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High Times


Drugs, Rock & The New Republic

Back in the fall of 1990, there was a Bush in the White House and a war with Iraq. I’d just entered college and had started hosting a heavy metal show at the school’s radio station. It was there, amongst the piles of promotional CDs, that I discovered an album entitled Last Decade Dead Century by a poetic protest band called Warrior Soul. It was some of the most intelligent, outspoken rock music I’d ever heard. Led by charismatically caustic frontman Kory Clarke, the band released five brilliant albums in as many years, including Drugs, God and the New Republic and Salutations From the Ghetto Nation. But sadly, after several lineup changes, Warrior Soul called it quits in 1995.

I didn’t hear the name Kory Clarke again until 2004, when my friends in the band Dirty Rig recruited him as their new singer. That March, the Rig played at my birthday party, and I met Kory for the first time. Turns out he was as big a pothead as I was, and we got along like gangbusters. Soon after, he was a guest on my radio show and even invited me into the recording studio with his new band, the Stoned (featuring former WS bassist Pete McLanahan).

Fast-forward to October 2008: Election Day is fast approaching, and I’m trying to organize a “Smoke the Vote” benefit concert to raise money for NORML, when I get wind that Warrior Soul are about to release a new album (Chinese Democracy) and embark on a big comeback tour. I called Kory, and within minutes I had both Warrior Soul and the Stoned signed up to play. With the addition of a few more bands and pot comic Rob Cantrell, the show was on.

For a cold Sunday night, the turnout at New York City’s Don Hill’s club was not too shabby. Cantrell got things started right with a hilarious half-hour of stoner standup.

“Recession? Fuck—I’ve been broke this whole time!” Cantrell complained. “But weed gets you through that. You don’t give a fuck if you got a little bit of weed, right? A couple of DVDs, a couch … that’s all I need.”
The first band of the evening was Killcode, who were fresh off the bus from the “Rock the Ink” Festival in Providence, RI—carrying in tow none other than stoner sexpot Mistress Juliya, who’d spent the past three days on tour with them.

Next up were the Stoned (featuring Clarke on drums). They prefaced their set with a few Three Stooges–style slapstick videos they’d produced, including one entitled “Weed-a-Pet” in which the band try to earn their rent by inventing a cannabis Chia Pet. They got the crowd riled with their cock rock anthems “Drunk Drivers From Space” and “Nobody Rides for Free.”

Then came Brooklyn’s own Black Water Rising (featuring former members of Boiler Room, Stereomud and Dust to Dust). Their first single, “Brother Go On,” had been on Sirius Octane’s Top 20 list for months, and their sociopolitical melodic metal proved a perfect fit for the show’s theme.

Finally, it was time for the main event. I took the stage and auctioned off some HT DVDs, a Gravitron gravity bong and a killer glass water pipe (courtesy of before introducing the night’s headliners.
“Throughout the ’90s, this band spoke out against the oppression and corruption of our government and their corporate masters, and embodied the spirit of art and activism,” I declared. “Now, just when we need them most—with another Bush in the White House and another war in Iraq—they’re back to remind us that we are the government … and we rock and roll!”

Warrior Soul hit the stage like a speedbag, ripping out classics like “The Losers,” “We Cry Out” and “Punk and Belligerent,” as well as their new single, “The Fourth Reich.” Granted, this was not the incarnation of the band I worshipped in my college days (Clarke is actually the only original member). Nevertheless, having Warrior Soul headline a gig that I put together was for me the culmination of a decade-long, angst-fueled dream. But alas, it was the end of another dream, for it was also on this night that I officially conceded my candidacy for president and publicly endorsed Barack Obama—giving him the highly coveted Bobby Black Bump.

You’re welcome, Mr. President. Now about those marijuana-decriminalization bills coming to your desk ….

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