Monday, September 29, 2014

Now, An Intimate Conversation With John Sinclair

John Sinclair might not be a household name, but his story may be as relevant as Abbie Hoffman's or Allen Ginsberg's. While he is best known as the one time manager of proto-punk rockers the MC5, he was an active political voice during the counter-culture era of the late 1960s. 

Detroit was ripe with music during this time and the Motor City produced some of the best music ever made. The Amboy Dukes, Frijid Pink, Alice Cooper, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels,The Stooges, MC5, The Fugitives, The Bob Seger System, and The Flaming Ember were all bands that were part of the Detroit music uprising during the mid '60s. Each of these bands had a definitive role in carving out an anti-authority attitude for the generation.

The MC5
Sinclair was a revolutionary during the '60s, and it was one of America's most tumultuous eras, when young men were being yanked off of their family farms and thrust into a world of violence to fight the North Vietnamese Army in stretches of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Most of these men didn't think twice about being drafted to serve their country. They assumed their duty with a sense of pride, only to return home years later scarred and broken. 

America had become worn down by the chaos of the times didn't seem to have a plan for welcoming it's soldiers home. The glory days of returning home from war to a ticker tape parade were a thing of the past. This was a new era, and things had become strikingly different than they were during the end of World War 2. 

The country was reinventing itself. Amid organized war protests on college campuses, several fronts were in the making. The Black Panther Party, the Hippie and the Gay Rights Movements and the Sexual Revolution began to whip authority into a paranoid panic. Rock and roll, as it made it's leap from sock hop to the psychedelic blues, was the common denominator to the madness

John Sinclair was at the forefront of this cultural change in Detroit: As somebody who spoke out against corruption, violence and racism, he was targeted by the federal police in 1969 and  was caught up in a sting operation where he was set up and busted for selling two marijuana cigarettes to an undercover FBI officer. Now, face to face with the corruption he so gallantly spoke out against, he was sentenced to an unprecedented ten years in prison for selling the two joints. The unfairness of this harsh sentence caused a ripple along the noisy protest movement and it got the attention of John Lennon. The ex- Beatle performed at a benefit in Detroit to bring awareness to the unfair sentencing. For the event, Lennon penned a song called "John Sinclair.".

In 1971 Sinclair was eventually released from prison after serving 2 years, but his case remained in litigation. His case against the government for illegal domestic surveillance was successfully pled to the US Supreme Court in 1972. He has since moved to Amsterdam and isn't as vocal about the government as he used to be. Now his main focus is poetry and music - mainly jazz - and he often performs his poetry alongside jazz and blues collaborations. He currently resides in Amsterdam and he regularly hosts a podcast called The John Sinclair Show on a website called Radio Free Amsterdam where he delves deep into the jazz and blues catalogs. He is also a strong advocate for the legalization of marijuana.

I actually caught up to John Sinclair a year ago and haven't published his interview until now. It's timely in the sense that John Coltrane just had a birthday and that's basically where the interview starts off. So when reading, please note that this interview is a year old.

John Sinclair in the late '60s,

Hi John. How are you doing?

Hi Troy. Everything's good.

Did you do anything yesterday to celebrate John Coltrane's birthday?

Yesterday... I made a radio program for my radio station.

Can you tell me about your radio station?

Well, my radio station is called Every Monday I do the John Sinclair Radio Show. I'll be going into my (eleventh) year in November. I just posted number 514, a tribute to Ray Charles and John Coltrane on their birthday.

Very nice. 
What time is your radio show on?

Well, it's online so you can listen to it anytime, night or day. But the new ones come on at 4:20 AM on Monday. My shows. Then I've got shows by Tom Morgan of Virginia, I've got a blues show by Bruce Pingree of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I've got shows from a woman named Leslie Keros in Chicago - blues and jazz... and different people, you know?


I put shows up every day. Sometimes two a day. There's an hour or two of different music every day. Then you can push the (link) that says "Listen Now" and you can play them one after another, going back for a year.

