Something to caw about for Crowes Music: Despite tainted image and elusive venues, times for the enigmatic Black Crowes still seem as high as ever.

July 20, 1996|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

When the Black Crowes was planning its current mini-tour, the group didn't want to play the kind of halls it normally visited. "We're just trying to play alternative venues," says guitarist Rich Robinson, over the phone from a tour stop in Chicago. "Not alternative in the music sense, but alternative to what people normally play."

Unfortunately, that search for "alternative venues" ended up forcing the Crowes to find an alternative to playing in Maryland. ,, Not only was a proposed show in Ocean City shot down by the city fathers, but attempts to play Baltimore's Pier Six fell through, too. It was enough to leave the band wondering what Maryland has against them.

xTC "I mean, we heard things like the officials said, 'Well, we know what their fans are about,' " says Robinson. " 'We know what that band's about. We don't want them here.' Stuff like that."

Not true, insists Tracy Baskerville, public relations manager for the Baltimore Office of Promotions, which oversees Pier Six. "We definitely wanted the Black Crowes to come to Baltimore," she said. "My understanding was that there was a disagreement over the band's price and over ticket prices. But we definitely wanted the Black Crowes, because we thought it would be a good show to sell."

Still, it's understandable that the Crowes would be slightly paranoid, given what Robinson describes as "all those stereotypes about us." First and foremost is that the Crowes are "a drug band," ardent users of marijuana andfriends of the

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Says Robinson, "In Atlanta, they have that N.O.R.M.L. [benefit concert], and we went down to play it. Just to play. We had just finished a record, and we thought maybe someone would pay attention to something. But we've never been supporters of N.O.R.M.L. We've just said what we felt, and been honest about it."

Then there's the retro-rocker charge, some of which stems from the band's propensity for bell-bottoms and other vintage attire. That bugs Robinson some, but not as much as those reviews in which the Crowes stand accused of daring to play blues- and R&B-oriented music like the Stones or Faces used to make.

You can almost Robinson sneer: "Gee, it's funny," he says sarcastically. "It's OK for wealthy Englishmen to steal from black men from the South, but for some kids from the South to do it, we're ripping them off.

"Look, it's all based on past knowledge of [the past]. You take that, and you go forward with it. In a sense, that's why music stalls out a lot of time, because no one takes the time to explore where things came from. They look at someone on TV, and go, 'Wow, they sold tons of records, and they make tons of money, and they get tons of girls. I want to be that.' "They don't go, 'Wow, where'd they get that from?' and then go buy the records. They don't explore that. But we do know a lot about traditional types of music, in the United States, and all over the world, really. I mean, we listen to it a lot, and I think that gives us perspective on things you can do that haven't been done before."

That ability to put a new twist on old traditions is what gives the band's coming album, "Three Snakes and One Charm" (which arrives in stores on Tuesday) its punch. As Robinson says, "What's great about this new record is that it's totally about the music. And, perhaps, people will get past the album covers and the bellbottoms and smoking pot, and concentrate on the record."

Black Crowes

When: Sunday, July 21, 7:30 p.m.

Where: 9:30 Club

Tickets: Sold out Call: (410) 481-7328

Pub Date: 7/20/96

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