by Maggie Jay
Watching summer leave and autumn arrive is such a great sight. Enjoying the foliage while smoking some foliage of your own is an incredible experience. There are places all over the U.S. that boast stunning fall colors, making for the perfect smoke sesh scene.
I’ll admit, I spark up anytime I feel inspired in nature, but I must point out that it is still illegal to consume cannabis on public land and even more illegal to do so on federal land. Maybe edibles are best for these places.
Here are some of the most beautiful places to enjoy fall in a few of the adult-use states here in the U.S.
View from Sheep Hill to Mt. Greylock Williamstown Massachusetts Photo by Len Radin
Sheep Hill. Williamstown, Massachusetts
Dairy farm, sheep farm, private ski area. Sheep Hill has been an array of things. Today, Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation runs and maintains Sheep Hill. The foundation has opened Sheep Hill, and many of its buildings, to the public. It sits on 50 acres of land and is open year-round. From atop the hill, you get an awe-inspiring view of the Greylock Range. Enjoy the variety of color Massachusetts has to offer in the fall. And, since this is not federally owned land, seshing here should be pretty safe. The land is open daily from dawn until dusk, and is available for hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, bird watching and more. On your way out, be sure to visit the nearby town of North Adams, named number one most stoned town in Massachusetts by roadsnacks.net. (Address: 671 Cold Spring Road Williamstown, MA 01267)
Table Rock at Grafton Notch State Park, Maine
Grafton Notch State Park. Bethel, Maine
Maine is famous for its fall foliage. There’s even an official website dedicated to the yearly wonder. This northeastern state legalized recreational marijuana last year, so this will be the first autumn of legal weed. Celebrate it at Grafton Notch State Park, listed on Travel and Leisure as one of the top places to see fall foliage in Maine. Frolic through over 3,000 acres of public land while taking in the array of color. Hiking trails are abundant and vary in difficulty. There are even some backcountry trails on the land. Being a state park means that the most you’ll be facing if caught smoking here would be a fine. Since there is so much space at this park, there are plenty of places to be alone. Just be aware of your surroundings when firing up. Look for cannabis friendly lodging and great restaurants up the road in Bethel.
Trees on South Falls, Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
The Showcase Trail at Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
The West Coast doesn’t fall short on the jaw-dropping colors. Just inland of the Oregon coast, much of the state is deciduous forest. The Showcase Trail, inside Silver Falls State Park, is a great intermediate hike. You may even be able to sneak in an autumn sesh on this over eight-mile trail. Throughout the hike you will view 10 waterfalls, some over 100 feet tall. Enjoy the changing leaves of the vine maple and red alder as you puff on some dank during this challenging hike.
Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Arnold, California
Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Arnold, California
Delight in the pinks, yellows and oranges floating against the backdrop of the blue sky while strolling through the cool autumn air in Northern California. Boasting trees over 33 feet in diameter, this is a must-see if you are visiting the NorCal area. For one of the best scenic hikes, take the Lava Bluffs Trail. Sesh to a stunning view of the North Fork of the river. Before heading to the car, be sure to visit the Pioneer Cabin tree. It’s big enough for you and a few friends to walk through together. What a trip!
There’s fall color in every state. Take a day and explore yours! Maybe you’ll find your new favorite sesh spot.
by Evan Hundhausen
The Arise Music Festival is in its fifth year. Held at the Sunrise Ranch conference and retreat center at the base of foothills in Loveland, Arise is an independent three-day music, yoga and co-creative camping festival featuring activism, musical artists, provocative films, dynamic speakers, art installations, yoga classes, workshops, performance art, and even an art gallery.
Solutions Village Tee-Pees set up near camping area.
I arrived on a Friday in an attempt to avoid the Thursday night (The Early Camping Upgrade) downpour. I played around with the poles on my $34.99 Walmart dome tent before realizing this might just be a two-man job. Since I showed up by myself, meeting a friend later, I asked a neighbor if he could help me. He was nice enough to give me a hand and we got my tent upright when the worst rainstorm all weekend started.
“You’ll need to weigh it down,” said Rick, the nice man who helped me set up my tent, so I instinctively laid down inside of it with my arms and legs spread like “The Vitruvian Man” as the storm raged outside. A tent behind mine was flung into a ditch as the wind whipped.
After that experience, I was ready to check out what Arise was all about. It was my first time and I was way f-ing curious!
The NoCo Hemp Village
This year you could visit the NoCo Hemp Village sponsored by the NoCo Hemp Expo.
The village included hemp companies like, Colorado Hemp Company, Tree Free Hemp, EnerHealth, Pure Hemp Botanicals, H.O.P.E. Manufacturing, Nature’s Root, Straight Hemp, The Anti-Soap, Left Hand Hemp, and Freida Farms.
Zane Kunau from Freida Farms was there selling gear, like a grinder made from hemp and his CBD salves, oils, and isolates.
I asked Zane how he handled the rainstorm on Friday, which dampened the festival just a bit.
“The rain storm came in like a thunder of stallions,” he said. “Almost took our tents away. We had to step on all our tents. Then the lightning started. They told us we had to go to our cars. We had to pack up and go. It was havoc and as quick as it came, it went. Thirty minutes later we were back out. Looked like a tornado hit our stuff though, for real! Our stuff was just all over.”
Willow tree art installation
The art of Android Jones and Phil Lewis were highlighted at the festival’s official entrance. Two intimidating, colorful towers covered in their art stood outside the main camping and parking area. Android Jones had some of his digital art videos playing.
Inside the festival there were tents with crafts, art prints and fashionable clothing to check out. Some featured $100 tapestries of original art, which was one of the hipper items I saw for sale.
Vincent Gordon and his tent caught my eye. A local “Pop” artist, his work is reminiscent of famous television cartoons with grotesque imagery, similar to that of artist R. Crumb.
There were a few great exhibits that can only be seen to be believed, such as a giant tree with stringy fabric falling from the top creating a sort of maze for attendees to walk through.
Many artists were out on the grass painting murals and on canvases with their easels. They painted through the night, inspired by the musical acts. This was a really interesting part of the festival and way fun to observe.
There was also a large “art gallery” with prints and paintings for sale, creating a fun museum to walk through.
Beats Antique, Lettuce, Atmosphere and Ani DiFranco were just some of the highlights of this year’s musical acts. Performances started around noon and ended at 2 a.m. so you could get some rest for the next day.
Brasstracks was a personal highlight — a funky act made up of Ivan Jackson and Conor Rayne. Ivan mixed electronic music on a laptop and played trumpet while Conor played live on a drum set.
Dirtwire was another performance I enjoyed. Described as a “rebirth of Americana music,” the band uses traditional instruments, world percussion and electronic beats, as well as more eclectic instruments like the thumb piano, mouth harp, and the saz.
