funky cousin - electrified and usually including horns.

Big Chief Peppy & the Golden Arrows Mardi Gras Indians
Feather-clad black Indians the likes of which you may only see at Mardi Gras; tribal.

Lighthouse Gospel Singers
My daily visit to the Gospel Tent has me dancing with revival fervor once again; sensational.

Still not used to this band minus singer "Houseman." Sax-player Skerick joins for purposeful "When the Levee Breaks" finale.

Chops Funky 7 Brass Band
Trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, tuba and funky drummer.

New Birth Brass Band
Closer to hip-hop than the other brass bands with calls to the audience to "get your hands in the air" and "somebody scream." U2's The Edge makes guest appearance.

Luther Kent & Trickbag
White blues big-band led by the honey-voiced Kent; "Hey Pocky Way" at 4:20.

The Iguana
Alt-cajun rockers mix in Latin, Caribbean and Tex-Mex flavors.

Hugh Masekela
South African musical great, trumpeter Hugh Masekela has crowd singing and dancing along to mbweli beats.

Chief Iron Horse & the Black Seminoles Mardi Gras Indians
Incredible costumes and awesome jam on "Mardi Gras Mambo"; the real deal.

Herbie Hancock
Keyboard whiz Hancock gets funky with the help of Marcus Miller on bass and trumpeter Terence Blanchard (guests on Miles Davis' "Tutu). Finishes with Headhunters' classic, "Chameleon."

Crawfish Etouffe
Everyone at Jazzfest swears by creamy Crawfish Monica, but I prefer this spicy, tomato-based rice dish; $5.

C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Lousiana Band
Son of another zydeco legend, Clifton Chenier, C.J. plays accordian with drive and soul just his dad; cream of the crop.

The lone hip-hop act on the Jazzfest schedule is a big hit with local African-Americans and wiggers. Juvenile "keeps the party going" all set long.

Bill Summers (with members of Los Hombres Calientes)
Latin-jazz with percussionist Summers up front, backed by full horn and rhythm sections. "Like the Water" jam rivals "Mardi Gras Mambo" for best of the day.

Dave Matthews Band
I arrive just in time to catch The Edge sit in on "Slow Rider." On stellar "Jimmy Thing" > "For What It's Worth." DMB seizes the jazzy moment with horn solos by LeRoi Moore on sax and a guest trumpeter, and Matthews scatting. "Louisiana Bayou" finale ends Day 2 at 7:19 pm.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Jazzfest: Day 1

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is a feast for the body, mind and stomach. Now on its 37th year, Jazzfest as it's commonly known, remains the premiere music festival in the country, often duplicated but never rivaled. That's both a geographical phenomenon and a tribute to founder and executive producer Quint Davis.

This year's Jazzfest, of course, has had to deal with unique problems due to Hurricane Katrina. The Racetrack Fairgrounds, where it's held, was underwater in September, with the grandstand receiving the most damage. However, Jazzfest takes place on the infield of the racetrack, and the ground today was firm and didn't smell, as some had worried. The festival and New Orleans' Department of Sanitation have been working overtime to clean debris from the neighborhood surrounding the venue. They did a pretty good job.

Despite all of this, it was the same old Jazzfest to me - an amazing conglomeration of musical styles (jazz, blues, cajun and zydeco) that sum up New Orleans and greater Louisiana. It's as distinct as a bowl of file gumbo.

I first attended Jazzfest in 1985 and covered it for Rolling Stone. The event had started 15 years earlier, but was still relatively unknown nationally. I covered it again in 1986, this time for USA Today. I returned in 1990 and 1996 in my capacity as a High Times editor. Jazzfest is pretty addictive. People attend year after year. That's easy (or "big easy") for locals, but out-of-towners tend to make it an annual pilgramage after going just once. They have to come back for more.

It took me 10 years to make my fifth Jazzfest, and now I have to wonder where I'd been all these years. At Jazzfest, there's music on eight stages from 11 am to 7 pm for six days over two weekends - the last one of April and first of May. The minute you enter the racetrack, sounds come rushing at you from various directions and fabulous food aromas assault your senses. Basically, you sample music and food all day, moving from stage to stage and food stall to food stall. Two stages boast big-name bands and artists, while the rest are for local favorites only. For me, Day 1 started with a $5 bowl of Crawfish Monica (creamy sauce with crawfish over rotini pasta) and music from J.Monque'D Blues Band. The lead singer set the emotional tone for the day when he dedicated the set "to all those people who didn't make it [during Katrina] and to all the first responders."

Here's the rest of my day, musically and culinarily:

Lionel Ferbos & the Palm Court Jazz Band
Dixieland jazz; people dancing around with umbrellas; very trad.

The James Rivers Movement
Pop-jazz; versions of the Meters' "Hey Pockey Way" and Santana's "Europa"; entertaining.

Gratin Louisienne combination plate
Seafood gratin, artichoke/spinach medley and sweet potato pone; $8; off the hook.

The Bester Family
Gospel-tent highlight; some family members wear pale-green suits, and the music is funky and spiritual; drummer can't be older than eight; started feelin' the spirit during a lengthy "Down by the Riverside."

Pinettes Brass Band
All-women, which is awesome; caught the end of their set; very raw.

Sunpie & the Louisiana Sunspots
Zydeco big-band featuring Sunpie on accordian, two washboard players (one was in his early teens) and horns; "Bunny Bread" took the cake at 4:20; today's discovery.

Dark chocolate-covered strawberrys
Sumptuous dessert; six large strawberrys for $4; decadent.

Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience
Arrived just in time for a laid-back "Iko Iko"; solid.

Ole Skool Brass Band parade
Second of the day's second-line marches; too much fun.

Bob Dylan
Today's headliner seemed off his game; extremely thin, just playing keyboard and as gravelly vocally as ever, Dylan took until the end of the set ("Like a Rolling Stone," "Across the Watchtower") to hit stride; mildly disappointing.

Dr. John
New Orleans' "Night Tripper" broke out "Guilded Splinters" from his trick bag, but mostly aimed to please with standards; smokin' latin jam ended the set at 7:04 pm.

There's plenty more music all over town tonight. I plan to go see the North Mississippi All-Stars at Tipitina's and maybe even try to get some rest.


Bonghitters win opener

The legendary High Times Bonghitters softball team opened their 15th season with a 12-8 come-from-behind victory over Business Week. Next week's game is against The Onion.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


New Orleans: April 27

As if we hadn't seen enough devastation, Michael and I revisited the Lower 9th Ward this morning. Today our guide was Roger Lewis, saxophonist with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, who grew up in the leveled neighborhood. First, we stopped by his house at 2626 Myrtle St. in the Edgewood section. It's not in great shape. He's had the house raised up three feet off its foundation and has a work crew gutting the interior. "I'm lucky," he says as we drive away. "I've got a wife who took full coverage." They received over $100,000 from their insurance company.

We cross the bridge into the Lower 9th. Roger wants to take a look at his old homestead at 1910 Delery St. Everywhere houses are in disarray, toppled on cars, spun around completely, splintered like huge matchsticks. It's mind-boggling. Roger pushes open the front door of what was once a cute pink and green cottage. "You can't even get in there," he sighs. "You don't want to get in the house because of the mold. You don't want to breathe that. You stay here, you'll die."

We stumble around the backyard, making sure not to get cut on the rusty fence or protruding nails. A huge pecan tree is on its side, tumbled over. "We used to have some good pecans," Roger says. "This is a trip."

His brothers were living in the house when Katrina hit. They got out in time. "Daddy worked hard to build this house," he says about his father who died four years ago. "I'm glad he wasn't alive to see this shit."

As we wind around the annihilated blocks, Roger provides the narration: "Everytime I come down here I see shit I haven't seen. They're still finding bodies. I don't know what they're gonna do here. People's history is gone. Everything's got to be torn down, ain't nothin' salvagable. Who the hell gonna live down here? This shit is finished. They need to raze the land to the height of the levee. It's really the Corps of Engineers' fault. They knew. You seen the levees. This is total destruction. Shit make you wanna cry. This is fucked up - pardon my French. They ain't got the manpower to clean up all this shit. The streets are not even recognizable."

He tries to locate one of his fellow band member's house, to no avail. Street signs are handwritten and spotty at best. As we go past one pile of rubble, Roger recalls, "The Lastie family lived there - Herman, Melvin, David, Betty, Walter, Ann. I used to hear them play music. Ornette Coleman played there. Jessie Hill - 'Ooh Poo Pah Doo.'" He points out a house where he got his hair cut. "He was a postman," Roger says of the barber. "It was a side hustle."

Like the day before, we find the blue house run by the Common Ground folks. Today I meet Gabriel Cohen, a volunteer from New York. "When I came down in October, everything was totally brown, there were no living things," he says. "Today birds are chirping and houses are being gutted. It's an overwhelming amount of work, but it's doable."

Common Ground started with 12 people and now numbers as many as 250 volunteers (60 to 80 are involved long-term). They provide 3,000 meals a day and have a tool-lending shed. The volunteers are very crunchy granola with Deadhead smiles and fatty dreads. Gabriel lives in a tent down the block. "It's bizarre," he says. "It's strange to live amidst the remains of peoples' lives and collapsed houses. But for me this is a vital, exciting place to be."

To find out more about Common Ground or to make a donation: CLICK HERE

We head back downtown and chow on a great breakfast at Mother's (crawfish etoufee omeletes with grits and biscuits!). Our next stop is Tattoo Ya on Canal St., where we hook up with Emily Harris, known around the High Times office as the weed girl of New Orleans. Emily captured our hearts and bongs just days after Katrina when a photo of her appeared in a New York Times story about "New Orleans holdouts." The front-page piece focused on Emily and her boyfriend Richie Kay, who refused to leave town. Towards the end of the story, Emily told the reporter, "I haven't run out of weed yet." More than two months after we posted it on, Emily left a comment ("I'm glad so many have an opinion about what I said - thanx for including me in High Times") and her email address. A few weeks ago I contacted her, asking if we get together when I was in New Orleans for Jazzfest. Emily accepted my offer.

It turns out today was just her second day at Tatto Ya. She does tats, but mostly has been making a living lately gutting houses. After Katrina blew through New Orleans, Emily and Richie stuck around primarily because they had a canoe and decided to help standed neighbors. "The first guy we picked up in the boat," says Emily, who has red-dyed dreads and blue nails, plus a few tats. "When we took him to his house, he came out and gave us a huge of weed. It must've been an ounce."

