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Hits 1-3 – Gate 9 parking lot:
"Need any herb, dude?” A 25-year-old in a Che hat propositions me. He looks like he crawled out of a Bonnaroo bathroom.
“You guys medicate?” Queries another baked brain in a bedazzled Adidas backpack. In the distance, Wiz Khalifa is yammering about how he rolls up.
"This is the smoking section inside the greenhouse that B. Real built—with help from Sen Dog, DJ Muggs, promoters Guerilla Union, and the fertile Gods of grass. And if you build it, they will blaze."
Welcome to the Cypress Hill Smokeout, a little slice of Amsterdam in the Inland Empire. But rather than meticulous Dutch moderation, you can get a press check-in shrouded by girls lighting up pink packs of Camels with pink lighters. Her paramour rocks an off-center gray Dodgers fitted and a shirt that says “YOLO.”
You only live once, and sometimes that life injects you into the clogged arteries of San Bernardino’s NOS Events Center, a barren expanse of baked asphalt and bad tattoos. Backpackers with “Listen to UGK” T-Shirts. Grown men with lit-up Jack Skellington hats fringed with weed leaves. Korn on dubstep.
From a loudspeaker, Big Bro drones about the rules for medical marijuana consumption at the festival.
YOU MUST ONLY SMOKE IN DESIGNATED AREAS
YOU MUST BRING IN AN ORIGINAL DOCTOR’S NOTE FOR PATIENT VERIFICATION
YOU MUST ATTEMPT TO BE CHILL AT ALL TIMES. SERIOUSLY, DAWG.
After all, Southern California is different from everywhere else on earth. We still like Sublime. But that could take hours to properly explain (or seconds). Just understand that a re-formed Sublime with only one original member (the bassist) and a guy named Rome is arguably the all-day festival’s biggest draw. Well, that and the opportunity to smoke acres of weed in plain sight of law enforcement. All you need is a certificate signed by some lavish-living quack. Mine is stamped by the office of a woman whose website prominently features glamour shots of her bending on the roof of red sports cars. Her estate includes an indoor pool. All that’s missing is the Xeroxed diploma from Hollywood Upstairs Medical School.
I attempt to smuggle a slim canister of weed past security, because why not? With professional calm, he tells me to take my prescription to the verification center. My hall pass cuts the O.G. Mustard Kush and I’m granted ingress. But before I enter the festival, I check how much marijuana we are allowed to bring in.
“3.5 grams. We’ve had to confiscate a lot today,” says a marijuana superintendent.
“What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen?” I ask.
“A few people have brought in eight grams or so. Instead of donating it, they’re eating it right in front of us.”
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Hits 4 – 11: Walking in a Weeded Wonderland
The Garden of Weeden is so quiet that you can hear the fake birds chirp. The designated smokers area is green-tinted. The lights are green. The tables are green. The tents are green. Everything is green except the weed. Narcotic agriculture is the new cash crop. Do you how many fucking acres it takes to grow alfalfa? So all throughout Southern California, indoor growers have hybridized high quality strains colored phosphorescent purple and isotope orange. At this point, the THC levels of the regions weed roughly approaches the SAT scores you need to get into USC.
"Cypress Hill will probably be able to draw several thousand people to concerts until they actually need weed to allay the effects of their glaucoma."
So I pack nugs of Louis XIII into a pipe and light up. It’s beyond me why growers opted to name a strain of sativa after overpriced liquor named for an underwhelming stuttering monarch. But I do know that a few hits of this stuff made finding the smoking area’s exit seem like I was trapped inside a labyrinth. This was par for the course.