Tipper played on the Main Stage Saturday night, accompanied by the digital videos of Android Jones. Otherwise, you could be dazzled by fire dancers.
Radio DJ Buddha Bomb, who you can hear regularly on KGNU 88.5 FM, played at all five Arise Music Festivals over the years, and about this year’s Arise he said, “It was the most scintillating and the most grounded Arise festival yet.”
The StarWater Stage
The StarWater Stage and tent was one of the best places to go during the deluge. It was an extravagant setup with a cozy cafe/coffee shop offering coffee, mate tea and other drinks, as well as a large music stage with constant musical acts and performances next door. During the first night I got some broth in a packet with hot water and drank it in a paper coffee cup. It was a great thing to have on the cold and rainy first night.
For the kids
The Rainbow Lightning Children’s Village entertained kids all day long with music and kid friendly entertainment.
Taylor Martin had a vision and saw a need for a children’s village at festivals like Arise.
Rob Treaphort, Taylor’s boyfriend and partner, does the technical side at Rainbow Lightning, setting up big speakers and a stage where all kinds of musical acts perform strictly to entertain the kids. Rob is also a conscious DJ and producer, and played at the StarWater Stage Tent during the weekend.
“Parents were getting all fucked up and losing their kids and there was no place for any of the kids to go,” Rob explained to me. “We’re here as a place for parents to interact with their kids in a festival type setting.”
In the future, the Rainbow Lightening Children’s Village will also be at the Shamanic Boom in Wyoming, the Jumpsuit Family Gathering and Unify Fest in New Mexico.
Hemptealicious set up in the NoCo Hemp Village
The biggest and most popular tent by far was the Yoga Sanctuary. Every day you could see the crowd that formed up on the hill from the farthest reaches of the Arise camps.
Hundreds of people crowded the tent, all performing yoga poses led by world-renowned yoga instructors.
One of the most interesting exercises was a laughing exercise in which participants lay down resting their head on someone else’s belly. When you feel the other person laughing, their twitching stomach muscles — let’s just say it was contagious!
Throughout the festival, world thought leaders, artists and activists discussed a wide range of topics in the Big Sunrise Dome, which is Sunrise Ranch’s spacious, air-conditioned, dome theater. The dome also featured music, storytelling sessions and film
The food trucks at Arise were extra special, providing all sorts of dishes from vegan dishes to Greek gyros to fried raviolis. There was nothing better than getting a New York style pizza slice with pepperoni at 2 a.m. I bought a homemade organic lemon, lavender and ginger popsicle. Try to imagine a refreshing ice cold dessert like that in your mouth on a hot day at Arise.
Mural by Artist @mpek36
Finding your friends
On Saturday I caught up with friend and artist Sofia Bogdanovich. She camped near the RV site and we met her nice neighbors from Omaha who let us sit under their awning as it started to rain.
Under the awning we pulled out her canvases and started collaborating on a painting. When the rain finally cleared up there was a double rainbow across the cliffs of Sunrise Ranch.
The smell of patchouli and porta-potties
It seemed like every time I had to “go,” a truck drove up and started cleaning the portable bathrooms. They did a thorough job sanitizing them and getting rid of any foul smells.
There was also a shower area where you could pay for a shower like you were at a bathhouse. For VIPs, there was a private shower, which was next to a small sauna, hot tub and a freezing swimming pool that was perfect for cooling off during the hot days or between rainstorms.
If you go next year
It’s easy to get sore walking around Arise, so make sure you’re prepared for some meandering. Make sure you’re prepared for temperamental Colorado weather, and be prepared to share the festival with revelers of all ages.
There are a lot of couples getting romantic, no doubt, but there are lots of single people, and you should not shy away from the festival because you don’t have a date. People are friendly when you talk to them and you can have plenty of fun there.
Thievery Corporation has been announced as next year’s headliners, so remember to buy your tickets early, plus early birds will get them on the cheap. ♦
To learn all about the Arise Music Festival, check out arisefestival.com.
by Matthew Van Deventer, photo by Samuel Farley
The organizer for the Annual Denver 4/20 Rally largely blames big business and big government for prohibiting him from getting a permit for the event for three years, for which he had priority status, and fining him nearly $12,000.
“They want an organization that’s going to be about big business and big government at the same time. And so we’re not prepared or willing to rub arms with the mayor, the governor, or president or anybody unless they’re willing to have a civil engagement about equality,” says Miguel Lopez. Lopez has organized the 4/20 rally for the past nine years, since before there was a permit for the event. The cannabis industry was built on grassroots efforts, he says, which has opened the door to big business that can still serve as a source of racial disparities.
The day after the Denver 4/20 Rally in 2017, clean-up crews found Civic Center Park, where the rally is held every year, completely trashed. Media outlets were showing pictures of garbage strewn across the park, like someone had come through and ripped open the bags, scattering the contents everywhere, which is what Lopez, claimed had happened overnight.
Lopez told us that the company supplying the trash cans had dropped them off late so a lot of garbage went on the ground, which made the detail clean-up the following day after it rained overnight much more challenging. However, that was just one of the reasons the city shut him down.
Rally crews do an initial clean the day of the event and then they go back starting the following morning. The organizer claims to have spent over $2.2 million on clean-up efforts over the past eight years. They’ve been cleaning up the park by utilizing contractors, volunteers and even some of the homeless people who frequent the park.
“It’s not the event being penalized it’s the permit holder. There’s the misunderstanding that everyone thinks there’s not going to be another 4/20 event, but that’s not the case.”
“It not only lifts their morale, but it also gives them a sense of responsibility of taking care of their park, because for some it’s home,” explains Lopez who also says they leave the park cleaner
than other events.
About a month after the rally, Mayor Michael Hancock decreed that there would be a full-scale review of the procedures and policies of park permits to make sure they were compliant with the city’s Public Event Policy and Park Rules and Regulations.
Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation, which issues park permits for events in Civic Center Park, stripped Lopez of his status. DPR in a statement said Lopez violated many policies attached to the permit like properly cleaning the park after the rally, noise ordinances, as well as safety and security protocols.
“We value our parks, especially Civic Center— it’s in the heart the of the city … there’s a lot of big events that are multi-day events that adhere to the policies set forth on the [permit]. So it’s not the event, it’s the permit holder, because we can’t discriminate against content of the event,” explains Cynthia Karvaski, a spokesperson for Denver Parks and Recreation. At least one local news outlets questioned DPR’s decisions; 9News asked them if they could get a permit for an orgy in the park.
Karvaski explains that they wouldn’t be able to issue a permit for an orgy, because that would be illegal. They could, however, issue a permit for something like a sex and orgy education event.