Without marijuana, she says, Katrina would've been "too much to submerge yourself in. I wouldn't have been able to handle it at all." They left New Orleans two weeks after Katrina "when we ran out of weed and whiskey, and there was nobody left to help." When they returned, "everything was better - no trees were in the roads or bodies in eyesight. Harsh things were gone."

Emily's from Alaska, where she says people grow better weed because "they don't have that many distractions and can really focus on their weed." She was born and raised in the infamous Matanuska Valley pot-growing region, known for the strain, Matanuska Thunderfuck. "It definitely helps cabin fever," she says.

Like many locals, Emily has no faith in the government to solve New Orleans' problems. "I haven't seen one government-paid official do shit in eight months," she states. "Every level of government has failed us for so long that there's no way to fix it all."

She firmly belives that another catastrophe is just around the corner (hurricane season begins on June 1). "They didn't fix the levees," Emily rails. "They're gonna kill us all."

But back to pot - she says the average New Orleans price ranges between $60 snd $100 per quarter. "That's what people do with their FEMA checks," Emily says with a smile. "The only thing I spend money on is weed and rent."

We walk down N. Ramparts St., and in broad daylight, Emily sparks up a joint. Michael clicks his digital camera for the impromptu photo session. We all puff and then say our goodbyes.

A few hours later, after eating beignets (fried dough with lots of powdered sugar) at Cafe du Monde and sucking down Hurricanes (super-sweet rum punches) at Pat O'Brien's, we catch the reopening of Preservation Hall on Bourbon St. It's a star-studded affair. U2's The Edge is there for the brief ceremony and performance by Preservation Hall band members, Meters' guitarist Leo Nocentelli and pianist Henry Butler. The Edge joins them for an unremarkable version of "Vertigo." His interest in dixieland music has something to do with his organization Music Rising, but since he never speaks to the crowd or the media, we learn nothing about it. The band parades into the street, and the second line follows. Jazzfest has begun!

Actually, it begins tomorrow at the Racetrack Fairgrounds, where I'll be reporting from for the next three days. For information about Jazzfest: CLICK HERE


Bonds' 711th

Barry Bonds' 711th career HR against Bill Wagner (he blew his second save) tied the Mets in the 9th. They went on beat the Giants 9-7 in 11 innings, with Chris Woodward knocking in the gamewinner. The Mets totaled 17 hits and Carlos Delgado ripped his 9th HR. Bonds is now 3 HRs away from tying Babe Ruth. "He's one of the most phenomenal hitters I've ever seen in my life and I've seen a lot of great hitters," Mets manager Willie Randolph raved about Bonds. To read my brother Barry Bloom's coverage at CLICK HERE

Ex-Met Mike Piazza hit his 400th HR in the Padres' loss to the D-Backs. He's the 41st player to reach the hallowed mark. "It's good to get it done and turn the page," the catcher told "I'm not looking towards 500 yet... but I think I have a few more in me." To read the full story: CLICK HERE


New Orleans: April 26

Rather than travel to Lafayette, Michael and I decided to stay in New Orleans and see more of the damage caused by Katrina. My friend Mel Zimmer, who lives across the Mississippi River in Gretna on what's known as the West Bank, was our guide.

Yesterday, we checked out the devastated Lakeview neighborhood around the 17th St. Canal; today, we drive east to the areas that were flooded by the Industrial Canal - Lower 9th Ward, Chalmette, Arabi, St. Bernard Parish and the coastal wetlands in Delacroix. Again, we're not prepared for what we see. "The storm destroyed the entire St. Bernard community, all but four of the 26,000 houses," today's Times-Picayune reported. Consider the sheer enormity of that statement. It's true. Block after block of houses are totaled, twisted into implausible shapes. Some are completely leveled, others are in disarray but still standing. It's hard to believe they'll ever be repaired. In the Lower 9th Ward area, homeowners have until August 29 to gut their houses or the government will do it for them. Placards for "HOUSE GUTTING" and "MOLD CLEANING" are everywhere.

There is, however, a ray of hope in all of this despair. As we zig-zag through the Lower 9th Ward, we come upon a pretty house painted blue with flowers planted in the front of the building and a sign, "COMMON GROUND," advertising a community center. A meeting is going on. "We need water," one resident declares. "We need to figure out how to get it." About 12 people sit around talking. Common Ground is a non-profit charitable orgainzation run by Malik Raheem. One of the volunteers Sierra Wild visited New Orleans last December and stayed on to help run Common Ground. "I blew off my entire life," she says.

Connie and Happy Hathway invite us to visit their home at 1006 Lamanche. It doesn't look too bad, but is still uninhabitable. The most obvious damage is to the garage, which is lifted off its foundation in the rear. Right now they're living in a trailer outside their machine shop in Metarie. "This neighborhood lost a lot of people," Happy says. "The're still finding them."

Before Katrina, they evacuated to Atlanta. Six and half weeks later, they returned. "We wanted to be here when they let us in." Happy recalls. On a Wednesday morning at 7 am late in October, the Hathaways attempted to enter their severely damaged house. "The door fell off the hinges," Connie says. "It was one big soup."

Each day they make progress, fixing the wooden slats the house was built with in the 1920s. "Happy firmly believes that cleaning the slats will help with the intergrity of our home," Connie explains. She says they've refused FEMA's assistance and prefer to do the work themselves. "The big probelm is water." she adds. "We're bringing in our own water system next week." Even if they do provide their own water, the area's still without electricity.

We continue our "disaster tour," as Mel calls it. Like every resident of New Orleans and its surrounding areas, Mel has his own Katrina story. He evacuated to northern Mississippi on August 29, then went to Baton Rouge before twice attempting to get to his house in Gretna. First time he was turned back, but the second time they let him through. The roof of Mel's house looked liked a a giant scoop had been taken out of it. Though Gretna didn't flood, wind damage from the storm created havoc. "What I remember most was how quiet it was," he says. "I couldn't even hear a bird."

As we head further south to witness MRGO (or "Mr. Go" as he and others call the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet) that feeds water from the gulf into the mighty Mississippi, we motor past non-functioning stop lights and survey the endless array of brokedown houses and business establishments, such as McDonald's, Taco Bell and KFC. While one business promises, "WILL OPEN," another implores, "CRUSH - PLEASE REMOVE!"

Mel wants us to see MRGO, which he and others believe was the real reason for Katrina's staggering wave of destruction. Just yesterday, five area residents sued the Army Corps of Engineers in Federal court, charging that MRGO "eroded wetlands that had slowed storms down and turned the ship channel into a superhighway that funneled Katrina's powerful tidal surges toward them, breaking levees along the way," according to the Times-Picayune. "The United States government destroyed New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish," contends LA attorney Pierce O'Donnell, who claims the corps "ignored warnings as far back as the MRGO's inception in 1958 that it could cause vast ecological damage."

In a separate class-action suit filed on Monday, Katrina evacuee Phillip Reed argues that the "flooding was aggravated by years of dredging the waterway, [damaging] manmade and natural flood-protection systems surrounding Orleans and St. Bernard parishes."

The road to nowhere (southeast to Delacroix) adds to the nightmarish landscape, with boats and houses picked clean by the flood waters and wind. There is some business activity, as workers hoist oyster bags ($15 per bag of 80-100 oysters) onto waiting tractor trailers. Otherwise, little life seems to exist along the waterway. We stop at one point to admire the city skyline in the distance, shimmering in a reddish sunset. As we stare at the water, fish leap in the air in an aquatic ballet. On a day in which we've observed some of the worst destruction imaginable, the flying fish make us smile.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Bonds' 710th

Barry Bonds scored the lone run in the Giants' loss to the Mets last night. He hit his 710th career HR in the 4-1 Mets win. "I'm almost back," said Bonds, who's now 4 HRs away from tying Babe Ruth. "I'm finally getting there." To read my brother Barr Bloom's coverage at CLICK HERE


New Orleans: April 25

It's been a long, eventful day. I arrived mid-afternoon from New York with my photographer partner on this story/assignment, Michael Weintrob. After a tasty crawfish and raw oysters lunch in Metarie, we drove to the 17th St. Canal, where one of the main levees broke when Katrina hit last September. Nothing we'd seen on TV and in photographs or read prepared us for the total devastation of the Lakeview neighborhood that abuts massive Lake Pontchartrain. Block after block of houses are completely trashed, boats and cars and trees littered about like common garbage. Abandoned houses - 99% of what we saw - are marked with the letter X. If no one was found dead in the house, an 0 is stray-painted below. Posters and banners fly from porches: "Hold the Corps responsible!" " "Allstate paid $10,113.39 on this house for storm damage"... And lettered in front of a church: "He has risen and so will we"...

At the Allstate house at 6926 Belair St., two brothers are looking after it for a friend. The bottom of the house is a wreck, but the second floor is pretty much in tact. Watermarks on the exterior reach 8 feet high. The house smells something awful. I hold my nose as we walk around it. The floor is soft but not about to cave in. All kinds of household items, like a refrigerator and couch, are strewn about.

"Let's get out of here," Keith McMullan says. "It stinks in here."

"Ain't bad as what it was," Cecil McMullen counters.

They're drinking beer, but don't feel sorry for the McMullan brothers. They have a Hummer parked in the driveway.

They say the house, which belongs to to Eric Moscaw (he's currently in Idaho), was worth $500,000 before Katrina. They estimate its current value at $200,000. I couldn't see anyone paying $20, 000 for it. They think the area will make a comeback in 7 years. I seriously doubt that prediction.

Perhaps 1 in every 100 house in Lakeview is being worked on. Some people are living in trailers on their property, but there's no electricity. It's a ghost town.

We drive away, our minds blown. To the east, large areas along the lake like Chalmette, Alibi and the infamous 9th Ward are equally decimated. We plan to head over there on Thursday.

We've decided to take a day trip tomorrow to Lafayette, about 110 miles east, for the opening day of Festival International, which is a fancy name for the local cajun fest that coincides with the first weekend of Jazzfest. We've both always wanted to tour bayou country, so that's our plan.

We have a fabulous New Orleans dinner at Jacque-amo's in the Uptown section. The seafood cheesecake is to die for.

However, it's unsettling to live it up one one side of town while other parts of New Orleans are frozen in time and will never dig out from Katrina.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Programming note

I'm leaving for New Orleans. I'll be there for the next week. My main goal is to cover the legendary New Orleans Jazz & Hertiage Festival, which begins Friday, for High Times. But, of course, I'll also observe the conditions of the city post-Katrina. This will all be part of my reportage. I plan to drive around town and visit friends and musicians, conduct interviews. I also intend to eat plenty of crawfish, oysters and beignets and maybe even suck down a few - dare I say? - Hurricanes. So for the next week I will not be covering the Mets as I have since opening day. You'll have to get you Mets news elsewhere. Check this blog for daily reports from New Orleans.

