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Photo by James BunoanLast Thursday, after nearly six months of designing fliers and ads for Marijuana: The Band, band members Bong Rip and Chronic Sax finally went too far. Or at least Liquid Den owner Jim Cline thought so. Thumbing through the Weekly's Calendar section, he spotted an ad placed by the band, advertising a Pot Party—the words heralded in bold, 16-point font and followed by three exclamation points—to be held at the Liquid Den on June 5. Overlaid on a marijuana-leaf logo, the band's name was prominently displayed in what can best be described as a marijuana-leaf-inspired font; the ad even included the phone number of their "bongline." It was, for the most part, similar to ads they'd previously run—except for the Pot Party headline and a tiny, italicized note in the left-hand corner: directly across from a note reading, "Mention Add for $4.20 Cover," the band asked fans to "Bring Your Best Pot to Smoke With the Band!!!"
Alarmed by the ad, which Cline says the band never showed him, he immediately canceled the gig. His rationale? Concerns over what's commonly known as the RAVE (Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstacy) Act. Officially passed last year as the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, the provision allows police to prosecute venue owners and club promoters if evidence of drug use can be found on their premises. Interesting, then, that Cline never expressed much concern about the band before last Thursday—they are, after all, Marijuana: The Band. But, as he explains, MJTB is a political band that supports the legalization of marijuana and hemp products, a position he had no problem with so long as "they weren't saying, 'Bring your drugs to the club; let's get high.'" He even sanctioned the band's highly publicized "420 Show" last April, albeit with the help of a few additional staffers on hand to regulate crowd behavior.
This time, however, Cline felt the show posed a risk he was unwilling to undertake. He realizes the band's motives were likely just to bring more people in to the club, but a large turnout might have come with a price. "I've been reading the stories [about the RAVE Act] on the Internet," says Cline, referring to recent rallies and shows, including one in San Francisco, that have been shut down under the act. "And we're just trying to even get a hard-liquor license."
MJTB member Bong Rip confirms Cline's assertions that the ad was meant to increase attendance at their gig and understands Cline's concerns that a few cops might have been among those who showed up. But that, he claims, is exactly the point of his band's ads: "We were testing the waters to see if the police would show up. My knowledge and thinking is that the cops don't care about marijuana and that they wouldn't. So long as they don't show up, I can keep pushing the envelope."
And if people had actually shown up with pot—expecting, perhaps, to put it in their pipe and smoke it? "I figured most people would disregard that," Rip says. "But besides, we have a motor home parked outside. Once we're in the motor home and drive down to the beach, it is a pot party."
As it turned out, Rip notes, that's what the band did on Saturday.
Cline has no plans to book the band again, instead electing to concentrate on a new weekly Wednesday comedy night and biweekly Tuesday-night dance club. MJTB already has a show booked in LA—at the Joint, of all places—and plans for a new ad are in the works.
"Our ads are classic," Rip says. "People are collecting them. And next week, it's going to say, 'Banned in OC.'"
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