And then maybe they could get what they wanted, if laws weren’t enforced. Similarly, it is illegal to smoke weed in public and parks. It’s pretty well known that at the 4/20 rally a few people smoke cannabis. But there’s not enough resources to clamp down on it. So it happens.
Lopez has since filed for an appeal of the ruling. If it’s reversed, Lopez will be able to apply again in November.
Fear not, though, because if the ruling sticks, Karvaski says the event could still go on: “It’s not the event being penalized, it’s the permit holder. There’s the misunderstanding that everyone thinks there’s not going to be another 4/20 event, but that’s not the case.” ♦
photos and article by Samuel Farley
Calmbo x Alex Ubatuba Collab, photo by Samuel Farley
Light by JD Maplesden, photo by Samuel Farley
On July 18 in Denver, high-end food, glass art and music combined into one experience at Cho 77, a Southeast Asian restaurant in Denver. Put on by Purple Haze, the Cho-Case featured the culinary art of Chef Ryan Gorby alongside glass artists JD Maplesden, Alex Ubatuba and Calvin “Calmbo” Mickle, with music provided by Funkstatik. Featured artwork ranged from high-end pipes to light fixtures to a custom fumed glass sake set by JD Maplesden. A limited number of tickets were sold and the event remained small and lively, giving attendees a new way to experience music, food and glass artwork in the same setting. Emmanuel Doshi, the general manager of Purple Haze, relayed the motivation behind creating The Cho-case. “This event is really cool because we are collaborating with Cho 77 and creating something new,” said Doshi. “These artists are amazing. Not only can they create pipes, but they can also create other artwork that people would love to hang in their homes and treasure forever.” ♦
photos and article by Samuel Farley
Carlos Ali of Ziggy’s Smoke Shop, photo by Samuel Farley
July Fourth is not only a celebration of American independence, but has also become time to celebrate some of the world’s best glass artists. This year marked the 3rd Annual Ziggy’s Classic, where 18 glass artists gathered at Classic 33 Studio in Huntington Beach, Calif. to create a collaboration epic in both size and detail. Brought together by Carlos Ali of Ziggy’s Smoke Shop, one of the best glass galleries in Southern California, and led by glass artist Adam Whobrey, better known as Hoobs Glass, the 18 artists collaborated in constructing a pirate ship that incorporated aspects of each of their individual styles. Construction began a week prior, with Hoobs and Hops Glass leading the efforts to construct the base frame of the giant pirate ship. The days following included a full studio with artists such as JOP, Rocko Glass, JD Maplesden, Nathan Miers and more, all adding different sections and characters to the mix. The final efforts were assembled in time for each artist to take a few dabs out of the epic collaboration prior to the crazy firework display by the beach at the day’s end. More artists will be involved next year as the collaboration and event continues to grow. ♦
Finished Ziggys Collab Ship, photo by Samuel Farley
by Amanda Pampuro
Love road trips? Try being on tour. After a few hours sleep in LA, the members of Morning Teleportation hightailed it to the next stop on their summer tour with Modest Mouse — Denver, Colorado. At dusk, hustlers outside the Fillmore on Colfax set the price on the last tickets to the sold out show as fans lined up around the block.
After sound check, Tiger Merritt sucked his cigarettes down to the filter, while keyboardist Travis Goodwin, drummer Joseph Jones, and bassist Tyler Osmond finalized the guest list. Security had just kicked out their old touring-buddy Brage, and Travis was trying to remember his real name.
“It’s Tony,” Tiger offered.
“Can’t we just put Tony Brage?”
After spending the last year in Isaac Brock’s Studio 360 in Portland, Oregon, the guys are stoked to be back on the road with “Salivating for Symbiosis,” a ten-track slice of the rock quad’s wide repertoire. With a sound that is as full as it is full of surprises, Morning Teleportation shifts from galactic, spacey orchestrations to the light whimsical sounds of a circus sideshow. Linked by the echo of electronica and Merritt’s metaphors, the album contains a wide spectrum of psychedelic-indy, beginning with the folksy picking of “Rise and Fall,” building up to the epic arena noise of “Rocks Gears Desert Trucking,” and settling back into the jazzy and melodic instrumental “A Cell Divides.”
Instead of saying “baby, don’t go,” on “Escalate,” Merritt calls out over a bubbly orchestra of echoing synthesizer and ghostly steel drum, “I don’t want you to evaporate.”
While some songs take as long to play as they do to write, Merritt and Goodwin estimate they have been writing “Escalate” for the last seven years.
“That idea had been floating around for a while. Every now and then we’d go back to it,” Merritt said. “The guitar part traveled a lot through the years and it wound up as a track; it’s kind of like whatever sticks in the brain like that and stays for a second, you revisit it. Some melodies will stay around for a little bit.”
“We had so many versions of that,” Goodwin reminisced. “We had this really cool version, that I remember was my favorite besides the record version: My dad’s old drum machine is called Ernie Yokomoto, and me and Tiger worked on it in my brother’s room one night. My dad used this analog drum machine probably for 25 years in the lounge sets that he does.”
Travis Goodwin’s brother Aaron also tours with the group. “He’s the fifth member of the band. The lights are his instrument,” said Travis.
Much of the time, when Merritt is writing music, he said he compiles together various sounds with memories. While he estimates three-quarters of the song writing process is done under the creative influence of cannabis, he doesn’t quite know which parts.
“Different sections of lyrics represent to me different moments of time, and each line kind of triggers a memory. So each section of a song triggers memories of something else. Some of those moments are stoned moments,” he said. “Sometimes smoking helps with focus, sometimes it doesn’t, but it just puts me in a better place.”
After the tour, Merritt will return to the studio he built in Franklin, Kentucky. A former rubber band factory, surrounded by cornfields, he calls the place “The Country.” In addition to Morning Teleportation, the studio is frequented by members of Cage the Elephant as well as Waylon Baxter and Buddy Ray.
Asked about where he wants to be, Merritt said without pause, “Right here’s good. Hanging with these guys, being on the road, getting to play music and putting on some great shows.” ♦
by Samuel Farley
Hoobs working on a pirate ship piece, photo by Samuel Farley
California has long been a hub for cannabis and music culture, and glass has become an integral aspect of West Coast culture over the past two decades. Adam Whobrey, better known as Hoobs Glass, is one of the world’s most well known glass artists. Growing up in Southern California, Hoobs was introduced to the cannabis scene around the age of 15 by way of his affinity for hip-hop and the Los Angeles music scene. Hoobs got into glass by collecting small pieces in the late 1990s when he was a teen. Some of his favorite pieces were made by artists such as Darby Holm, Scott Deppe, and Marcel Braun, who are still well known today.