The Mets lost last night in San Francisco 6-2, the 5th time in 7 games. They're in a classic West Coast road-trip swoon. Tom Glavine had his first less-than-stellar game, allowing a 3-run HR to Moises Alou in the 1st. The Mets' bats were silent again, with David Wright and Cliff Floyd going hitless. Carlos Beltran was again not in the lineup. Barry Bonds barely got to swing his bat, walking 3 times. Tonight, it's up to Steve Trachsel to stop the bleeding. When I return on Monday, so will the Mets. Hopefully, the Mets can salvage this trip.

The Big Easy beckons...

Monday, April 24, 2006


Phil Walden R.I.P.

One of the true giants in the history of the music industry passed away on Sunday. Phil Walden, the founder of Capricorn Records, died from complications due to cancer. He was 66.

"With the passing of Phil Walden, the music business has lost an eminent producer of great American music," Neil Portnow, president of the industry's Recording Academy, stated today. "One of the most influential creators of the Southern rock sound of the 1970s, Walden founded Capricorn Records and launched the careers of Otis Redding and Allman Brothers Band. We mourn his loss along with all of those who had the pleasure of knowing him."

I had the pleasure of knowing Phil Walden. In 1995 and again in 1998, Capricorn released two albums that benefited NORML, Hempilation and Hempilation 2. I created the concept and co-produced both albums, which raised more than $150,000 for NORML. When High Times and NORML began seeking a record-company partner, we looked no further once Capricorn made a generous offer. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Capricorn, named after Walden's zodiac sign, was launched in 1969 shortly after Walden discovered the Allman Brothers. Prior to then, Walden, who was born and raised in Macon, GA, managed Macon's R&B sensation Otis Redding and later - along with his younger brother Alan - Al Green, Sam & Dave, Percy Sledge and other soul stars. But Redding's death in an airplane crash in 1967 devastated the Waldens, and Phil soon decided to follow another musical path.

Capricorn would become to Southern rock what Motown was to soul music, with Phil Walden its Berry Gordy. In addition to the Allmans, the label signed Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie, the Dixie Dregs, Bonnie Bramlett and many more. But it was the Allmans who defined the label, and in 1976, at the urging of Walden, would help fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter get elected president by staging a number of concerts in the then-governor's behalf.

The label closed its doors in the '80s and then revived in the '90s, with the help of bands like Widespread Panic, Cake and 311. A small, family-run company, Capricorn was the perfect partner for the Hempilation project. Located in Nashville at first, I traveled there in 1995 to meet the staff and work out the first album's details. Phil, always dressed sharply and quite the Southern gentleman, greeted me warmly, as did the rest of the employees. His son Philip, the company's legal counsel, and I became particlularly friendly and remain close to this day.

After the success of Hempilation: Freedom is NORML, we agreed to produce a sequel, Hempilation 2: Free the Weed. By 1998, Capricorn had moved to Atlanta and jumped from one distributor (RED) to another (Polygram). However, Polygram was soon purchased by Universal, which proved to be the death knell for this incarnation of Capricorn. By 2000, the company was sold and the Waldens started a new label, Velocette, that never really got off the ground.

Over the last few years, Phil became sick with a variety of cancers that spread throughout his body. I contacted Philip a month ago and asked how Phil was doing and if I could pay a visit. "Let me know when you'd like to come down and I'll run it by Phil," Philip wrote back. "He's pretty frail right now, but he would probably love to see you."

Like everyone else, I was hoping that Phil would kick cancer' ass, but alas it bit him hard and he never recovered.

I'll follow this up with comments from some of my friends from Capricorn in the next few days. But for now, cue up an Allman Brothers cd - or better yet, vinyl - and think about the man who started it all.


Eagles of Death Metal @ Irving Plaza

Though Eagles of Death Metal's new album Death By Sexy sounds exactly like their debut, the three-piece has always been known to put on a great show. Always, until last night. Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme was billed to play drums for the sold-out show at New York's Irving Plaza, but the lineup was changed last-minute to include ex-Hole and Motley Crue drummer, Samantha Maloney. Her solid and welcome playing was the only mediocre pleasure for this event. Also, in keeping with switching up the lineup, there was a fourth guitarist added to the usual tight trio, making Eagles as much of a revolving act as QOTSA is now. Which, inevitably, hindered the quality of the music as it does with Queens.

Unlike Eagles' shows of the past, frontman Jesse "The Devil" Hughes was eerily still most of the night, leaving behind his patented hip-shakin' and knee-bangin'. And with his lack of passion and ubiquitous sound, the crowd followed his lead. Nary a head was bobbing, nor more than a slight handful of fists raised into the air.

The sound in Irving Plaza is always bad, unless you stand directly under the sound board, but the Eagles' show in particular had a lackluster twang followed by an unoriginal stage presence. Sure, rock may be dead, but it doesn't have to be kicked while it's down. A true disappointment all around.


Natasha Lewin is the former managing editor of High Times and co-author of "King of Queens" in which she and Bobby Black interview Josh Homme. It appears in the May '06 issue of High Times.

For more about Eagles of Death Metal: CLICK HERE


The Zambrano files

With yesterday's 7-4 loss to the Padres, the Mets have now dropped 4 of their last 6 games. Two of those were 2-1 pitching duels, the other two bad outings from Victor Zambrano, as was the case yesterday when he served up a 2-out grand slam to Brian Giles in the 4th and a solo shot by Josh Barfield in the 1st en route to a 7-4 loss. Zambrano has allowed 5 HRs in those 2 games.

Who the hell is Victor Zambrano and why is he starting games for the Mets? Signed as an amateur free agent by the Yankees in 1993 and released 3 years later, the Venezuelan-born righthander was picked up by the Devil Rays in 1996. It took another 5 years for him to be promoted to the big leagues, not a good sign. Pitching for baseball's worst franchise, Zambrano managed to post a winning record (35-27) from 2001 to 2004, when he was moved to the Mets for their top pitching prospect, lefty Scott Kazmir, at the trading deadline. Former GM Jim Duquette, desperate to steer the team to a playoff run, made two deals on July 30: Ty Wigginton for Kris Benson and the Zambrano trade. Both have backfired, and of course Duquette is no longer with the club (he's now the Orioles' GM). What did Duquette and pitching coach Rick Peterson (and reportedly veteran staff ace at the time, Al Leiter) see in Zambrano, who'd allowed 21 HRs in 2003 and has a career 4.38 ERA?

Stats Inc. says about Zambrano: "The Mets saw untapped potential in Zambrano. He has a filthy repertoire, featuring a 92-94 MPH sinking fastball, an excellent changeup and an effective slider. He has trouble with his command and tends to finesse hitters by working the corners instead of challenging them with his nasty arsenal. His pitch counts can be outrageous because he falls behind in the count, which leads to an excessive number of walks. If he would trust his stuff and go after hitters on a consistent basis, Zambrano could be dominant."

After he won his first 2 games in 2004 and the Mets failed to make the playoffs, they rewarded Zambrano, who'd been earning $325,000 in Tampa Bay, with a $2.1 million contract. Pitching in the pressure-packed NL East, he went 7-12 in 27 starts with a 4.12 ERA, struck out 112 and allowed 12 HRs in 2005. Zambrano was wildly inconsistent, at best. Plagued by a poor bullpen, GM Omar Minaya traded two starters - Benson and Jae Seo - for relievers in the off-season. However, he held on to Zambrano, who's so far become one of the Mets' major player issues of the young season.

Yesterday's game was typical Zambrano. After the first-inning HR, he gave up 2 singles in the 2nd and 2 walks in the 3rd, but escaped damage. He didn't in the 4th. With 2 outs, Padres' rookie pitcher Clay Hensley blooped a single to CF. Suddenly, the floodgates opened. Zambrano walked Dave Roberts and Barfield singled to load the bases for Giles, who drove a 3-2 pitch into the right-field stands. Manager Willie Randolph pinch hit for Zambrano in the 5th.

The Mets gamely fought back with 4 runs in the 6th (Endy Chavez delivered a 2-out, 2-run bases loaded single), but relievers Pedro Feliciano and Chad Bradford were tagged for 1 run each in their respective innings, and the Mets never scored again.

Carlos Beltran (strained right hamstring) was not in the lineup, nor was slumping Jose Reyes, though he pinch hit during the 6th-inning rally and stayed in the game.

Ex-Met Mike Cameron (traded for Xavier Nady), fresh off the DL, played his first game for he Padres; he walked in 4 ABs. Mike Piazza did not play

The Mets (12-6) lost a game in the standings to the Braves (9-9), who defeated Washington, 3-1. The Mets lead the division by 3 games. The Braves next series starts in Milwaukee tonight.

Next game: Monday, April 24 in San Francisco, 10:15 pm start on SNY & WFAN, Tom Glavine (2-1, 1.38) vs. Matt Cain (0-2, 6.75)

For more on the Mets: CLICK HERE

* The Yankees took 2 out of 3 games from the Orioles, winning 7-1 yesterday behind Randy Johnson (3-2). They host the Devil Rays, starting Tuesday.
* Barry Bonds tells my brother Barry Bloom at that he doesn't think he'll be able to pass Hank Aaron. "Heck no," Bonds says about achieving the all-time HR record. "I'm happy with what I've already done. If I get it, I get it; if I don't, so be it. That's life, baby. That's life. It was fun while it lasted." To read the full story: CLICK HERE

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Mets rout Pads

Good hitting beats bad pitching, right? That was certainly the case last night when they Mets homered their way out a mini-batting slump against the Padres. Xavier Nady (his 5th) and Ramon Castro (his 1st) went back-to-back in the opening frame against rookie Chris Young, and - who else? - Carlos Delgado knocked his 8th in the 7th, his 3rd HR in as many games in San Diego. The Mets had 11 hits with Castro accounting for 3 of them.

It was a case of lucky 11s for the Mets, as Pedro Martinez struck out that many in 7 sharp innings. The Mets ace is now 4-0 (it was his 201st career win). Martinez and Jorge Julio (yes, him) combined for a 3-hitter. The final was 8-1.

Delgado's tied for 2nd-most HRs in the NL and 5th-most RBI with 18. He is, by far, the biggest improvement GM Omar Minaya made over the winter. Nady (5 HRs, 10 RBI, .344 BA) is the second-biggest.

On the negative side, Jose Reyes' hitting woes continued; he went 0 for 5 and is now batting .234. Que pasa, Jose? Carlos Beltran sat out again (strained right hamstring), but his MRI test was negative. He should be back in CF soon.

