I was excited to see The Warlocks for the first time. Attendees of Wednesday’s show at The Bootleg Theater in L.A. were treated to a stacked lineup of opening acts in both rooms of the venue. It was a well crafted build up to a band that helped define the modern day psych genre.
I walked into the venue to the sounds of Gun/Her. Gun/Her are a two piece band from Los Angeles. The simple but tight bass playing of front woman Xe serves to accentuate the raw and soulful sounds that emit from her esophagus. The musical arrangements are a potpourri of post punk and blues goodness while Xe’s vocals summon the ghost of Janis Joplin. It’s a killer mix. I made a visit to the main room to check out Dream Boys who have a big, surf/indie sound like a polished sonic diamond. I opted to go back to the muck and rawness of Gun/Her before they vacated the stage for the glamorous, Blood Candy. I couldn’t really tell if Blood Candy was any good because lead guitarist Cliff was turned up way too loud. I heard the potential in there somewhere and I almost walked up to Cliff’s amp to turn it down but I decided to leave and check out Stardeath and White Dwarf in the main room instead.
Stardeath and White Dwarfs made a lasting impression. They list their genre as “freak rock” on their Facebook page but they are one of the rare bands that can make credible, modern day dance music with traditional instruments. Matt Duckworth and Casey Joseph are a locked in rhythm section which serves as the foundation for the bands successful sound. They remind me a bit of a band that was a staple on the East Side of LA in the early part of the century called “Dance Disaster Movement”. On the last song, Stardeath and White Dwarfs brought up members of Hott MT to assist on a glorious Stone Roses cover of “I wanna be adored”. Dennis Coyne, Stardeath’s lead singer and nephew of Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne did the song justice and made it his own at the same time- a difficult achievement. I’m not sure if anyone else knew the song they were playing but it’s one of my favorite songs of all time and Coyne acknowledged my enthusiastic response with a wink and head nod.
Finally, The Warlocks took to the stage to tune up and dive into their set. I removed my pipe and weed from my pocket, loaded it up and took a pull. Seconds later, a Bootleg security guard who said his name was “Slink” rushed me and told me I had to leave the venue immediately. I offered alternatives to vacating the premises like putting my paraphernalia back into my pocket, throwing my pipe and weed over the wall or taking my stash back to my car. None of those options were accepted and Slink shadowed me until I was outside the club where I witnessed a man leaving the venue, stumbling across the street to his car in a drunken stupor. His state of highly impaired consciousness was totally acceptable while I was being ejected from the club for mine.
This write up was supposed to be about The Warlocks. Now it’s going to be about why this lingering stigma still surrounds pot smokers. Even personally, I have no problem drinking a beer in front of my son but yet I still lurk in the shadows and creep out to the garage when I want burn some weed. Why? We have been programmed since birth that alcohol is not only acceptable but even godly and biblical while echoes of old government propaganda around marijuana being a gateway drug still resonate in the basic fabric of our society. Just me taking the time to write about this will be viewed as immature and even brand me as someone not to be taken seriously. Many might think that me getting ejected for smoking pot in a rock and roll venue before a band that carry the label “psychedelic” is a logical conclusion, no matter how clearly ironic all the numbers in this equation are. Meanwhile, as I hopped in my car and drove home, the drunks and the junkies were able to stay and watch The Warlocks. Amazing that shooting dope in a bathroom is more acceptable than smoking pot in public. What decade are we in?
Don’t get me wrong; the stigma of stoners isn’t completely unwarranted. Much like the logical conclusions of the effects of heavy drinking, too much of anything can be harmful. If you’re a drug abuser, you’re a drug abuser and there are clear cut physical and psychological damages that occur as a result of abuse. But why in society do we laugh and even celebrate the hangover or a wild night of drinking while pot smokers are ridiculed by those who don’t partake? We are treated by some as people who are not to be taken seriously.
I believe that pot, more than any other mind altering substance, affects people differently. For those it doesn’t agree with it causes a paranoia and anxiety that is unbearable and it’s human nature to assume that is what smoking weed makes everyone feel like. For myself, weed makes me more productive, creative and creates different perceptions which are highly useful to problem solving and relationships. People who don’t experience this effect are skeptical.
I don’t promote or encourage smoking dope but I will advocate the right to do so until the day I die. Even through a time period of almost 8 years on a break from smoking weed, I continued to scratch my head at people being jailed or ostracized when partaking in the sweet leaf. I’ve gone through the steps of becoming a legal weed smoker in California and the fact that I can be ejected from a venue for smoking weed, while people are drinking themselves into a blackout is one of the most ironic positions of the morally corrupt culture we live in.
Pot doesn’t lead to heroin. Breast feeding leads to heroin. If you are pre disposed to addiction or trying to escape some sort of life trauma then self medicating is a danger to you. It’s not the substance that causes dependency. It is abusing a substance and not everyone who smokes pot is a wake and bake or even a daytime stoner. That’s not to say that those people aren’t able to function in society less than say, someone who has a drink at their lunch meetings.
All these obvious justifications aside, it should be common sense that anywhere that people are allowed to drink, people should also be able to toke. Enough already. I am furious that I am encouraged to drink at a bar but can be kicked out of it for smoking weed. Please comment on this post or share it to extend this conversation.
Words: Danny Baraz
Photos: Taylor Wong