Apparently, self-proclaimed “public relationalist” Mick Robbins was nonplussed about last weekend’s Sonoma Jazz Plus event. It wasn’t the thumping and wumping of the live music acts’ amplifiers that rattled the windows of his mobile “PR Unit” (a van parked at Depot Park where he camps with animal rights activist-turned-“adventure-meats”-advocate Paul-Henri Moreau), but the fact that his client, local street musician Nelson Mint, couldn’t get booked. Or, more to the point, Robbins couldn’t get him booked, which led to an acrimonious dissolution of their working agreement at a local tavern Saturday night.
Mint, a fixture of the Historic Sonoma Plaza whose act consists mainly of strumming jazz chords on a five-stringed guitar and yelling insults at passing tourists, contends that Robbins promised him a billing at the annual festival as well as “star treatment.” According to Mint, what he received instead was a citation for disturbing the peace while busking outside the event while atop an empty wine crate Robbins claimed was the “alternative stage.” As for his billing, Mint’s name was scrawled in ball-point pen on the back of a parking ticket envelop with a stick-figure depiction of the musician playing his five-stringed instrument. Paul-Henri Moreau’s signature, twice the size of Mint’s headline, was penned at the bottom. “This is why I’ve avoided messing with the music industry, man,” spat an indignant Mint, who committed to a 50-percent split with Robbins’ company VinSpin PR. As to what Robbins intended Mint to split with him remains unclear, but thus far, it does not include the cost of Mint’s $125 citation.
Robbins, however, claims that Mint is misdirecting his ire, which he suggests should be aimed at Sonoma Jazz Plus, who allegedly refused to acknowledge Robbin’s efforts to book his client by refusing to notice the signage posted on the side of his van that read “Musician for Hire, Enquire within.” The fact that Sonoma Jazz Plus is based in Aspen, Colo. notwithstanding, Robbins claims he performed due diligence in promoting Mint’s career. Failing a proper booking, Robbins says he improvised by creating a “fringe festival” and booked Mint as the headliner. “Fringe festivals are all the rage right now. Mint should be grateful he got to headline his own gig at the premiere of what will surely become an institution in fringe music festivals,” said Robbins. “Sure, he played on top of a wooden box this year – but at least his box was wood. The guy playing at the fringe-fringe-festival only had a cardboard box.”
Indeed, Henri Moreau, who took umbrage with Robbins’ client after he criticized his poster art, launched his own concurrent fringe festival across the street from Mint in the parking lot of Sonoma Veterans Memorial Hall. Contrary to Robbins’ claims, however, Moreau was not performing atop the cardboard box, but rather performing with it in lieu of a more traditional instrument. Impressed with Moreau’s apparent talent for percussion, Robbins briefly explored merging the festivals into a “fringe festival juggernaut that could take on Sonoma Jazz Plus outright,” but could get neither party to agree since Moreau insisted on creating the posters and Mint insisted that he not. The dispute erupted into a verbal confrontation at a local watering hole, though the bar manager suspects the trio’s yelling match was actually meant as a diversion so that they might skip on their tab.
“Anyway, it was a long shot to think that Mint could fit in the lineup of Sonoma Jazz Plus,” said Robbins of the bill, which featured Joe Cocker, Chris Isaak and Ziggy Marley. “I mean, he actually plays jazz.”