After graduating high school, Hoobs got a job in a small smoke and skate shop in Torrence, California with a small torch setup in the back. He convinced his boss to let him mess around on the torch and make a few pipes for the store after getting a quick tutorial from the shop’s owner. “I remember the first time I ever tried it, I was on the torch for like eight hours straight and it felt like 10 minutes — the time flew by. I was hooked instantly,” says Hoobs. He ended up staying there for a couple more years and developed his set of skills through a process of trial and error. Hoobs would spend his free time at high-end glass shops trying to figure out how the intricate pieces on display were made. He would then return to the studio to try and replicate those pieces, and he began to learn new techniques.
Doing this, he was able to earn some money while honing his skills, but it wasn’t the stability he needed. Early in his career, around 2003, Hoobs found himself without a mentor or stable income, and considered quitting. Thankfully, a close friend stepped in to loan him $5,000 so he could buy his first torch and kiln, and create his own garage studio. That expression of confidence pushed Hoobs to keep going, propelling him into a blossoming career.
A few years later the glass scene exploded on social media. Hoobs and others like him went from knowing almost no one else making glass to befriending hundreds of other glass blowers. Hoobs says he was lucky to have grown up within cannabis culture in California because when glassblowing did start to gain social media presence, the California culture helped create a sense of normalcy.
“I feel like it’s always been legal, there was never a serious worry around cannabis,” he says. “Everyone smokes cannabis and as long as you weren’t making a big scene, cannabis has never been an issue. I remember in 1998, B-Real of Cypress Hill would hang out at this bar in L.A. and they would let him smoke up on the bar patio and that was right at the beginning of medical. It’s always been part of California and the culture. And when I found pipe making, I thought, wow, this is really awesome. It’s really perfect and I never felt like I had to hide my work.”
One of Hoobs’s most famous designs is his intricate glass sneakers. Growing up in L.A. with the influence of hip-hop and sneaker culture, the idea for a sneaker pipe was always in the back of his mind. “There is so much underground art associated with hip hop, sneakers, graffiti and pipes — everything already blended together in real life. I love sculptural work so it was a shape that was both challenging and exciting to create. Everyone I knew who smoked weed collected sneakers and vice versa, so I thought it was a great concept to bring to people who might not have ever seen a piece of glass like that,” he says. “I wanted to expose a different stream of people to the art, a group of people who were already into another aspect of a similar culture by being involved in skating or hip hop instead of glass pipes.”
2016 Hoobs Nike Sneaker, photo by Samuel Farley
The first shoe was crafted around 2010, roughly 10 years after he began his career in glass. Through mutual friends at California companies G-Pen and West Coast Cure, Hoobs had the opportunity to make a custom sneaker for cannabis enthusiast and rapper Wiz Khalifa. The G-Pen team were collaborating with Wiz Khalifa on an oil pen and commissioned Hoobs to make a custom piece for him. “He was blown away to see it. It’s really cool when you meet these people and they are super real and actually cool. Wiz was super heavy into dabbing at the time and I got his sound man too high, he chilled out in the corner for a while. To see him posting it and putting the piece in his videos was more than I could have ever expected,” says Hoobs.
Hoobs on the torch 2016, photo by Samuel Farley
In 2016 Hoobs took a trip to Germany, where he collaborated with scientific glass company ROOR, the first glass company to craft the glass-on-glass fitting that has since been copied around the world. “Having the chance to collaborate with Martin (of ROOR) was great, we made a few tubes and some other sculpture work and it was also cool for them because the market for the heady art in Europe isn’t where the American market is. So it was cool to mix the scientific and heady world in a new country,” says Hoobs. “It was really interesting to see the contrast of everything.”
Hoobs’ more recent work includes crafting X-Men character, Wolverine and other intense new sculptures like classic cars and playing cards. Car collectors have commissioned him to make their car out of glass and he always tries to keep advancing. “I wanted to start trying to make the things in my head that at the start of my career I thought would be totally impossible. I’m trying to find the limit, that’s my real goal. Trying to push myself to make things that I don’t know are possible that I have never seen made or attempted. The whole process of learning how to blow glass is learning, the fun is in the learning, as soon as that ends, you lose interest. I’m trying to have fun with it and expand my artwork, and bring a smile to my face and someone else’s face. Since I got into it around 2000, it’s been an ever-changing beast and is still considered a new form of art,” says Hoobs. “I feel super honored to be able to be a part of the entire scene and movement.” Work crafted by Hoobs was recently on display at the Comichron show in San Diego at Just Another Gallery, and is available at galleries around the country. ♦
Hoobs and his Pirate Ship, photo by Samuel Farley
By Gregory Daurer
Tumbleweed’s arrival in Colorado, as announced with a full page Billboard advertisement. Image courtesy of Tumbleweed Records.
The Denver record label that hardly anyone remembers – or has ever even heard of – is getting some love.
A Tumbleweed Records compilation called “Sing It High, Sing It Low” has been released by the noted reissue label, Light In The Attic Records. Mojo – the elegant and tasteful music magazine out of England – gave the project its top rating of four stars. The new album/CD/digital download has shined a spotlight onto a forgotten musical history.
The story of Tumbleweed Records involves a multi-million dollar record deal, one of the most respected names in music production in the ‘70s (who would go on to produce the Eagles’ multi-platinum selling album “Hotel California”), and an eclectic roster of musicians playing everything from quasi-jazz and country rock to psychedelic folk and R&B. Nine albums were released by the label, which only existed from 1971-1973. According to some, it wasn’t so much the-record-label-that-couldn’t as the-record-label-that-wasn’t-allowed-to by its parent company overseers.
But now, thanks to Light In The Attic’s compilation, artists who were overlooked when their music was first released are being re-evaluated – and their highs (some very cannabis-accented ones, at that) and lows are being sung.
“So sing it high, sing it low/Which way would you like to go?…High, low, high…” – “Sunday Sherry” by Arthur Gee.
Tumbleweed Records began in 1971, after two record music vets Larry Ray, 31, and Bill Szymczyk, 28, arrived in Denver. The region had been gaining an increasing reputation as a place for musicians to relocate to. Szymczyk says “the vibe was very, very open” in the city back then, noting the area’s “undercurrent of musicality” – which some have likened to a pared-down version of L.A.’s Laurel Canyon scene.
Ray, who had spent time in Denver growing up, was burning to base a brand-new venture there, likely desiring his own hits with Tumbleweed like his previous employers, Elektra and A&M, had achieved with The Doors, Joe Cocker, and Cat Stevens.
But Szymczyk – who’d had some success producing B.B. King’s hit “The Thrill Is Gone” and the James Gang (featuring guitarist Joe Walsh, who would become a longtime collaborator) – ultimately had a terrifying wake-up call which caused him to join Ray in Denver: the deadly San Fernando Valley earthquake in California, in February 1971, scared him into moving his family out of harm’s way.