All around me, everyone from thugs to hippies staggered around with their eyes sunk like bowling balls. Outside, you could hear Wiz Khalifa bellowing “Black and Yellow.” Inside, this sanctuary was so tranquil as to be voted LA County’s “Chillest Getaway” six years running (Zagat’s Certified). Picture Alice in the Wonderland if the caterpillar was played by the dude who wrote “How Could I Just Kill a Man.” This is the smoking section inside the greenhouse that B. Real built—with help from Sen Dog., DJ Muggs, promoters Guerilla Union, and the fertile Gods of grass. And if you build it, they will blaze. Examine the guy with 8 Ball-sized holes in his ears queuing up at the vaporizer station. Or the jangled burners with piercings in their noses and blunts in their lips. At a Weedheads.Com t-shirt booth, two bros give the world’s softest sell—hands behind their heads, reclining in their chairs, wholly un-invested in commerce. Above them, a sign reads “Potheads: We Are What We Wear.” Then I pass by a guy in a Dwight Schrute shirt.
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Hits 12-19 – Smoke and Grooves
As you may have guessed, there is no vaguely meaningful way to evaluate something called a Smokeout. Outside of the weed Valhalla, there were three mini-festivals running concurrently. There is the subtly named, MASSIVE STONED GARDEN; this is actually a medium-sized mini-rave inside a metal hangar. Performers include: MSTRKFT, Wolfgang Gartner, Thievery Corporation and Rusko. Drug of choice is Molly (pure MDMA). The evidence is the sea of glowsticks and the ability to stomach, nay adore, mozzarella house music.
If you doubt the supremacy of dance music in 2012, just check any primarily 25-and under-festival. Throughout the night, the most consistently cracking stage was the rave tent. Ten years ago ago, it would’ve been a small area dedicated to the remnants of drum n’ bass and the rumored-but-never-realized takeover of jungle. There might’ve been 75 staunchly committed E-tards. Tops. Today, rave is big business and inside the Stoned Garden existed a small-scale eco-system of drugs and camaraderie. Tellingly, Cypress Hill closes the night here with Rusko, the poster child for the dubstep crossover.
Then there is the Low End Theory stage, hosted by the crew from the lionized beat night held every Wednesday in Los Angeles. To the organizer’s credit, it’s an inspired booking, paring obliterating bass to Kush-warped rap (Danny Brown, Schoolboy Q) and placing it inside a sizable hangar. Crowds were generally small but fanatical. Thing is, every festival performer in 2012 is helpless to the power of the glowstick. It is an era of stimulants, not psychedelics.
But weed is always in vogue and recession-proof. If anything, the Smokeout provided irrefutable proof to the enduring economic viability of musicians who cater to potheads. None more so than Cypress Hill, who have morphed through several iterations in the course of their 20-year career. They have been hard-core psychos and trip-hoppers, they have dabbled in rap-rock and dubstep, but at every stop, they make sure to wave the green flag.
Stoners might lack any short term memory, but they always will remember who taught them to roll it up, light it up, and inhale. Cypress Hill will probably be able to draw several thousand people to concerts until they actually need weed to allay the effects of their glaucoma. And in a gesture of goodwill, the South Gate legends trot out “Illusions.” Thesis lyric: “some people tell me that I need help/some people can fuck off and go to tell.” After all, it worked for Cypress Hill. By now, they have made enough money to purchase the island of Cypress.
You can’t say the same for Sublime with Rome, but they’re well on their way. In the three years since the late Bradley Nowell started spinning in his grave, Sublime with Rome have consistently sold out shows nationwide and shifted more units than your favorite indie rock band.
The frontman, Rome Ramirez is a 23-year old from Fremont, California, who was eight when Nowell died from a heroin overdose. But Ramirez does a serviceable Nowell karaoke—enough for a crowd who merely wanted to lose themselves in a stoned sing-a-long to their favorite songs. It felt like I was at the ska ride at Walt Disney’s California Adventure. No one needs the incentive to smoke two joints, but the crowd appreciated it; none more so than the guy behind me vainly selling glowing leprechaun hats and Kanye Funglasses.
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Hit 20: Outside my car, Gate 9 Parking Lot
One more for the road. Even iron lungs can only inhale so much smoke. From across the asphalt, I can hear the loudspeakers still chanting the rules and regulations of where one can smoke, in English, Spanish, and bro-speak.
Above the fray, the fake Nowell in Sublime brays one more time: “HOW MANY OF YOU GUYS ARE HIGH IN THIS MOTHERFUCKER?”
You already know the rest.