The Black Crowes bring rock to the Mane scene
The Black Crowes threw a different party at the Stagecoach Mane Stage country music festival, lighting up the crowd with rock ‘n’ roll, boogie woogie and R&B on Sunday.
The Atlanta band joins a small roster of rock acts to perform on the Mane Stage, including The Eagles and former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty. Even Southern rock icons Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Charlie Daniels Band failed to receive the honor in previous years, instead playing the Palomino tent to crowds beyond their capacity.
They played a combination of their loud rock jams such as “Kickin’ My Heart Around” and “Jealous Again” and slower tunes “She Talks To Angels”. Singer Chris Robinson paid tribute to soul singer Otis Redding before performing his cover of the 1968 song “Hard to Handle.”
It made sense to feature a rock band that sold millions of records on the Mane stage. But Chris Robinson told The Desert Sun ahead of their performance “We’re not mountaineers, we’re Sherpas” and said playing Stagecoach was “unusual” for the band.
“But in the same way, why wouldn’t the Black Crowes play at this festival?” said Robinson. “We’re lucky to be where we are. It’s not about hero worship, it’s about people movement and feelings. We’ve been through a lot of different movements and phases that people would be interested in.”
He talked about going to see punk rock band X a few years ago and said guitarist Billy Zoom had the “best guitar sound” and described vocalist Exene Cervenka as a “goddess”.
“For an hour and a half I was in their world,” Robinson said. “That’s what I want and that’s Everest. We’re already at that altitude and we’re trying to help everyone get to the top without something horrible happening.”
The group is in its third meeting.
Since bursting onto the scene in the early 90s, Robinson and his brother Rich have feuded over the years. The band debuted in 1984 and have gone on hiatus twice and are on their third reunion. Robinson said the pair have been “great” since meeting in 2019.
“I’m a horribly dyslexic person who invented my own world to live in through art, music, poetry, film and literature. My brother is OCD and a lunatic,” Robinson said. “Music was for people like us foreigners.”
The Black Crowes launched like a rocket when their debut album “Shake Your Money Maker” was released in 1990, capturing the same rock ‘n’ roll sound of the Rolling Stones and Faces incorporated with blues, R&B, soul and honky- tonk.
The album brought the ’60s rock sound back to Generation X with the singles “Hard to Handle”, the heavyweight originals “Twice As Hard” and “Jealous Again”, and the acoustic track “She Talks To Angels”.
“Shake Your Money Maker” has sold 5 million copies. To promote the album, they toured with ZZ Top, but were fired from tour after Robinson made comments against tour sponsor Miller Brewing over their attempts to censor the band. They joined metal bands Metallica, AC/DC, Mötley Crüe and Queensryche on the European Monsters of Rock Tour, performing for a crowd of over a million people in the Soviet Union.
Even though alternative music bands such as Nirvana pushed many heavy metal and classic rock bands and artists out of the mainstream, The Black Crowes continued to perform successfully on major stages and their 1992 album “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion” went on to produce four singles and sell millions of copies.
“Funny, in 1992, when grunge was starting to take hold, ‘The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion’ still debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts,” Robinson said. “We felt a kinship with a lot of these (alternative and grunge) bands because of our backgrounds as punk rock kids and (following) the bands of the American hardcore scene. For us, the most punk rock thing that we could do is start wearing bell bottoms when no one else was.”
A band carrying on the same tradition is Dirty Honey, who toured with The Black Crowes last summer which included a stop at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado.
Dirty Honey frontman Marc LaBelle told the Desert Sun last February Robinson was “very vocal” in giving advice, telling them what to do or how to live the lifestyle of a touring musician.
“The PG version (of Robinson’s advice) is to live a full life, because it will give you something to write about, and don’t be afraid to say yes, a lot, and when you need to, say no. But especially to say yes, especially if you think you want to do something. That’s his MO,” LaBelle said.
On May 4th, The Black Crowes will release the EP “1972” on Amazon Music with six covers such as “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” by The Temptations, “Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie, “The Slider” by T. Rex, “Rod Stewart” “You Wear It Well”, “Easy To Slip” by Little Feat and “Rocks Off” by The Rolling Stones.
Robinson said their cover of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” was “awesome” with hints of their influences from Parliament Funkadelic, Mother’s Finest and War.
“How do you mess with the Stones, Marc Bolan, Bowie, The Temptations, Rod Stewart and Little Feat? We’re not gonna do something we don’t and we can’t sound like that, but we want for him give due, respect and the same way we approached the Led Zeppelin catalog with Jimmy Page.”
When asked if he’s softened his stance on corporate sponsorship and whether it’s difficult to navigate today’s music industry, where companies such as Amazon and Apple get involved Further, Robinson described himself as a “capitalist” and said he had turned down many lucrative offers for various things over the years.
“Maybe I should have taken it sometimes,” Robinson joked. “Amazon was awesome. We had freedom and no one told us, ‘Do this, do this.’ We hate authority, it’s hard to get us through the TSA at the airport and it’s like, ‘What do you mean? I took my belt off.'”
For fans hoping for more new material, Robinson said they plan to return to the studio early next year to record a new album.
“For the first time in our lives, we have this great team around us that wants to nurture our relationship,” Robinson said. “They want to be there for us. We’re not just a boxer or a racehorse anymore. I think that’s the best way to make some happy noise and get the word out.”
Brian Blueskye covers arts and entertainment for the Desert Sun. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bblueskye.