John Sinclair at work. 

John, what drives your passion? 


Any particular music?

Blues and jazz. African American music.

In 1968 you introduced the equation that "Music is Revolution." Given today's music, do you still feel that way?

Well you know, I was wrong about a lot of things in 1968. Nothing more wrong than when I said that Rock and Roll is a weapon of cultural revolution. Today it's a weapon of oppression.

Why do you say that?

Because it's so horrible. The access to the music is completely controlled by the rich people. You make some interesting music and they'll give you a million dollars to make you less interesting. Nobody wants to hear what a millionaire has to say... (Laughs).

So would you say as a people that we have retracted, or just musically?


You would say that?

Totally. It's worse now than ever. It's twice as bad as it was ten years ago. 

Is there any hope for it?

I have no hope. The people, you know... The people are always going to be OK.

I've noticed a trend that the roots are coming back... Like you mentioned, the blues and jazz, and the folk scene seems to be growing again, and I wonder if it reached a point where it's just re-creating itself.

Well there's always going to be folk. It's... They continue to exist, it's just that they took them off of the radar.


It's like poetry, you know. They just don't let the people know about them. I mean you have to dig. Now they have the internet, the wonderful Google and the Wikipedia, and you can find out about a lot of things you didn't know about but you still have to somehow develop a curiosity to look for them. Because if you look in the mainstream media as they call it, you won't find anything.

John Sinclair as he appears today.

I wonder why that is. 



Well this system is dedicated to making people dumber and dumber so they'll buy more and more products and pay more and more money for them. Duh! (Laughs.) 

I think you nailed it, John.

That's what  it's all about in a nutshell. So intelligence of any kind is scorned and spurned except for military intelligence which isn't all that good ever. They didn't even know the Soviet Union was going to collapse (laughs). So the military intelligence isn't so good you know but generally speaking they used to reach art and music and stuff like that in the schools in all the cities of the country. Now they don't and (the kids) don't know anything about music. 

Well, it's nice that people like you are still making an attempt to keep it alive, and dedicate radio shows to it. 

Well, it's all I can do. I don't have any money. If I was part of the zero point one percent that controls everything in our country and owns all the media, I'd like to do more (laughs). 

Well yeah. I think we are all getting by just doing what we can. 

Yeah. And of course you are, or we wouldn't be talking right now.

Fred Smith of the MC5 with John Sinclair, in custody in 1968.

Absolutely. John, would you say that racism is worse now than it was in the '60s? 


You would...

Yeah. It's a different form. But it's worse. Just take the music. I mean in the '50s before they even knew that this stuff existed they had the greatest music in the world of all time. Coming from black people in America. Blues, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues and soul music. And now they have this anti-music and it's kind of like a modern day minstrel show and they give them a million dollars. Stick a black face in there and they call it black music. That's what I call it. 

Yeah. Crazy. 

If you take the music of John Coltrane and put it against the music today it's immediately apparent how far it's degenerated.

I agree! You'll get no argument from me.

Well no. There's no arguing! You are either for it or against it (laughs). The reality is the reality.There's no arguing with anything, If you listen to it, it's right there in your ear.

How were you able to get the MC5 to play at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago?

Well we drove there in our van.

Was there a bunch of red tape to jump through?

We were the only ones who showed up to play!

Well, was there a stage set up, or how exactly did it go down? 

No. They had no permit, they had no stage... We borrowed electricity from a hot dog stand with a long extension cord. We didn't have it together at all, because they wouldn't give them a permit. They played on the grass. We had our own sound system, we set up in the grass and we played until the police came swarming in with their batons. We had just finished our set so we packed up and split before they could beat us up.

The MC5 

When is the last time you spoke with Wayne Kramer?

Oh, a couple weeks ago. 

And you guys are obviously still good friends?

He's one of my best friends. Yeah. 