Ex-Met Mike Piazza clubbed his second HR of the season in the 2nd (it appeared that Martinez grooved one for the slugger) and ripped a single in the 9th. He's now 1 HR shy of career No. 400 and upped his BA to .224. However, the Mets stole 4 bases off the weak-armed catcher.

The Mets (12-5) picked up a half-game on the idle Braves (8-9), who were rained out in Washington. They lead the division by 4 games.

Next game: Sunday, April 23 in San Diego, 4:05 pm start on Ch. 11 & WFAN, Victor Zambrano (1-1, 9.00) vs. Chris Hensley (0-1, 6.00)

For more on the Mets: CLICK HERE

* It took Barry Bonds 14 games to get his 1st HR of the 2006 season. Career HR No. 709 came on Colorado start Aaron Cook's second pitch in Bonds' first at bat yesterday. The blast landed in Coors Field's left-field bleachers. Bonds is now 5 HRs away from tying Babe Ruth for second-best on the all-time HR list. To read my brother Barry Bloom's coverage at CLICK HERE


Particle @ Bowery Ballroom

The jam-band scene has been in a state of flux ever since Phish broke up in 2002, came back together in 2003 and broke up again in 2004. The '90s jam-band boom was hatched by Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers devotees Phish, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Widespread Panic, Aquarium Rescue Unit and a host of lesser-known bands. The summer HORDE tour (organized by Blues Traveler) spread the jam-band gospel from town to town. When Jerry Garcia died in 1995 and the Dead disbanded (they would soon reunite as the Other Ones), jam-bands could no longer look to the Dead for guidance. They were suddenly on their own. Phish stepped forward and filled the void left by the Dead. But with Phish's second and last departure, it's been unclear who jam-band fans are currently most devoted to. Is it Boulder's String Cheese Incident? Georgia's Widespread Panic? Philly's Disco Biscuits? New York's moe. and Medeski Martin & Wood? Phil & Friends and Bob Weir's Ratdog? Phish leader Trey Anastasio? The Allman Brothers? There seems to be no consensus. Maybe that's a good thing. Jam-bands are so iconoclastic to begin with, who needs one band to dominate the scene?

Probably the two most significant jam-bands to come along in the last few years are Chicago's Umphrey's McGee and LA's Particle. Both played Green Apple Fest shows last night. I'd seen Umphrey's recently at the Nokia Theater, so I attended the Particle show instead. I've liked Particle from the minute I heard them four years ago. Originally a 4-piece, they're now a quintet with 2 new lead guitarists. Particle are part Phish, part Disco Biscuits. Largely an instrumental unit, they rely on the strength of their jams to tell stories without words to help you figure them out. Particle have more of an electronica sound, speedily cruising along the crescendo superhighway. But, mostly, what I hear is a disco influence that reminds me of one of my favorite late-'70s units, Machine ("There But for the Grace of God Go I").

Mad Professor was scheduled to open last night's concert, but he never showed up (he was at sound check but didn't return), so it turned out to be a complete evening of Particle music, which was fine with the band's fans who sold out the house. For nearly two and a half hours Particle held court, alternating between originals ("The Elevator," "Walking By," "Eye of the Storm") and covers (Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," Spiritualized's "Smile" and Beck's "E-Pro" from Guero for the encore). Early in the first set, drum maestro Mickey Hart joined Particle on the Hydra tune, "Wavemaker." Hart, who's been a true Green Apple ambassador this week, played the African thumb-drum, the kalimba, and interacted with each band member during their respective solos.

Particle's revamped linuep includes original members Steve Molitz (keyboards), Eric Gould (bass) and Darren Pujalet (drums), and recently-added guitarists Scott Metzger (formerly with Rana) and Ben Combe (Bad Shoe). When the band decided to part ways with original guitarist Charlie Hitchcock late last year, they auditioned many players. Metzger and Combe were so good that they hired them both. In additon to his guitar-playing, Combe provides the band's relatively rare lead vocals; he did a pretty good Prince imitation on "Let's Go Crazy."

For more on Particle: CLICK HERE

Bowery Ballroom, NY

Set 1:
Let's Go Crazy
The Elevator
Mind Over Matter
Walking By

Set 2:
Eye of the Storm
I Think I'm in Love


*Hydra song w/ Mickey Hart on kalimba

Thanks to Chris McCleary and Erik Koral for providing the set list, and to Particle manager Jonathan Shank for being such a cool guy.


Celebrating the 37th Annual Earth Day

I was 15 on April 22, 1970 when Earth Day was founded. I've always loved Earth Day. I don't have special plans for today, though I will be attending one of the Green Apple Music & Arts Festival concerts in New York tonight. This festival's focus is jam-band music, but the underlying theme is environmental awareness.

Today's a good day to think about your personal relationship to the planet. How do you contribute to the earth's well-being? What else could you do? First and foremost, I encourage people to take responsibility for their own surroundings. This is very difficult living in a city with nearly 8 million people. But I try by picking up bottles and trash strewn about the streets and tossing them in garbage cans. As a dog owner, I always collect my pets' poo and encourage others to do the same. I don't own a car and ride mass transportation and my bike everywhere. Though I'm not a vegetarian, I don't eat beef, pork or fowl (I do eat seafood, dairy and eggs). I don't consume fast foods and buy organic whenever possible (support your local health-food stores, whether it's a small shop or Whole Foods). I buy quality foods for my pets. I recycle religiously. I know I can do more, like joining such eco-conscious organizations as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. Saving the earth starts with each and everyone of us. Don't leave it up to the next person. It's up to you and me.

For more info about Earth Day: CLICK HERE


Mets offense stalls

Due to a DVR malfunction, I was unable to record the Mets 14-inning game in San Diego last night. This much I know: they lost 2-1; Chad Bradford (0-1) took the loss; the Mets' only run came on Carlos Delgado's 7th HR in the 5th; they only had 7 hits, with Jose Reyes, David Wright and Xavier Nady going a combined 0 for 15; Brian Bannister (2-0, 2.35) was wild again, walking 6 and throwing 100 pitches in 5 innings; Carlos Beltran did not play (strained right hamstring); the bullpen tossed 7 scoreless innings until Bradford allowed Brian Giles' walk-off double in the 14th; ex-Met Mike Piazza went 0 for 3 with 2 BBs and a K (he's hitless in the series and batting .200); the Mets (10-5) have scored only 1 run in 3 of their last 4 games and have lost each of those games; with Atlanta losing in Washington (Alfonso Soriano swatted 3 HRs for the Nats), the Mets' still hold a 3.5-game lead over the Braves.

Next game: Saturday, April 22 in San Diego, 10:05 pm start on SNY & WFAN, Pedro Martinez (3-0, 3.66) vs. Chris Young (2-0, 2.95)

For more on the Mets: CLICK HERE

* After losing last night to ex-Met Kris Benson (2-2) and the Orioles, the Yankees (8-8) took the second game of the series today, 6-1, behind Shawn Chacon (2-1). Combined with the Red Sox loss to the Blue Jays, the Yanks are now 2 games behind Boston (11-7). Randy Johnson (2-2, 4.63) faces ex-Met Bruce Chen (0-2, 8.10) tomorrow.
* Excerpted from yesterday's story, "Opening month full of surprises," by Jim Molony:
- Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez and Adrian Beltre are not among the 233 Major Leaguers with at least one homer. Bonds (28 at-bats), Ramirez (54) and Beltre (60) have gone a combined 142 at-bats without leaving the yard once.
- The Mets not only have the second-best record in baseball (11-4) and the majors' best team ERA (3.24), the rotation is also ranked No. 1 with a 3.38 ERA.
- The Mets' high-powered offense of Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Paul Lo Duca and David Wright have seen a surprising hero in RF Xavier Nady, who leads the team with a .364 batting average.
- 39 players have 40 or more plate appearances with on-base plus slugging percentages greater than 1,000. The Yankees, Mets and Indians lead the way with three players each.
To read the full story: CLICK HERE

Friday, April 21, 2006


Mets start new streak

So far this season the Mets' are 1-2 vs. the Braves and 10-2 vs, anyone else. So keep those other teams coming. Like the last-place San Diego Padres, who the Mets defeated last night 7-2, thanks to HRs from Carlos Delgado (his 6th), Julio Franco (in a pinch-hitting role; at 47, he was oldest major leaguer ever to hit a HR) and Kaz Matsui (an inside-the-parker in his first AB of the season). Steve Trachsel (2-1) pitched 6 solid innnings and was bailed out of a 7th-inning jam when Duaner Sanchez induced a DP (he earned his first win as a Met). David Wright rebounded from his poor series against the Braves with a double and a diving catch that started the DP that ended the Padres' mini-rally in the 7th. The Mets scored 6 runs in the 8th to take the lead, and Aaron Heilman and Jorge Julio mopped up the last two innings. It was a great start to the Mets' 10-game road trip. Let's hope they beat up on the Padres some more before heading to San Francisco and Atlanta.

Carlos Beltran started but was pulled from the game after he further aggravated his right hamstring. Cliff Floyd (strained rib cage) was also back in the lineup. However, Anderson Hernandez (slipped disc) was placed on the DL. Matsui will start at 2B for the foreseeable future.

The Mets (11-4) gained a half game on the idle Braves. They lead the Eastern division by 3.5 games.

Mike Piazza was 0 for 2 and hit into a DP in his first game against the Mets since signing with the Pads over the winter.

Next game: Friday, April 21 in San Diego, 10:05 pm start on SNY & WFAN, Brian Bannister (2-0) vs. Woody Williams (1-0)

For more on the Mets: CLICK HERE


6th Annual Jammy Awards @ Theater at Madison Square Garden

Last night's 4-and-a-half hour Jammy Awards was a non-stop affair. With bands shuffling on and off the stage at breakneck speed, you could barely catch your breath.

But this is par for the course for the Jammys, now in it's 6th year. It's a particularly inventive awards show, with unusual musical pairings the glue that holds it together. Where else could you see jazz pianist McCoy Tyner playing wih banjo picker Bela Fleck? Or '70s icon Peter Frampton matched up with alt-rockers Guster? Or Jane's Addiction drummer Steve Perkins joining forces with jam-guitar virtuoso Steve Kimock? Or, for that matter, two Marley brothers (Stephen and Ky-mani) jamming on, um, "Jamming"?