Through entrepreneurial hustle, Ray negotiated a multi-million dollar deal with Gulf + Western – one of the largest entertainment conglomerates in the world, and the owners of Paramount Pictures – and Tumbleweed Records was soon in business. Things were looking up for the brand-new label, which featured the image of a tumbleweed on its records (a tumblin’ tumbleweed, in fact, when spinning on a turntable).
Danny Holien. Image courtesy of Light In The Attic.
For their offices, they rented a house at 1368 Gilpin Street (a fact noted on the back of each release) situated near Cheesman Park. Robb Kunkel, who brought several acts to Ray and Szymczyk’s attention before eventually recording his own album “Abyss” for the label, lived upstairs; Kunkel sometimes wheeled his upright piano out onto the deck situated above the house’s porch, filling Gilpin Street with song.
Commander-in-chief Ray had his own office there. So did the label’s radio man, Bob Ruttenberg, doing the all-important promotional outreach to the era’s still-revolutionary band of FM DJs. Tumbleweed had two secretaries and an art department in the basement. Soon enough, the label had a string of albums ready to be released – most of which were recorded elsewhere, often in Los Angeles.
According to promo man Ruttenberg, the Tumbleweed Records crew was considered “radical hippies” by the industry – and not just because of their toking, but also due to their approach to business. Ray has said that Tumbleweed Records set out to equitably share royalties with its acts; not keeping two sets of accounting books like other labels did to screw over their musicians. (Never mind that ultimately there was very little in royalties to ever share.)
Tumbleweed’s label-mates shared their weed as well. “Everyone was smoking,” recalls the intelligently-quirky songwriter Pete McCabe, who would show up at the Gilpin Street house to pick up an advance check for his upcoming album and then spend part of it on that week’s blonde hash. Once, McCabe was visiting Arthur Gee, a Canadian who was Tumbleweed’s resident hippie/cosmic cowboy. Gee told McCabe, “I’m out of pot, but I did spill some hash oil on this sweatshirt.” They cut up that sticky part of Gee’s shirt and began smoking it, according to McCabe.
Ruttenberg also shared his weed with radio DJs. It was a way of seeking airplay, as much as it was a fun way to travel and hang out. Ruttenberg says, “All the FM DJs loved getting stoned – and I loved getting them stoned. And that’s one of the ways I presented myself: as Tumbleweed’s stoner… Let’s get stoned and listen to the new Michael Stanley record. Let’s get stoned and listen to Albert Collins and Dewey Terry.”
Original cover painting by E.L. Bortlenortz (circa 1972) depicting an epic journey to a magical land for a Dewey Terry concert (the venue is in the statue, which is Dewey). Originally commissioned by Tumbleweed as album cover art for Dewey’s “Chief” LP
Notoriously, Ruttenberg was arrested in Seattle with six ounces in his possession after having to unexpectedly pass through an airport metal detector (which perhaps came into greater use as a result of D.B. Cooper hijacking a plane in the Pacific Northwest in 1971). The metal-detector alerted authorities due to the recording equipment Ruttenberg was carrying, and his contraband was quickly discovered.
Ruttenberg told airport security, “Listen, man. This is my personal stash. It means nothing to you. It’s not going to hurt anybody. I’m just going around the country, taking care of business. Why don’t you put the bag back in the suitcase and let me go Eugene, Oregon to see my friend who’s waiting for me at the gate?”
After a short spell in jail and ultimately five thousand dollars in legal fees, charges were dismissed due to an improper search and Ruttenberg was a free man.
But even though its promo man was able to get out of jail, the label couldn’t achieve breakout success.
Arthur Gee-Whizz Band “City Cowboy” (TWS 107, 1973).
Tumbleweed’s highest charting record was a single by Danny Holien called “Colorado.” It hit number 66 on Billboard Magazine’s charts in October 1972. Whereas John Denver’s 1972 single “Rocky Mountain High” (released after Holien’s) celebrated the natural wonder of the state, Holien’s song explored a dystopian vision, an early take on the “Californication” of Colorado. It has a martial, fife and drum-like quality to it, a deeply-expressed passion for how wilderness would be overrun by development one day.
“Colorado, Colorado, beautiful place that you are/Feel the sorrow of tomorrow, before you go very far/Listen to the calling of the wilderness crying for a human soul to feel.” – “Colorado” by Danny Holien.
The song incorporates what Pulitzer Prize-winning zen Beat poet Gary Snyder has termed a “moral sense of the nonhuman world.” In other words, given its subject matter and keen production, it’s a stunning-sounding bummer.
Holien wasn’t the only act brought to Tumbleweed by Kunkel. Also brought into the fold was Dewey Terry, who had been recording music since the 1950s as part of the soul and doo-wop act Don and Dewey. With his partner Don “Sugarcane” Harris, Terry had written and recorded seriously-grooving songs like “Big Boy Pete” and “Farmer John” (which has been covered, over the years, by The Premieres, Neil Young, and The White Stripes). Don and Dewey toured alongside Little Richard (featuring Jimi Hendrix) and even met the Beatles.
“He was one of the funkiest dudes ever,” Szymczyk says of Terry.
Terry’s howling vocals on the song “Do On My Feet (What I Did On The Street)” call to mind the Don and Dewey ‘50s raver “Justine.” It’s Tumbleweed’s funkiest, James Brown-like moment. Then, on “Sweet as Spring,” Terry delivers a tender, country-esque, string-accented number. The two songs, which sound as if they had been recorded by totally separate acts, both appear on 2017’s Light In The Attic release, as well as Terry’s Tumbleweed record “Chief.” Holien and Kunkel were both a part of Terry’s backup band, the Rocky Mountain Rhythm Kings – as all-white as a snow-capped Colorado peak. (Kunkel has written about how, prior to Tumbleweed starting, he was dragged to Denver’s Five Points neighborhood by Terry so he could share his Thai-stick weed with a fellow soul brother at the “Bucket of Blood” bar and demanded that Kunkel take to the stage and jam on guitar for the all-black audience.)
Arthur Gee. Image courtesy of Jeanne Damerst.
Kunkel also heard brilliance in Denver native Pete McCabe, who rightly calls some of the lyrics on his recording “The Man Who Ate The Plant” “fantastical.” In McCabe’s song “Magic Box,” a seemingly whimsical story about a drunken magician turns into a tale of existential horror: in his act, the magician really does make volunteers from the audience disappear forever, and he laments over how so many people are eager not to exist. To close its reissue disc, Light In The Attic includes McCabe’s “Late Letter” – an ode to movie star Marilyn Monroe told by an admirer whose needy fan letter belatedly arrives after the late Monroe has already taken too many sleeping pills. Szymczyk remembers McCabe as an “eccentric singer-songwriter” and says, “I also always loved the Pete McCabe [record], because that is such an oddball.”