What did you think of the later incarnation of the MC5 with Handsome Dick Manitoba?

Well, I didn't see that one but I saw him with different people singing. I enjoyed the hell out of it. It really made me realize how great their tunes were. There's a woman from Los Angeles from a band called the Bellrays... Lisa (Kekaula) or something... I could never pronounce her last name. But she sang with them sometimes when I saw them and also Mark Arm from Seattle. Mudhoney, I think he plays with - I saw him sing with them. I saw the legendary Evan Dando sing with them. But none of them were Rob Tyner. Rob Tyner was a brilliant one of  a kind genius guy. A great singer and a great front man. You'll never see that again.  But they sang the songs well. I really liked Mark Arm. And Lisa was great too.

What would say are the three most essential albums one can have right now?

Well, Kind of Blue with the Miles Davis Sextet with John Coltrane and "Cannonball" Adderley, Oh I don't know... Crawfish Fiesta by Professor Longhair, and A Love Supreme by John Coltrane. That's three... Lady in Satin by Billie Holiday. I could name you 500 off the top of my head.

 If you could go back and do it all over again, would you change anything? 

Well sure! (laughs.) Of course! Wouldn't you? 

I think that's an easy answer. Yes!

I'd try not to make the same mistakes! The point is of course that you CAN'T go back and change anything ever. You can only change the future. I think a lot of people are hung up on what they can do to change what happened. They look at the future like it's something that's destined for them, and it's the other way around, really.



John Sinclair Official

John Sinclair Radio Show

Radio Free Amsterdam Official

RFA on Facebook

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Photo Blog: The Inaugural Bigfoot Ball at the Briar Patch on September 20

Many thanks to all the people who came to the Briar Patch this past weekend and attended the Inaugural Bigfoot Ball. I can't think of a more perfect way to put a cap on the summer. Thanks to Charles Van Elsen for the wonderful artwork and photos, to Jay and Elinda for creating the live masterpiece, to everybody who helped out with chores prior (and after) the event, and to those who sold merchandise. 

Also, a big THANKS to Johnny Reeferseed and the High Rollers, King of the Tramps, The Maw, and The Rumpke Mountain Boys for making the Bigfoot Ball so musically incredible! There were times throughout the night where the sounds seemed impossible. Thanks for blowing me and everybody else away.

Lastly, thanks to Bob for being the coolest host in the world! Much love.

(All photos by Cveckian. Click to enlarge.)

An unusual number of turkey vultures circled the sky as the gates opened.

The Rumpke Mountain Boys played hours before they actually played.
Then they played for several more hours. 

Elinda and Jay work on their masterpiece as Bob works on sound.

The Maw. 
Johnny Reeferseed (R) and a couple of the High Rollers. 
King of the Tramps and a swirling crowd. 
The Rumpke Mountain Boys played until 4:00 AM.
Justin Snyder of  King of the Tramps with guest star Jacob County. 

The infamous Joe Mcguire of JR Seed.

A friendly flower hands Todd Partridge of KOTT a friendly mushroom. 

J.D. Westmoreland and Ben Gourley of RMB. 

Johnny Reeferseed and Jacob County 
The Maw in their Briar Patch glory.
Jay and Elinda making progress... 
John P. Reeferseed and the High Rollers.
Lots of smiling faces...
As far as we could tell, everybody had a wonderful time. 

Now we have the monumental task of making it even better next year!


Bigfoot Diaries on Facebook (Please like us!) 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Inaugural Bigfoot Ball T-Shirts Available for Post Order (Limited Time!)

T-shirts commemorating the Inaugural Bigfoot Ball sold out in under two hours. However, for a limited time you can still get your hands on one.

The back of the shirt shows the date as well as the evening's lineup of music. 

I will be putting in one more order here within the next week or so. If you are interested, please contact me via email at

Be sure to specify what size and also whether you prefer a long sleeved shirt or a short sleeve.