Richie Havens opening the 6th Annual Jammy Awards with his famed "Freedom" was a a stroke of genius. The grey-bearded Havens leapt in the air as the song ended showing that this wily Woodstock veteran still has some pep in his step. The highlights that followed were many, including a smokin' "New York Prophesie" and "Magic Carpet Ride" (with Bettye LaVette) from jam-band war horse Blues Traveler; Kimock, Perkins, Joe Satriani and newcomer Grace Potter (her band won the New Groove award) taking a page out of Miles Davis' electro-jazz book; moe. doing the dub thing to perfection with Mad Professor; and the night's piece de resistance, the Frank Zappa tribute led by his son Dweezil.

During the latter segment, co-host Mickey Hart called Zappa "probably the craziest guy I ever knew" and Chick Corea, who presented the Lifetime Achievement award to Zappa, observed, "He confronted the oppression of freedom of expression." Keyboard whiz Corea sat in with Dweezil's band, which performed 15-minute versions of "Inca Roads" and "Florentine Pogen." You could hear how Corea's famous fusion-jazz ensemble Return to Forever was influenced by Zappa. The long Zappa jams were also reminiscent of Funkadelic.

Guitars are the stars of the Jammys. Despite stellar performances by Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, Willie Waldman on trumpet and a tap-dancing Savion Glover, the night belonged to 6-stringers conjuring the deep roots of jam-band history with their magic axes. Duels abounded: Dweezil Zappa and Umphrey McGee's Jake Cinninger; Frampton and Guster's Adam Gardner; Little Feat's Paul Barrere and blues legend Hubert Sumlin; Kimock and shredder Joe Satriani.

On the awards side, it was a big night for former Phish bassist Mike Gordon, who's collaboration with Leo Kottke Sixty Six Steps took Studio Album of the Year honors. He also accepted for Archival Live Album (Phish's Live at Madison Square Garden, New Year's Eve 1995 - an appropriate choice considering the show's location). Live Performance of the Year went to moe. for their tsunami-relief benefit at Roseland Ballroom, and String Cheese Incident's Big Summer Classic was rightly named Tour of the Year. A best fest award would be a good addition.

Another modest suggestion: How about scheduling an intermission so people can stagger out to the concession area and compare notes before heading back for the second set. Just a thought, but it might ease the Jammys' overall frenetic pace.

The oddest moment of the night had to be former NBA player Manute Bol towering over Relix publisher Steve Bernstein as they presented the world-music award to Senegal's Baaba Maal.

Produced by Peter Shapiro and Relix, the Jammys remains the jewel in the crown of the sprawling improv scene spawned by the Grateful Dead and other vintage bands. Long live the Jammys!

The lengthy Jammys commenced an even lengthier schedule of events under the Green Apple Music & Arts Festival banner that begins today. For more info: CLICK HERE


Studio Album of the Year: Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon's Sixty Six Steps
Live Album of the Year: Widespread Panic's Live at Myrtle Beach
Song of the Year: Tea Leaf Green's "Taught to Be Proud"
Tour of the Year: Big Summer Classic (String Cheese Incident, Keller Williams, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Yonder Mountain String Band, Umphrey's McGee, New Monsoon & Xavier Rudd)
Live Performance of the Year: moe., Tsunami Relief Benefit, Roseland Ballroom, NYC, 2/10/05
DVD of the Year: Bob Dylan, No Direction Home
New Groove: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Lifetime Achievement Award: Frank Zappa
Global Rhythm World Music Award: Baaba Mal
Jammys Industry Award: Larry Bloch, Wetlands Preserve founder

Thursday, April 20, 2006


420 on 4/20

It's that time, folks. So hippie New Year and all that fun stuff. I'm smoking homegrown Strawberry out of a glass bowl. How about you?

HAPPY 4/20!!


Black Crowes update

The Black Crowes' brouhaha I stirred up over not being "comped" to review one of last week's Robinson brothers shows resulted in an avalanche of comments (mostly attached to my "Black Crowes' media black-out" post) from fans and journalists alike. This all started when my ticket request was denied by the Crowes' independent publicity firm, the Mitch Schneider Organization (MSO), based in Sherman Oaks, CA. I wrote a post ("Black Crowes' media black-out") that got picked up by Mediabistro's FishbowlNY website last Friday. I followed with a second post ("Black Crowes controversy") that got picked by FishbowlNY on Monday.

Then I received a call from Mitch Schneider himself. Here's an excerpt from our conversation:

Bloom: How will the Black Crowes be handling press requests for their just-announced summer tour with Robert Randolph & the Family Band and Drive-By Truckers?

Schneider: I'll have to check with management [Pete Angelus Entertainment] on that. I do know that up until now it's been management's policy that all tickets are for fans. The shows in New York were reviewed by the Stonybrook University paper and Joel Selvin in the San Francicso Chronicle. They purchased tickets. I know you're looking for complimentary review tickets, but the feeling is they want fans to have access to all the tickets. There's no record label who are doing ticket buys. They remain unsigned to a label by their choice.

Bloom: I'm aware of that. "Fans-only" is a convenient rationalization for not letting the press attend. I think it's a bad precedent. They're the only band that does this. Tell me another band that you work with that does this.

Schneider: It's exclusive to them.

Bloom: It's not a good policy. I wish you'd go to bat for us.

Schneider: I will discuss with management.

For info about the Black Crowes' 9-week summer tour, which begins in Seattle on 6/10: CLICK HERE

Tickets for the 6/10, 6/11, 6/13 and 6/18 shows went on sale today. To purchase pre-tickets: CLICK HERE

HAPPY 4/20!


Happy 4/20, stoners!

Today is "the day of celebration, the real time to get high, the grandmaster of all holidays: 4/20, or April 20th." Yes, indeed it is. Interestingly, those words were written some 15 years ago. They were penned by an anonymous Deadhead who helped create the 420 legend with a little flyer he, she or they were distributing at Grateful Dead shows. I received a copy of the flyer at a show in Oakland in 1990 during the band's week of concerts leading up to New Year's. The flyer told the story of 420 - it was slang for pot smoking, based on what he, she or they believed was the California police code for "marijuana smoking in progress." So the stoners flipped the script and advised all potheads to get high at 4:20, presumably in the afternoon, and to join together for one collective smoke-out on April 20th at 4:20 pm. And that is what we will be doing today.

Truth be told, there never was a 420 California police code. In 1998, a fellow named Waldo Steve told High Times that he and his friends had coined "420" in the the early '70s when they attended San Rafael High School. They had posters and letters to prove it. Simply, they came up with the term as a shorthand to inform friends of their afterschool smoke sessions. So High Times has since credited Steve Waldo and his fellow Waldo buddies with the creation of 420.

Still, I've always wondered about that flyer and who wrote it. Never found out. Oh, well...

Happy 4/20, stoners!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Mr. Wrong

Some days you just shouldn't get out of bed. Today was one of those days for Mets' 3B David Wright. With the team trying to win game 3 against their arch-rivals, the longtime Eastern division-champion Braves (they split the first two games), Wright went wrong, making three errors, two in the 8th inning that led to the Braves' second, and as it turned out, game-winning run.

Tom Glavine and Tim Hudson matched zeroes until the 7th inning when Glavine stubbornly pitched to Andruw Jones. On a 2-0 count, Glavine offered him a change-up away and Jones, who'd already hit 3 HRs in the series, went with it all the way over the right-field fence. With two outs and no runners on, Glavine should've walked him (like Hudson did Delgado with 1 out in the bottom of the inning).

Hudson throughly handcuffed the Mets' lineup that again didn't include Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd. The first 15 batters went down without a hit or a walk. But then in the 6th, Ramon Castro singled, Endy Chavez reached on an error and Glavine bunted them over. Reyes flied to short left, but Matt Diaz threw a strike home, cutting down the slow-footed Castro.

In the Braves' 8th, Tony Pena grounded to Wright, who threw wildly to 1st. Three batters later, with Pena at 3rd and 2 out, Wright muffed another grounder, allowing the unearned run to score. It was sadly fitting that, while the Mets got to Hudson in the bottom of 9th on Jose Reyes' double and Chris Woodward's RBI single, Wright made the last out, futilely bouncing out to short to end the game and give the Braves the series. Wright was for 0 for 11 against the Braves. So much for his hot start.

What happened to the Mets' star 3B? Does the word "choke" fit the situation? Strangely, Wright, who struggled in the field last season, was perfect until today's big game against the Braves. He'll certainly have a lot to think about on the long flight to San Diego, where the Mets' start their 10-game road trip tomorrow night vs. the 6-8 Padres.

The Mets (10-4) are 3 games ahead of the Braves (8-8). But their streak of 4 consecutive series wins is over. Now the real season begins. Hold on to your seats, Met fans...

Next game: Thursday, April 20 in San Diego, 10:05 pm start on SNY & WFAN, Steve Trachsel (1-1) vs. Jake Peavey (1-2)

For more on the Mets: CLICK HERE

* The Yankees (7-7) prevented a sweep in Toronto, beating the Blue Jays 3-1 behind Mike Mussina (2-1). Alex Rodriguez belted his 5th HR. The Yanks, who are 3 games behind the Red Sox, host the Orioles this weekend. Friday night's match-up is Chien-Ming Wong (1-0) vs. ex-Met Kris Benson (1-2)
* Ex-Met catcher Mike Piazza is hitting .244 with just 1 HR and 4 RBI in 10 games with the Padres. Mike Cameron, traded to San Diego for Xavier Nady, has yet to play a game this season (he's been on the DL).


Zambrano sucks

It takes just one incompetent starting pitcher to bring a thriving team down a notch, and in the case of the Mets that pitcher is Victor Zambrano. Stupidly traded for minor-league prospect, lefty Scott Kazmir (see Around the Horn), by outgoing GM Jim Duquette in the summer of 2004, Zambrano has been nothing short of awful in his nearly 2-year stint with the Mets. He's a veritable punching bag on the mound.

Last night, Zambrano (1-1) gave the Mets little chance to beat the Braves. He allowed 3 HRs (2 by Andruw Jones, his 6th and 7th of the season) in five weak innings. Meanwhile, Braves' starter Kyle Davies (1-1) shut down the suddenly injury-riddled Mets on three hits, and went the distance (final score: 7-1). At gametime, three starters - Carlos Beltran (strained right hamstring), Cliff Floyd (strained rib cage) and Anderson Hernandez (unknown injury) - were scratched from the lineup, replaced by the Mets' umimpressive benchwarmers. Chris Woodward, filling in for Henandez, provided the only offensive spark with a solo HR in the 3rd. Light-hitting outfield subs Endy Chavez (.091) and Jose Valentine (0 for 12) offered little to a lineup that is now 5 strong from the top. David Wright (.375), Carlos Delgado (.346) and a slumping Jose Reyes (.263) went hitless. Xavier Nady now leads the team in BA (.396); he's 7th best in the NL. Suddenly, GM Omar Minaya's decision to demote OF Victor Diaz on Monday is not looking so good.