During the recording of “The Man Who Ate the Plant,” Szymczyk says it was “cool as hell” to put the anxious, tenor banjo-plunking McCabe – who’d only played solo before – in a room with 20 accomplished musicians. As for the studio environment itself, McCabe recalls, “Bill told me, ‘Okay, when these string players come in, we put the pot away. But for the horn players, it’s okay, we can smoke.’”
Szymczyk also produced bluesman Albert Collins for Tumbleweed. Collins’ guitar-string bends can wrench one’s guts, while the backing horns add their own “Yeah, ain’t life a bitch?” emphasis. (Collins’ song “There’s Gotta Be A Change” – the title of his Tumbleweed album – is included on his “Best Of” album, but not on Light In The Attic’s compilation, due to issues with acquiring the rights.)
However, if Collins had been hoping to have a hit like Szymczyk had crafted for B.B. King with “The Thrill is Gone”(which reached the 15 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970), the lack of chart success was something that Collins could have written a blues song about. Regardless, the Texan is remembered as a powerful performer by Gee: “He played his guitar and he’d walk into the crowd. That was one of his signatures. He was a fabulous blues guitar player. Very creative.”
Besides producing Collins, Szymczyk also brought Michael Stanley to Tumbleweed. The Colorado Music Hall of Fame presently cites Stanley’s woeful “Denver Rain” as one of the greatest songs ever written about Colorado.
“Maybe it’s back to the mountains/Back to my place in the hills/Hoping that maybe she’ll tell me/Denver rain never will.” – “Denver Rain” by Michael Stanley.
Dewey Terry and Robb Kunkel. Photograph by and courtesy of Daniel Mainzer.
Stanley came to Szymczyk’s attention when he was playing in a Cleveland band called Silk, back when Stanley was still known by his original last name, Gee. That surname proved problematic when he was about to be signed to Tumbleweed. Szymczyk told Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer newspaper, “When I finished Michael’s album we played it for Larry [Ray], surrounded by a cloud of fine Colorado weed, (mostly mine).” Ray was “floored” by the music – which included musicians like Todd Rundgren and Joe Walsh – but there was a problem: the label already had a Gee –
Arthur Gee – as part of its roster. In that shroud of cannabis smoke, Michael Gee ultimately changed out his last name for his middle name, Stanley.
The other Gee – Arthur – was the only Tumbleweed artist to have two albums released by the label. Gee comes off as a troubadour of inner-space and outer-geographies, doing what he’s called his “hippie, wandering-minstrel type thing.” While his first album was released under his own name, his second included a band which Tumbleweed took the liberty of naming the Arthur Gee-Whizz Band. “I was sort of shaking my head about that for a while,” says Gee, who ultimately rolled with the decision.
Gee recalls of the era, “It was an exciting time musically, because there was a lot of experimenting going on, back then, with music and electronic instruments and stuff like that.”
Tumbleweed house band: The Rocky Mountain Rhythm Kings, featuring Danny Holien, Allan Blazek, Robb Kunkel, Steve Swenson, Gaga and Bill Szymczyk. Image courtesy of Light In The Attic.
Although the music was sometimes experimental, the Tumbleweed business experiment didn’t prove sustainable in the long run. There were constant rifts between Tumbleweed and its parent entities – Gulf + Western and its music distributor, Famous Music – which controlled the label’s destiny. Szymczyk and Ruttenberg both maintain that Tumbleweed’s records received decent airplay, but weren’t given proper distribution in retail stores for stoned heads to buy. “In retrospect, we were nothing but a tax write-off,” says Szymczyk. Ruttenberg adds, “We were up against a brick wall with Famous Music. They didn’t do shit for us…We were like a bunch of freaks to them. We were hippies in Colorado, trying to make something happen.”
Until the label wasn’t happening anymore, at all, that is.
Gee, just back from a tour in 1973, discovered that Tumbleweed Records had ended when he paid a call to the label’s office. It had been abandoned. “That’s how I found out,” says Gee. “Nobody called me.”
About two and a half years ago, Light In The Attic Records phoned Gee to tell him they wanted to use his songs for a compilation of Tumbleweed Records material. Light In The Attic had been working on the project for a few years already and had just located him in British Columbia. Gee learned they were going to name the project after a line from one of his songs. “At first, I was a little shocked,” he says.
Despite a quibble or two over song choices, Gee, now 73, says about “Sing It High, Sing It Low,” “I think it’s an excellent package.”
Gee’s greatest commercial success had come in the late ‘60s when his song “Sunspots” was covered by Canadian vocalist Anne Murray on an album that included her best-selling hit “Snowbird.” In the late ‘70s, he formed a punk-inspired band based in San Francisco and Portland. Over the years, he’s played fiddle for a Celtic group, and as a country-inspired artist. He also recorded an intriguing collection of songs called “The Dark Monkey is Laughing” with Jeff Bird, a musician known for his work with The Cowboy Junkies.
On the steps of the Tumbleweed house in Denver, Colorado. Top row, left to right: Allan Blazek, unknown, Aaron Schumaker, Robb Kunkel, Bob Ruttenberg, and Mitch Kampf. Bottom row, left to right: Donna Rabatt, Willie Seltzer, Bill Szymczyk, Larry Ray, and Bonnie McEvoy
Gee’s fellow label-mate Pete McCabe, who lives in Venice, California, recalls his own Tumbleweed Record days as “a fabulous time…To be able to make a record and have the production I got is pretty amazing.” Employed over the years as a graphic designer and teacher’s aide, McCabe, 68, just started recording music again over the past decade, and his Tumbleweed record “The Man Who Ate The Plant” has become a cult favorite. In fact, it’s drawn musicians anew to him, assisting him with his recordings. He released a new disc, “I Forgot,” this year.
McCabe says of his late friend, Robb Kunkel, “I’m just eternally grateful for him for kind of discovering me and bringing me to Tumbleweed.” McCabe calls that period in the early ‘70s “a magical time for both of us.”
In 2009, Kunkel discussed by email his Tumbleweed album, “Abyss,” which has achieved its own cult following for its somber, jazz-accented stylings: “I was 21 and stoned to the hilt making ‘Abyss’ and, at the time, I knew there was not one commercial track on it – but, hey, I had 56,000 bucks to make it and more cocaine than Sly Stone…The company looked at me with suspicion, but [they] were too busy getting stoned to pay attention.”
Due to the label’s problems, Tumbleweed “backfired—but spectacularly,” says Sarah Sweeney, who wrote the liner notes to “Sing It High, Sing It Low.” Ultimately, it’s most noted for having served as a stepping stone for Szymczyk’s subsequent career, allowing him to “hone his chops.” Sweeney says, “[Tumbleweed] really launched Bill Szymczyk into the stratosphere.”