The prices are as follows (and includes the cost of shipping):

S-XL Short Sleeve $12.00 
XXL on up Short Sleeve $14.00

S-XL Long Sleeve $15.00
XXL on up Long Sleeve $17.00

Thank you in advance for your support of the Briar Patch and our beautiful music scene!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Album Review: King of the Tramps "Joyful Noise" - By Cveckian

King Of The Tramps has a story to tell. In fact, they have nine new ones to share and just a few seconds into the lead track called, “Weather” one can tell they are in for a musical treat. It just keeps getting better the further you venture into what is one of the most superbly produced albums (and yes, there are many among us that would love to hear it on vinyl someday) that I have personally listened to in the last decade or so.

Album art by Tom Bolan at Artworx

EVERY song is a gem in its own way and one of the first things I noticed was the way the songs are tapered: No boring intros with cookie-cutter fade-outs in this mix  - something I was pleased to hear on the previous offering as well - and the stories within the songs are memorable and lyrically appealing. The breakaway instrumentals are tight and various subtle styling techniques prove that this isn't KOTT's first rodeo...or even their hundredth. They know where the best foundations for music are laid as well. Textures of Santana, Allman Brothers, The Band and other assorted fabrics are woven throughout KOTT's joyful tapestry and all are backed up and strengthened by the individual talents of this fantastic group. 

Just past the halfway point of their new album comes "Deadman" which could have easily been a signature song played by the Rolling Stones during their prime (some would say "primal") years and a couple songs later "Rock Island Line" took me back to that good ol' Led Zeppelin "Physical Graffiti" vibe I used to enjoy in MY prime. 

This is followed by the incredibly poignant, “Six Bullets” which is a direct reflection on a recent tragedy that happened in our humble state – The shooting of an unarmed teen by the name of Tyler Comstock . I didn’t know this the first time I heard the song but found myself relating to the lyrics all the same. If you haven’t noticed your local police force taking on a more militarized feel, you need to wake up. A powerful song without a doubt.  I am hooked on KOTT even more now.

Todd Partridge of KOTT (Photo by Cveckian)
You will hear the love these guys have for music in each and every track and that is definitely a rarity these days. It is impossible for me to pick a single favorite (I cannot, I will not and you can't make me) so I will just give you my top three at this moment: "War", "Wandering Kind" (an anthem that mirrors what my own life was like not too long ago) and "Joyful Noise" which has got to be one of the best title/final tracks I have ever heard. You can feel the positive vibe flow throughout that song (the whole album for that matter) and it is unmistakably pure.

KOTT closed out the Iowa State Fair this year. (Photo by Cveckian)
On a scale of one to ten this new album is a solid ten and if you (being the collective you of anyone sitting on the fence as to throwing a few coins this great band's way) do not add it to your collection you are seriously missing out on nine great slices of Americana supported by some undeniable musical talent. 

King Of The Tramps are well on their way towards the next offering with several new songs already in the works and I for one cannot wait to hear more. These five talented musicians not only know the roots of rock and roll, they enrich them every time they get together and play and believe me THAT is a joyful experience to be sure. 

Come out to the Bigfoot Ball tomorrow to see and hear them for yourself!


King of the Tramps Official

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The "Everything You Need To Know" Guide For Attending the Bigfoot Ball

The Inaugural Bigfoot Ball is only a couple of days away and here is everything you need to know about this event.

Gates open at 5:00 nobody will be permitted inside until then. You may need to show ID to security upon entering and your car will be subject to search. No glass is allowed inside and if you are underage in possession of alcohol, it will be poured out and you will be turned away. Obviously we want everybody to have a great time, but we need your cooperation in abiding by the law. You will be given a wrist band upon entering. Please keep it on during your entire stay.

Photo taken onsite this past weekend

Once in the parking lot, you will be free to carry (or drag or pull) your gear and find a camping spot. There are many to choose from, and chances are you will meet interesting people nearby. The Briar Patch is very community minded. Freaks are welcome! 