The Mets (10-3) are now 4 games ahead of the Braves (7-8). Today's rubber-match vs. the Braves is a must-win, what they call a "gut-check." The Mets leave after the game for a 10-game road swing that begins in San Diego on Thursday.

Next game: Wednesday, April 19 @ Shea, 1:10 pm start on SNY & WFAN, Tom Glavine (2-0) vs.Tim Hudson (0-1)

For more on the Mets: CLICK HERE

* The Yankees' road woes continued as they lost again to the Blue Jays in Toronto, 10-5, last night. Troy Glaus blasted 2 HRs off Randy Johnson (2-2). AL Player of the Week Jason Giambi knocked his 5th HR. Combined with the Red Sox victory over the Devil Rays, the Yanks are 3.5 games out of first place. They finish up the series today with Mike Mussina (1-1) facing lefty Ted Lilly (1-0).
* Barry Bonds extended his homerless streak to 13 in the Giants' loss to the Diamondbacks in Arizona. He did have a double. "He looks tired," said Giants' manager Felipe Alou. To read my brother Barry Bloom's game story: CLICK HERE
* Ex-Met 3B Ty Wigginton has found a home with the Devil Rays. Traded for Kris Benson in 2004 to make room at the hot corner for David Wright, Wiggington is hitting .289 with 6 HR and 14 RBI. Wright has 3 HR and 13 RBI. Tampa teammate Scott Kazmir is 1-1 in 3 starts with a 4.82 ERA and 16 Ks.


4th Annual Doobie Awards announced

The June '06 issue of High Times with Damian Marley on the cover (great photo by Brian Jahn) features my story about the 4th Annual Doobie Awards. The Doobies are High Times' awards for excellence in marijuana-related music. This year's winners are:

Band of the Year - System of a Down
Best Reggae Artist - Damian Marley
Best Solo Artist - Rob Thomas
Best Hip-Hop Artist - Yin Yang Twins
Best Stoner Band - Kottonmouth Kings
Best Jam Band - String Cheese Incident
Best Pot Song - Sean Paul's "We Be Burnin'"
Best Festival - Bonnaroo

In the magazine, each award is accompanied by a stony photo and an acceptance speech. Here are some excerpts:

* Sean Paul: "It's feels great to be the Doobiest songwriter of the year for the second time now!"
* Damian Marley: "In celebration of the Doobie Award, I think I'll burn one."
* Rob Thomas: "Let me thank all my suppliers for providing me with what I needed to make my first solo record."
* String Cheese Incident: "Thanks so much for this award [cough, cough}..."
* Kottonmouth Kings' Brad Daddy X: "I want to give a shout out to all the growers, activists and tokers for standing strong with a bong against the oppressors."
* Bonnaroo's producers: "It's high time Bonnaroo received the Doobie Award..."

To read the story: CLICK HERE

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


"Matzoh Man"

"Matzoh Man" by the Chosen People! Oy - too funny...

To watch the video: CLICK HERE


4/20's coming: big week of events

To celebrate 4/20 on Thursday, many major events are scheduled around the country. Here are the biggest ones:

* In San Francisco, the 35th annual NORML Conference commences on 4/20. Tommy Chong will give the keynote address on Friday. The conference concludes on Saturday.

For more on the NORML Conference: CLICK HERE

* Also in San Francisco, from April 20-22, the High Times Comedy Festival will be taking place at Cobb's Comedy Club (915 Columbus Ave.). Performers scheduled include Doug Benson, Tom Rhodes, Bob Cantrell, Greg Proops, Randy Kagan, Al Madrigal, Rick Overton, The Greg Wilson, W. Kamau Bell, Mishna Wolff, John Hoogasian, Graham Elwood, host Ngaio Belum and more. There will be 5 shows over the three days, with the 8 pm show on April 22 a benefit for NORML.

For tickets, call 415-928-4320 or: CLICK HERE

For info about High Times Comedy Nights: CLICK HERE

* In New York, on 4/20, the 6th Annual Jammy Awards is taking place at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. The Jammys celebrates the wonders of jam-band music with an eclectic array of artists performing in unique combinations. One such combo promises to be Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Mike Gordon, Mad Professor, Baaba Maal and Angelique Kidjo. Oh, and they give out awards too.

For the full lineup: CLICK HERE

* The Jammys kicks off the Green Apple Music & Arts Festival. From April 21-23, more than 50 jam-oriented concerts are scheduled at numerous venues around New York City. The festival concludes with a special premiere screening of Wetlands Preserved at the Ziegfield Theater at 6:30 pm on Sunday. I'm especially excited about this, because yours truly appears in the documentary!

For more on the Green Apple fest: CLICK HERE

* 4/20 has become the biggest stoner event of the year. For those not in the know, the numeral 420 is stoner slang for gettin' high, lightin' up, hittin' the bong, packin' the pipe, rollin' a blunt, inhalin' a vape. At 4:20 on 4/20, all stoners should smoke together in one huge communal worldwide circle. For the history of 420, check out my "Message" column in the May issue of High Times. On Thursday, local 4/20 events will be occurring all over the country. One such event I know of is the Let It Flow 420 Show in Ithaca, NY at Castaways (413 Taughannock Blvd., 607-272-1370) featuring DJ Rob Swift. The event is being produced by former Cannabis Castaway DJ Nitro.

HAPPY 4/20!


Pedro's 200th

At 3-0, Pedro Martinez is certainly one of the main reasons the Mets have baseball's best record at 10-2 after nipping the Braves last night, 4-3. And to think we were worried about his toe! En route to his 200th career victory (he's an amazing 200-84 lifetime), Martinez was sharp, striking out 8 and allowing 6 hits in 6-plus innings. Surprisingly, manager Willie Randolph pulled him in the 7th with two outs and a runner on in favor of Duaner Sanchez, who struck out Brain Giles. Billy Wagner came on in the 9th for the save, his 4th in 5 tries.

Offensively, like the previous game vs. the Brewers, Carlos Delgado and Xavier Nady led the way with HRs. Nady and Paul Lo Duca each had 3 hits. The Mets' lineup is looking a little soft at the bottom with light-hitting Endy Chavez - he replaced Carlos Beltran (strained right hamstring) for the second straight game - Anderson Hernandez and the pitcher's slot. But the top 6 batters are producing - 3 of them (David Wright, Delgado and Nady) are in the top 10 for batting average - despite a rare 0 for 4 from Wright, who's BA dropped to .391.

The Mets are now 5 games ahead of the Braves (6-8). They set an esoteric baseball record for being the first team ever to achieve a 5-game lead after just 12 games to start a season.

Before the game, the Mets sent Victor Diaz to Norfolk, replacing him with lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano.

Next game: Tuesday, April 18 @ Shea, 7:10 pm start on SNY & WFAN, Victor Zambano (1-0) vs. Kyle Davies (0-1)

For more on the Mets: CLICK HERE

* The Yankees open a 3-game series vs. the Blue Jays in Toronto tonight. Both teams are 6-6 and 2 games behind the Red Sox. Lefties Randy Johnson (2-1) and Gustavo Chacin (2-0) face off.
* Barry Bonds extended his homerless streak to 12 as the Giants edged the Diamondbacks 10-9. Bonds' batting a mere .192 with 1 RBI. During the game, a fan was arrested for throwing a tube of toothpaste at Bonds in the 4th inning. The 23-year-old wingnut claimed this was in retaliation for Bonds not giving him an autograph when he was 7 years old. "My problems with Barry Bonds started long before steroids," said the fan, who was wearing a necklace with a syringe dangling from it. To read the full story by my brother Barry Bloom: CLICK HERE

Monday, April 17, 2006


FishbowlNY picks up publicists' comments about Black Crowes media black-out

For the second day in a row, Mediabistro's FishbowlNY website has covered my battle with the Black Crowes over their unwillingness to provide music journalists with tickets to cover their shows. I sent last Friday's FishbowlNY story, "The Black Crowes' Management Snubs High Times Editor's Ticket Request," to dozens of music-industry publicists I've worked with over the years. I received numerous replies. I posted the publicists' comments ("Black Crowes Controversy") and forwarded the post to FishbowlNY. Today, FishbowlNY picked up 3 of the comments in the story "Do Music Journalists Deserve Free Tickets?" and linked to my blog.

To read the FishbowlNY story: CLICK HERE

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Mets win 4th straight series

Easter brought the gift of another Mets victory on Sunday. They took 2 out of 3 games from the Brewers, winning the finale 9-3 on the strength of HRs by Carlos Delgado (3 runs) and Xavier Nady (2 runs). Brian Bannister won his second game, working in and out of trouble throughout a five-inning stint. The Brewers made it close in the 6th on Jeff Jenkins' HR off Darren Oliver. But the Mets' 4-3 lead ballooned to 9-3 in the 8th, thanks to Delgado and Victor Diaz (2-run double). Even beleaguered reliever Jorge Jorge pitched a scoreless inning in the 9th.

Carlos Beltran sat out the game with a strained right hamstring muscle. Endy Chavez filled in. It was the Mets' first injury replacement of the season.

The Mets had never won four straight series to open a season until now. They're 9-2 going into the Braves series, which begins tomorrow night with Pedro Martinez on the mound going for his 200th career victory. The Braves fell 4 games behind the Mets, losing 4-3 to the Padres today. In addition to their hot start and home advantage, the Mets have one other edge over the Braves: Chipper Jones is on the DL

Next game: Monday, April 17 @ Shea, 7:10 pm start on SNY & WFAN, Pedro Martinez (2-0) vs. Jorge Sosa (0-2)

For more on the Mets: CLICK HERE

* Ex-Met Kris Benson (1-2) lost his second straight start for the Orioles today. He gave up 9 hits and 4 runs in 5 innings vs. the Angels.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Dub Trio @ Mercury Lounge

Since I was snubbed by the Black Crowes I decided instead to attend Dub Trio's show on Saturday night. Dub music is instrumental reggae with a psychedelic twist. It's the perfect music to kick back and smoke a joint to.

The Brooklyn-based Dub Trio are led by guitarist D.P. Holmes, who's really quite the musical magician. He spent a good part of the show kneeling over and conjuring special effects out his electrical bag of tricks. He's part guitarist, mixmaster and alchemist. Mostly, Holmes plays in a familar dub style - that is, he strums chords that echo and reverb. Behind him, drummer Joe Tomino provides challenging polyrhythmic beats. He's a show unto himself. The third member, bassist Stu Brooks throbs away but he's kind of an afterthought, no matter how essential he is to the group.