Szymczyk went on to produce popular records for the J. Geils Band, Rick Derringer (“Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo”), Bob Seger, The Who, Joe Walsh (including the song “Rocky Mountain Way”), and the Eagles.
As for his time with Tumbleweed Records, which ended in 1972, Szymczyk says, “I would consider that definitely my grad school work, if you will.”
Pete McCabe during the Tumbleweed years. Image courtesy of Pete McCabe
Szymczyk, 74, still considers the Tumbleweed album he made for Michael Stanley one of the highlights of his career, and he remains one of Stanley’s biggest admirers. In fact, Szymczyk was preparing to travel from his home in North Carolina to visit Stanley and assist the Ohioan with a new album. “As he’s gotten older his songwriting has become incredible,” says Szymczyk. “It’s always done from a perspective of intelligence.”
Recognizing Szymczyk’s achievements, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame will be honoring him with an “Award of Excellence” on August 13 at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre. The Hall of Fame’s Director, G. Brown, says of Szymczyk, “There were only a handful of people that created the classic rock sound of the ‘70s – and Bill was one of them.” Szymczyk’s Tumbleweed days (as well as his more prominent recordings done at Nederland’s Caribou Ranch) will be cited at the ceremony, and Brown is particularly impressed with Light In The Attic’s recent reissue: “That was a forgotten bit of Colorado music history, until they addressed it. I’m not sure who would have.”
In 2019, the History Colorado Center will be including Szymczyk and Tumbleweed Records in an exhibition called “Colorado Sound: Homegrown Music from Folk to Rock.” Curator Megan K. Friedel says of Tumbleweed, “It’s part of that early 1970s story of what’s happening with the music scene here: that suddenly people from outside of the state are discovering Colorado as a place to come and make music, [a place] that’s particularly conducive to inspiring music that’s not necessarily of the mainstream.”
And given that Tumbleweed Records was known for gifting people stone-engraved roach clips in the early ‘70s, it’s fitting that Light In The Attic’s deluxe packaging of Tumbleweed’s music includes a packet of rolling papers. Arthur Gee – who G. Brown says offered him his first hit of weed back when Brown was a teenage rock journalist – agrees: “I think it’s totally appropriate,” says Gee, who says he’s been smoking cannabis for over 50 years and has recently been using a regimen of CBD oil to combat his cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. “Everyone was smoking pot back then.”
In other words, once upon a time in Denver in the early ‘70s, there was plenty of weed at a storied music label called Tumbleweed Records.
Light In The Attic Records: lightintheattic.net
Colorado Music Hall of Fame: cmhof.org
Pete McCabe: www.petemccabe.com
All golf tournament proceeds will benefit Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), an international grassroots organization dedicated to ending the war on drugs.
DENVER, Colo., (July 23, 2017)— High Rollers dispensary in partnership with The Hemp Connoisseur Magazine will host its 3rd annual Cannabis Charity Open, from 1 – 7:30 p.m., Thursday, July 27, at the Park Hill Golf Club, 4141 E. 35th Avenue in Denver.
All proceeds from the golf tournament benefits Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), an international network of students dedicated to ending the war on drugs.
Individual registration starts at $150 and $500 for a foursome team. To participate, or for more information, visit CannabisCharityOpen.com.
A much anticipated event, participants will receive free tournament golf balls, tees, and other apparel, as well as player gift bags with cannabis accessories.
“As part of an industry born by the will of the voters, we feel it is important to give back to our community. By being a part of the charitable golf tournament in Denver, we hope to help the communities neighborhoods we serve and make a positive impact on the residents who live in them,” said Luke Ramirez of High Rollers Dispensary.
Highlights include a post-event buffet and free drinks throughout the tournament. A raffle and awards ceremony will conclude the day, with prizes for top teams and individual achievements. Additional donation opportunities will be available during the event.
The Cannabis Charity Open is considered a major fundraiser for SSDP. Founded in 1998, the nonprofit organization brings young people together and creates safe spaces for students of all backgrounds to have honest conversations about drugs and drug policy. This year’s title sponsor is incredibles, recognized as the number one infused edible company in Colorado.
“We look forward to the opportunity to give back and celebrate cannabis at the THC Golf Tournament. Both incredibles and Students For a Sensible Drug Policy help to educate the public about cannabis while spreading facts about cannabis legislation across the country. The THC Golf tournament helps to bring together all sectors of the industry to support grass-roots cannabis advocacy,” said Bob Eschino, Founder and President of incredibles.
About High Rollers Dispensary:
High Rollers Dispensary is focuses on quality cannabis products and compassionate customer service. Based in Colorado, High Rollers is one of the top dispensaries in Denver for high-grade medical marijuana. Located between Florida and Arkansas Avenues on historic South Pearl Street, High Rollers Dispensary provides a boutique consumer experience. Set amidst locally-owned shops, quaint eateries and personal wellness facilities, High Rollers connects the community with the healing powers of cannabis-based therapy. High Rollers combines sophistication with modern-day technology to bring its clients high-quality cannabis flower, pure cannabis concentrates and delectable marijuana edibles. For more information visit HighRollers420.com.
About The Hemp Connoisseur:
The Hemp Connoisseur (THC) Magazine is a national print outlet dedicated to delivering innovative and comprehensive news content to cannabis industry professionals, patients, and consumers. The magazine is a two-time winner of “Best Cannabis Publication” by the Cannabis Business Awards, educating audiences on the many benefits and uses of both marijuana and commercial hemp. It strives to elevate the image of the cannabis industry and consumer alike by providing mature, in-depth journalism with a foundation of editorial integrity. For more information visit THCMag.com.
By Gregory Daurer
Aaron Lammer, photo by Anna Rose
On the podcast Longform, Aaron Lammer holds lively discussions with prominent journalists, geeking out on their abilities to conduct in-depth research and then write narratives that not only
relay important information, but emotional impact, as well. A savvy interviewer, Lammer readily conveys his fascination with his guests’ narratives to Lonform’s audience.
As examples, the 35-year-old Lammer has interviewed Evan Wright, a two-time National Magazine Award winner, about the warfare he witnessed in Iraq that led to his book “Generation Kill;” Nick Bilton about piecing together “American Kingpin,” his book about the dramatic rise and ugly fall of Silk Road, the onetime, dark web, drug-selling site; Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery, about being a man of color reporting on the racial turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri; and New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi about how she cultivates sources, in order to report on what’s happening within the detested militant group ISIS.
The way Lammer conducts himself with prominent people of letters — dissecting their work and asking them about the construction of their stories — one might suspect that he’s a seasoned pro himself, a peer to the guests he hosts.