Music starts at 6:00. The times and line-up are as follows:

(6:00-7:30) Johnny Reeferseed and the High Rollers
(8:00-9:30) King of the Tramps
(10:00-11:30) The Maw
(12:00-1:30) The Rumpke Mountain Boys

Food vendors will be present, but you are welcome to bring your own in as well. Controlled fires are permitted. Please be aware of your surroundings and keep valuables hidden and safe. The Briar Patch cannot be responsible for lost or stolen items.

Prize tickets will be handed out and prizes will be given away throughout the night. Lots of good, weird stuff! You will also be allowed to vote for a king and a queen, and the winners will enjoy the distinction of holding that title until next year when we do this again. If you find any Easter style eggs laying around, be sure to open them, as you may find your fortune Some might even offer cool prizes! 


Bring ID if you plan to drink alcohol. Wrist bands will be provided. Alcohol is NOT provided, BYOB.
Camping is strongly encouraged. Make wise choices.
Bring extra money to buy band schwag, t-shirts, food and firewood. 
Bring lawn chairs or a blanket.
Bring hand drums, guitars and/or other non-electric instruments. 
Bring bug repellent.
Be aware of thorns on the trees if you wander into the woods. There's a reason the place is called the Briar Patch. Also, be aware of Poison Ivy. It's everywhere.
Food will be sold on site, but please plan ahead if you have any special dietary needs.
Wearing costumes is encouraged!
Have fun!

T-shirts and other treasures will be available.


Bring glass of any kind into the venue.
Bring negativity and bad vibes!

The Bigfoot Diaries is honored to be able to host this event in conjunction with Bob and the Briar Patch. We look forward to observing the traditions he has created during his tenure as master of ceremonies and we hope to create a few of our own. We strongly encourage you to invite your friends to this epic event as we celebrate the last weekend of summer. 

This Fall and Winter is going to be a doozy... let's kick it off right! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

ASK EAST-SIDE EARL: Trendy West Des Moines Restaurant Etiquette

Are you unsure about the proper way to mount your '72 Nova on cinder blocks? Maybe you have questions about what to do with that damned BBQ stain on your (almost) new wife beater? Do you know how to handle yourself in a chain fight, and what to do about that dude who is eyeballing you from across the bar?

Now you can get the answers to these questions - plus any others by simply asking our new columnist, East-side Earl. He has lived near the Fairgrounds his entire life, growing up just east of Hubbell Avenue near the K-Mart. He knows a thing or two about east-side dilemmas and has a rare insight on how to handle just about any situation. 

We at the Bigfoot Diaries are extremely grateful to have a man of his caliber among our ranks.    

Dear East-side Earl,

I have a problem. My girlfriend's family is having a function in West Des Moines and I have to go along. I tend to feel out of place and don't know how to act in trendy West Des Moines restaurants. Can you offer any advice?

Thank you,

Barnacle Barney
Perhaps the best defense during a trendy outing?

Dear B.B.,                                                                                                        

Man I know how you feel on this one, but it's been a while since I've been to WDM. The most important thing to remember is you're only half as uncomfortable in a place like that as they are having you there. So just put on your best steel-toe boots and jean jacket (the kind w/ a nice sized flask pocket inside) and be confident man! Usually a 5th of Beam can help you there. Speak loud and often so there aint no break in the conversations. Don't forget to brag about stuff, that's what those kind like to hear. So tell 'em about all the fights you won outside of bars, or your two-tone primered '77 Monte. Oh yeah, don't forget jewelry, a nice chain around your neck goes a long way. And brass knuckles look sweet under fancy lights. Cops out there would just love to get a hold of a fella like yourself so make sure you got some red plastic to tape over your broken tail light lenses.

That should take care of all your worries, good luck to you, Barnacle!      

-East-side Earl

If you have a question, you can send it to East-side Earl at Be sure to write "East-side Earl" in the subject line.