Several times, Holmes broke into bracing metallic dirges, and even once evoked Hendrix, but mostly he shadow-danced with reggae confidence. The only vocals were prerecorded comments that worked as segues between songs, if you want to call them that.

Despite the early hour - the set started at 8:30 and ran 45 minutes - a decent crowd turned out. Not bad for Saturday night in New York.

Dub Trio just finished a tour with Gogol Bordello. Their next three shows in New York are:

April 21 @ Southpaw (Brooklyn)
April 27 @ Piano's
May 23 @ Piano's

I recommend seeing them and also purchasing their newest cd New Heavy, which features Mike Patton (Faith No More) on one track. For more on Dub Trio: CLICK HERE


Brewers end Mets streak

Every good streak has to come to an end, and so did the Mets' 7-gamer today at the hands of the fairly-formidable Brewers. In losing only their second game of the season (8-2, both the score and the Mets' record), it was a combination of shaky starting and relief pitching and general lack of hitting that did them in. Steve Trachsel (1-1) reverted to his usual hittable self, allowing 4 runs in 5 innings. But it was bullpen stiff Jorge Julio who let the Brews break the game open with a 3-run 8th. Milwaukee starter Tomo Okha (1-1) stalled the Mets' offensive machine; both of their runs came on sac flies.

Tomorrow's rubber match will be the Mets' first real test of the season. Can they win the series as they head into the all-important confrontation with the Braves starting on Monday?

And my sports writer brother, Barry Bloom, cautions: "Don't get too hyped up on the Mets yet. Good opening against Florida and the Nationals. Let's see what happens when they get to the West Coast in a week."

Next game: Sunday, April 16 @ Shea, 1:10 pm start on Ch. 11 & WFAN, Brian Bannister (1-0) vs. Ben Sheets (0-0)

For more on the Mets: CLICK HERE


What they're saying about Blooming Ideas

" Blooming Ideas, bong Hits and coffee - the breakfast of champions!"
- Stumpy, Drummer, Herbal Nation

"I've become a regular visitor. Great blog and better short-form Mets info that I'm getting when I have to wait for my darned machine to download the Daily News. Congrats."
- Peter Gorman, Former Editor-in-Chief, High Times

"I've been reading through your blog everyday. Love your mixture of sports and music."
- Barry Bloom, National Reporter, (my big brother!)

"Pretty good job."
- David Peel, Lower East Side Legend

"Can't say that I haunt a lot of blogs, but I've enjoyed what I've read so far."
- Tom Doerr, Director, Special Markets, Sony BMG Custom Marketing Group

"Your blog looks great - congrats!"
- Dawnja Burris, Associate Chair, Department of Media Studies and Film, The New School

"Any blog that has David Wright, Ron Blake and Sour Diesel is cool with me!"
- Michael O'Keeffe, Sports Writer, New York Daily News

"Congrats on the blog! Looks good!"
- Douglas Greene, New York Drug Reform

"I'll be reading every day!"
- Stumpy, Drummer, Herbal Nation


June Pointer R.I.P.

Lost in the news of the week was the death of Pointer Sister, June, on Wednesday. She was the voice of many of the group's hits, including "He's So Shy" (#3, 1980) and "Jump (For My Love)" (#3, 1984).

The youngest of the four Pointer Sisters (Ruth, Anita, Bonnie and June) was born in Oakland 52 years ago. Originally managed by Bill Graham and signed to Atlantic Records by Jerry Wexler, the Pointers' 12-year run of chart-toppers began with Allen Toussaint's "Yes We Can Can" and and a sassy version of Wille Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle" in 1973. They went though a number of labels (Blue Thumb. Planet, RCA), and always had a knack for commercial success. From "Fire" (#2, 1978) to "Slow Hand" (#2, 1981) to "I'm So Excited" (#30, 1982) to their penultimate run of hits in 1984 ("Automatic," "Jump," "I'm So Excited" and "Neutron Dance"), the Pointer Sisters were a R&B/pop force to be reckoned with. Girl groups like En Vogue and Destiny's Child that followed owed them a debt of gratitude for "pointing" the way. It's a shame they've never been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

June Pointer was the troubled younger sister. She had several nervous breakdowns in the '70s and suffered lifelong drug and alcohol problems. "At one point, her behavior became so unstable that her sisters asked her to leave the group," the San Jose Mercury News reported. "She would later say that drugs had been a part of her life since she was 13 and that her substances of choice included alcohol and Valium... By 2000, Ms. Pointer's behavior had become increasingly erratic, fueled by crack cocaine and Xanax. She eventually entered a rehabilitation program. At the time, she told People magazine that her 'soul was broke,' and that she was tired of 'trying to hide my pain,' a reference to 30 years of addictions." In 2004, she was busted for cocaine and paraphernalia possession.

"At 15 years of age, June dropped out of Castlemont High School in Oakland to form the duo Pointers-A Pair with her sister Bonnie, performing in Bay Area clubs," the San Francisco Chronicle reported. "At about that time, she was raped in an East Oakland neighborhood, became pregnant, and had an abortion, according to [her brother] Fritz Pointer, sparking what would become a lifelong struggle with drug addiction for Ms. Pointer."

June's solo career include 2 albums, Baby Sister and the eponymous June Pointer. She was also featured in a Playboy pictorial.

In an effort to resurrect her career, June moved in with sister Bonnie in Los Angeles, who she last performed with at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas in December. But June suffered a stroke in February and was subsequently diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, liver and lungs.

"Ms. Pointer's high-pitched vocals brought vibrance to the group's songs, and her youthful enthusiasm added life to their performances," the Chronicle added. "Even off stage, Ms. Pointer was the energy of her family, her brother said, playing practical jokes and enlivening family celebrations with flamboyant costumes - Halloween was her favorite occasion - and expensive gifts.

"'It was nothing for her to hand someone $100 or $150,' Fritz Pointer said. 'I don't think money meant anything to her. It was more what she could do with it for other people.'"

For more on the Pointer Sisters: CLICK HERE


Mets' lucky number seven

After a 90-minute rain delay at Shea Stadium last night, the Mets and Brewers got going on a soggy field. Veteran starter Tom Glavine was sharp, striking out 11 batters over 6 innings. Xavier Nady provided an early lead with his second HR of the season. Carlos Delgado drove in 2 runs, the second on a force play with the bases loaded in the 5th. After Glavine departed, the Brewers tagged Aaron Heilman for 2 runs in the 7th, setting the stage for Billy Wagner's save opportunity in the 9th. When he struck out Brewers' slugger Carlos Lee for the final out, the Mets had their 7th win (4-3) in a row. With an 8-1 record, they've equaled their best-ever start dating back to 1985. The magic is back at Shea Stadium.

Next game: Saturday, April 15 @ Shea, 1:10 pm start on SNY & WFAN, Steve Trachsel (1-0) vs. Tomo Okha (0-1)

For more on the Mets: CLICK HERE

* In Minnesota, the Yankees lost 5-1 to the Twins; Mike Mussina took the loss; this, combined with the Red Sox's victory over the Mariners, left the Yanks (5-5) 2 games out of first place.
* In Atlanta, the Braves edged the Padres 5-4; they remain 3.5 games behind the Mets.
* Barry Bonds has "10 to 12 bone chips floating" in his left elbow, which he revealed is swollen "almost twice the size" of his other elbow. "I'm going to keep playing until it blows up," Bonds said in an exclusive interview with "If I have to have a procedure, then I'm done. Finished. That would be it." To read my brother Barry Bloom's story: CLICK HERE

Friday, April 14, 2006


Black Crowes controversy

When the FishbowlNY story broke today (see "FishbowlNY picks up Black Crowes story" below), I sent it to more than 80 music-industry publicists, asking for responses. These are the first responses I've received:

Hey Steve,
I can understand being pissed about a "no comp" policy, but you shouldn't blame MSO. I don't know the details as to why that policy is intact, but you can't blame the publicist. We, the flacks, are at the bottom of the totem pole most of the time. I can't tell you how many sticky situations I've been in with the press within the last 11 years of doing publicity. It's like the adage: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Like I said, I don't know all of the details, but I do know that sometimes you shouldn't shoot the messenger.

Hope that my opinion does not piss you off, but I felt compelled to offer you a small insight to the thankless and difficult world of publicity.
Jonathan Wolfson
Wolfson Public Relations

My reply to the above comment:
If you read my original post ("Black Crowes media black-out"), you'll see that I just quote MS0. I'm pissed at the policy, not the middle man - MSO, in this case. Though to be honest I don't know why MSO agrees to enforcing such a policy. It puts them in an untenable situation. My main goal is get a dialogue going about this, which apparently I have. It would be nice if they relented and gave me a ticket, but I don't expect that to happen.

Hey Steve,
Would they let you purchase a courtesy ticket? Usually the bands I really want to see allow me the industry courtesy of buying them. Some bands give comps and some don't. If you really want to go, just buy a ticket like the rest of us music-loving concert goers.
Renee Pfefer
On Tour PR

I know from experience that this is always the management's decision...and as publicists, we have to take their lead and don't
usually have any say in the matter. I'm always skeptical of the reasoning behind the decision. I think it has less to do with
"connecting directly with the fans" and more to do with concerns about the artist's performance or fear of criticism. I think Creed had this policy, too. I also suspect that, like Creed, the Black Crowes probably don't have to worry about selling concert tickets.
Carise Yatter
Razor & Tie Records

Hey Steve,
This is really odd to me. My policy has always been that if someone is covering a show for a specific assignment they get in! Maybe the Black Crowes just don't want press anymore. Then why have a publicist?
Ever Kipp
Barsuk Records

Fuck them.
(Name withheld to protect this extremely blunt publicist)

Jason Roth
Capitol Records

I can't believe those losers.
Anonymous music journalist

I'd never deny you any request ever! It's like mileage plus - you've been a supporter of music and musicians for all of your life. And no matter if you were writing or not, in my world you're rock-journalist royalty!
Jenn Gross
Evolutionary Media Group

Hey Steve,
Sorry to hear about the Black Crowes drama. Since I'm now working as a concert-promoter publicist, we have numerous no-comp shows. If it's a no-comp show, the label does tend to do a buy even if it's minimal. So I don't understand why they're not hooking you up.
Anonymous music-industy publicist

You've gotta understand that "comp" tickets are complimentary to you, but they're not free. The record label, or the artist, pays for them. In most cases, it's an expense gladly incurred in the interest of promoting the artist - either the recipient is reviewing the show, or writing about the band, or the artist + publicist HOPE they're write about the band, or they're taking care of people who already HAVE written about the band, whatever.