Hardly. “I’ve never really been employed as a journalist,” says Lammer, although he did work briefly in the publishing world, and did some ghostwriting.
He has another confession to make: “Honestly, I’m interested in journalism — but it’s not my primary interest in the world.” As a web developer, Lammer assisted his college friend, Max Linsky, a onetime alternative-weekly scribe, start the Longform web site in 2010, and then inaugurate its lauded podcast (often seen on “Best Of” lists for the genre) in 2012. Despite having conducted dozens of interviews now, Lammer says, “I think I’m more interested in small projects that serve an important role.”
So what important role is Lammer’s brand-new podcast project, Stoner, serving?
Unlike other cannabis-related podcasts, Stoner doesn’t delve deeply into entrepreneurship or stock offerings, cultivation or commerce. It doesn’t cover activist politics, for the most part, or discuss the origins of various strains.
Stoner is billed as “Creative people talk about their experiences with marijuana (and whatever else comes up).”
As the host of Stoner, Lammer is interested in the gradual, cultural shift taking place throughout America today regarding cannabis — although there still exists wide disparities from state to state. “The experience in New York and the experience in Alabama and the experience in Denver could not be more different than each other,” he says. “When you really look at America as a whole, a very tiny sliver of America is shopping for legal weed, even though it’s sort of swept a bunch of the country.”
Even in legal states, people can still lose their jobs — and potentially their housing or children — if they’re “out” as a cannabis consumer. Due to factors like that, Lammer has gotten rejections from several invitees he’s asked to appear on the show.
Lammer says part of Stoner’s role is to portray marijuana usage as normal, sane, acceptable; to open up a dialogue about social consumption.
So, why then is the show called Stoner, a term many still view as a pejorative? Lammer says he wanted a word that would immediately convey the nature of the podcast. And he wanted a term that would put the emphasis on people, rather than on the plant itself. Lammer likens “stoner” to the word “nerd,” which has undergone a rehabilitation “where it was negative and then it came to symbolize a community of people: ‘Hey I don’t accept that this is a stigma, a bad thing. I embrace it.’”
On his new podcast, Lammer sometimes spotlights media professionals like he does on Longform – although, they’re often people within the cannabis sphere. Guests have included Amanda Chicago Lewis, who writes a marijuana column for Rolling Stone, Ricardo Baca, the former Cannabist editor for the Denver Post, and Krishna Andavolu of Viceland’s Weediquette show.
Andavolu, who once smoked a joint at Uruguayan president José Mujica’s home in front of Mujica (whose country is the first to regulate cannabis), says on Stoner, “I was telling my parents about that before it came out, and they were just mortified.”
The analogy of “coming out” in the midst of prevailing social stigmas resonated with Stoner guest Alexandra Chasin. She’s the author of “Assassin of Youth,” a book about Harry J. Anslinger, America’s first “drug czar” and the architect of reefer madness propaganda in the 1930s. Due to Anslinger’s effective demonizing of marijuana decades ago, stigmas surrounding the plant still persist today in many quarters.
Chasin tells Lammer that when she came out as “queer,” it was a period when derisive names were still shouted at her, objects were violently hurled in her direction. She jokes about how it takes a “special kind of pervert,” like herself, to miss the onetime social taboo of being gay — or a “stoner,” for that matter. As the LGBT movement progressed into the ’90s, and the emphasis became more on military service and gay marriage, Chasin recalls feeling about her activism that “the thrill is gone.” She tells Lammer, “I feel a bit like that about marijuana” — although Chasin still prefers seeing the birth of a regulated market in America, rather than prohibition living on.
Lammer, who’s resided in New York his entire adult life, birthed the idea for Stoner after trips back to his hometown of Berkeley, California. “It’s a whole other world,” Lammer says of the West Coast. “There’s this massive retail establishment…not necessarily the classiest stuff always. A lot of dispensaries are weird, strip-mally places.” But in New York, some people still buy weed in parks — although, more often than not, purchases happen from delivery services that will show up with say, four to six strains, in Lammer’s experience. For all it’s hipster aspects, Brooklyn still isn’t Portland or Seattle or Denver (places where Lammer has purchased legal weed), when it comes to cannabis.
Perhaps it’s Lammer’s East Coast location, rather than being in a legal recreational state, that gives Stoner a slightly naive sensibility compared to other cannabis podcasts out there. But, then again, Lammer isn’t seeking to convey an in-the-know approach: “I try to come to it with the eye of an amateur,” he says. “I don’t want to be like, ‘Oh, I know more about weed than you.’ It’s more of a journey.”
The show is still coming into its own. Lammer says Longform began hitting its stride after 25 episodes (it’s released over 250 episodes now), and Stoner, with new broadcasts appearing once a week, has less than 20 episodes in its archive.
So far on Stoner, Lammer has amusingly journeyed into the outré, Midwestern mind of Bill Levin, leader of the First Church of Cannabis in Indianapolis. Using Indiana’s Religious Freedom and Restoration Act as a basis for a lawsuit, Levin is suing the state for the ability to use cannabis as a sacrament (and perhaps eventually sell it in his church’s gift shop, if Levin has his way). When asked about President Trump’s goal to allow churches to make political donations and endorse candidates — which Levin’s cannabis church could potentially benefit from — Levin amusingly tells Lammer, “What is good for one church is good for all churches. And if [Trump’s] going to make beneficial laws for churches, who am I to say no?”
Another guest, Nick Denton, who founded the website Gawker, discusses with Lammer the concept of “cross-cutting identities”: How people from disparate backgrounds can come together over a TV show — or a joint. “Being a stoner is an identity, and it cuts across race lines, it cuts across class lines,” says Denton in his British accent.
The guest who Lammer has known the longest is the singer who goes by the name of Francis Starlite of Francis and The Lights. It turns out Lammer and Starlite have been making music together since they were in their late teens. “It’s still a pretty big part of my life,” says Lammer of his behind-the-scenes music career, which he cites as one of his primary passions. “I’ve been in a band for most of my adult life.”
Within the video for Starlite’s song “Friends,” Starlite’s friends Bon Iver and Kanye West both make appearances. Lammer is listed as both a co-writer and co-producer on the track. Lammer has also released “Big Personality,” an e.p. of songs — including one called “Stoned Out Wonderland” — all written by Lammer and performed and sung by Starlite.
Who knew? It’s something that might surprise regular listeners to Longform or Stoner, who’ve become familiar with the engaging podcaster with the self-described, “scratchy and nasal at the same time, but not particularly high” voice.
“I like not knowing where people are going,” says Lammer. “That’s basically my goal in interviewing people: to end somewhere that neither of us expected…And that’s been an unexpected delight in the show.” ♦