But do the Black Crowes need any of this? If they don't like doing interviews, and don't really need to do interviews, why bother? If they don't especially want their shows reviewed, why pay to have journalists there? They don't need to incur the expense, so they don't. Can't really argue with that. And if the motivation is that they want every single ticket for this relatively small-venue show to go to fans (or, in marketing terms, consumers), then I actually applaud that; not enough people in this business remember that that's the most important relationship of all.

I know it's the convention for journalists to be taken care of, and obviously, that's a good thing for all parties involved. But it's a business convention, not an inalienable right. If it's not in the business interest of the Black Crowes to enter into that transaction, why would they do so anyway?

I don't doubt that they're appreciative for your years of support and positive coverage. But [MSO's] Lathum [Nelson] is right - it would cause problems for them if they made an exception for you, with other journalists who didn't get the same courtesy. So they stay off the slippery slope by making the policy universal and inflexible.

That said, I understand your frustration (both professionally and as a fan), and there are always options. Does the opening act have comps available? Or, if tix are still available, buy 'em (or see if MSO can help you do so if it's sold out); if you can't bill it back to the magazine, it's at least a tax write-off...
Anonymous music-industry publicist

My reply to the above comment:
Points all well taken. But still that leaves the press at the mercy of the artist or label or venue to get "comped." There's another model you're forgetting. Sport events. Press boxes. The idea of a working press. That's not the case with the music press and it's always irked me. Essentially, we have no rights. So a pissy band can take it out on the media. To me this is unacceptable and stands in the way of the free distribution of information. It's a form of censorship.

Telling music press to go buy you own ticket is the same as telling a sportswriter to go sit in the grandstand with beer-swilling yahoos. This system is not progressive and I'm surprised you don't see that, especialy for an industry that should be ahead of the curve but instead sadly is way behind it.

Yes, I've purchased tix in the past and billed them to the company. That's a last-ditch solution at best, which btw I will attempt to do tomorrow night outside Town Hall. (Though I should simply boycott the stupid show.) Should it really have to come to this? I'd like to know how many press requests MSO received for these shows - 5? 10? Honestly, what do you think?


FishbowlNY picks up Black Crowes story

Today's FishbowlNY website, which is part of, offers their take on yesterday's post, "Black Crowes' media black-out." Once you go to the page, scroll down. It's the third story: CLICK HERE


Mets clobber Nats; sweep series

The Mets rolled to their sixth straight victory in Washington, DC yesterday afternoon. Their "murderer's row" lit up Nats' ace Livan Hernandez with 4 HRs in the first 3 innings. David Wright and Cliff Floyd went back-to-back in the 1st, spotting Mets starter Victor Zambrano to a 4-run lead.

At 7-1, the Mets are one game shy of tying their record for best beginning of a season. They have the chance to do that tonight at home against the Brewers (6-3).

Omar Minaya is certainly looking like a genius. He inherited Wright and Jose Reyes when he took over GM responsibilities two winters ago. Floyd, Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel were also on the roster. Given a huge checkbook, he's signed free agents Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Billy Wagner and Paul Lo Duca, traded for Carlos Delgado, Xavier Nady and Duaner Sanchez, and promoted Victor Diaz, Anderson Hernandez and Brian Bannister from the minors. So far, he's made very few mistakes.

Hernandez, who in the past had dominated the Mets, was mistake-prone from the third batter on. Beltran crushed a fat pitch into RFK's upper deck, and one batter later Wright did the same. Wright added three more hits to his team-leading total (15). He's not only on an offensive tear, but is playing a perfect 3B. Right now the Mets can do little wrong.

Zambrano lasted only 5 innings, allowing 3 runs and walking 4 batters. Lefty Darren Oliver mopped up for two innings and Jorge Julio (perhaps Minaya's one misjudgment during the off-season; he was exchanged for Kris Benson) allowed a Nick Johnson HR. (Johnson's looking more and more like Todd Helton.)

Little-used Chris Woodward (filling in for Hernandez at 2nd) drove in three runs in the later innings as the Mets piled on the hapless Nats (2-7).

STATS: Wright (.469) and Delgado (.394) lead the team in BA; Wright's tied for 3rd-best BA in MLB; Beltran has 9 RBI and 8 walks; despite his stellar start, Delgado's struck out 9 times.

Next game: Friday, April 14 @ Shea, 7:10 pm start on SNY & WFAN, Tom Glavine (1-0) vs. Chris Capuano (1-1)

For more on the Mets: CLICK HERE

* Behind Randy Johnson, the Yankees (5-4) beat the Royals, 9-3, sweeping the series; Gary Sheffield, Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi homered; they begin a 3-game series in Minnesota tonight with Mike Mussina (1-0) on the mound. Meanwhile, the Red Sox (6-5) lost to the Blue Jays (5-4), cutting their lead to 1 game over the Yanks and the Blue Jays.
* The Phillies (2-6) knocked off the Braves (4-5) for the second game in a row, leaving the Braves 3 games behind the Mets.
* Giants' Moises Alou reached the 300-HR milestone against the Astros in SF; still homer-less for the season, Barry Bonds remains stuck on 708. To read the game story my my brother Barry: CLICK HERE


Hoobastank @ Hard Rock Cafe

"The reason" for Hoobastank's relatively-intimate club gig in the heart of New York's Times Square on Thursday was to hype the May 16 release of the band's third album Every Man for Himself. The LA-based quartet broke onto the rock scene in 2002 around the same time as other post-grunge bands like Nickelback, Incubus and Puddle of Mudd. Hard, but melodic and tuneful, they followed their eponymous debut two years later with The Reason, which featured the title-track hit single that would earn them a Grammy nomination.

At the Hard Rock, Hoobastank came out smoking with a pair of songs from each of their first two albums ("Pieces," "Out of Control," "Escape," "Running Away"). They gradually mixed in new material. The hour-long set predictably peaked during a singalong of "The Reason." With emo the current fad, it would seem Hoobastank's time has passed. But the band's power-pop sensibility and Doug Robb's elastic vocals should ensure longevity.

For more on Hoobastank: CLICK HERE

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Check out my reviews in the new issue of The L Magazine

My new favorite magazine is New York's bi-weekly arts & entertainment guide The L Magazine. The main reason is they're publishing my film reviews. The other reason is that this Playbill-sized, 114-paged gazette is cool as shit. The current editon is dubbed "The International Issue." It profiles 8 ethnic groups in New York - from Albanians to Trinidadians - as well as Brazilian music sensation Seu Jorge. Then, of course, there are my reviews. (Did I say that already?) Check them out:

Mountain Patrol: Kekexili
Directed by Chuan Lu
Duobujie, Zhang Lei

High in the Tibetan tundra, antelopes are dying by the thousands. Only a spirited group of men, known as the Mountain Patrol, challenge poachers who seek the extremely valuable coats, which are made into shawls and scarves and sold for up to $10,000 each. Kekexili is the region where the action takes place in this brilliant feature. Snow, windstorms, quicksand and hunger are just a few of the obstacles the patrol faces as they pursue their human prey. LLLLL

Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School
Directed by Randall Miler
Maria Tomei, Robert Carlisle

A dance class reinvigorates a widowed baker. While the present-day story is overly sentimental, flashbacks to 1962 are the film’s strength. That, and Mary Steenburgen as Marienne Hotchkiss, the daughter of the dance doyenne, who’s delightful and looks lovely in a variety of ballroom dresses. LL

Pick up free copies in the bright-orange plastic receptacles on street corners all over town. Take several and give them to your friends! For The L Magazine online: CLICK HERE


Black Crowes' media black-out

I'm a long-time fan and supporter of the Black Crowes. I wrote the High Times cover story about the band in the July '92 issue and a feature interview with frontman Chris Robinson in the Dec. '93 issue. The Crowes were named High Times band of the year in 2001. I've met Robinson on numerous occasions - twice with his lovely actress/wife Kate Hudson. He's always been friendly to me and High Times.

That said, I'm perplexed about the Black Crowes' ticket policy regarding press requests for reviewing purposes. Standard-operating procedure in the music business is for media outlets to make their ticket requests to band publicists, either at record labels or independent PR companies. These requests are considered and tickets are provided. Not every request is granted. Decisions are based on the number of tickets made available and the outlet making the request. It's a highly subjective practice, but generally works. In my case, I usually receive tickets I request. Recently, I was turned down by the Rolling Stones and U2.

This week I was turned down by the Black Crowes as well. Chris Robinson and his band co-founder, guitarist Rich, are playing three acoustic shows in New York, dubbed "Brothers of a Feather," starting tonight. (The ad for the concerts, by the way, is decorated with pot leaves.) I requested a ticket for tomorrow night's show at the Rose Theater. I also asked for an interview with the brothers in behalf of Relix magazine, who assigned me to write a cover story about them. On Tuesday, I received the following email from Lathum Nelson, who works at Mitch Schneider Organization (MSO), the Crowes' LA-based PR agency:

"Please note that management is not arranging any press interviews for the band. At the same time, this is a no-comp tour, so we don't have a press list."

I wasn't happy on both counts. The Crowes have a right to decide who to and when they want to grant interviews. However, I disagree vehemently with their "no-comp" policy ("comp" for complimentary). I followed up with Nelson and his associate Todd Brodginski, who replied:

"We understand your concerns and appreciate your candor. However, this has nothing to do with MSO or our other bands, this is a policy established by management for the Black Crowes two years ago, and they have again reiterated that they can not make exceptions, and are sticking to this policy on all requests. If you want to discuss further with management, I can set you up on the phone with Pete Angelus."

Angleus is the band's long-time manager. Fact is, Angelus instituted this unusual policy more than a decade ago. I contacted New York Daily News pop-music critic Jim Farber for his opinion on this matter. Farber emailed back:

"I can confirm that the Black Crowes do not give press tickets. It works out for us, because we're sick of covering them anyway."

I decided to give Farber a call. He laughed about being responsible for the Crowes' press ticket ban because "I've written nasty things about them. I hope I didn't spoil it for everybody."

Angelus is notoriously sensitive to negative coverage. Once, when I gave the Crowes' 1996 album Three Snakes and a Charm a lukewarm review, he had Mitch Schneider call and grill me about it. That's the only time I every received a call from a publicist questioning my coverage.

"They hate the press," Farber adds. "I can't think of another band who does this [doesn't provide press tickets]. They enjoy connecting directly with the fans. They don't want anybody in between. It gives them a mystique."

I have yet to hear from Angelus. I'm still waiting for my ticket so I can cover the Robinson Brothers show for Blooming Ideas.

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