B-Real’s advocacy for medical marijuana is well documented; the proselytizing of pot has been at the center of Cypress Hill’s music and operating philosophy for years. For well over a decade, he’s hosted the annual Cypress Hill Smokeout, a massive music festival as much about weed as it is about music. The single-day rap and rock concert – which draws thousands every year from all over California – advocates safe and responsible consumption, allowing registered green patients in the state of California to partake in their medicine out in the open without fear of the law or politics.
Just two days before this year’s event, B-Real joined about 150 people – including Tommy Chong and the Kottonmouth Kings – at 4:20 in the afternoon on a march to L.A.’s City Hall in protest of the recent crackdowns on medical marijuana and pot dispensaries. The assembly garnered significant media attention, which was great for the cause, but even better promotion for Saturday’s SmokeOut at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino.
For the 420-friendly, the all-day smoke-filled event is a dream come true; it’s essentially a medical marijuana expo in a concert setting with legal consumption on site. (For high roller VIP – that’s Very Important Potsmokers – you can even enjoy the show from a private, shaded cabana.) This year’s headliners were Korn, Sublime, and Rusko, with Wiz Khalifa, Daedelus, Wolfgang Gartner, and Schoolboy Q and others performing throughout the day—a lineup strong enough to even draw non-pot smokers.
We knew what we were in for the second we crossed the border into San Bernardino. Long lines are the norm at any festival, but it took an entire hour just to exit the freeway. If sitting still on the ramp wasn’t irritating enough, we were cut off by countless bros with trashy neck tattoos bumping Cypress Hill in their monster trucks. What had we gotten ourselves into? Would the Smokeout be full of thousands of similarly inconsiderate assholes with remarkably bad taste? We thought about turning around and going home, but we had driven too far to give up at that point—San Bernardino is over an hour away from our downtown L.A. home base. Things got worse as we arrived at the festival grounds—event staff working the dusty parking lots were downright hostile to us when we asked where to find the media check-in. But we continued on, despite the less-than-stellar first impressions.
Unlike most large festivals, getting in the gate was easy. Within five minutes, we were inside the expansive events center. Performers took to the stage at three locations just after the gates opened at noon. Early into the show, hundreds of concertgoers shuffled between the outdoor Smokeout stage and the indoor Low End Theory and Massive Stoned Garden stages. Small crowds formed for early sets from Fashawn, Cypress producer DJ Muggs, and Schoolboy Q. As early as four o’clock, security started escorting out those too stoned to stand. One poor girl had to be carried out, her eyes rolling into the back of her head, by a couple paramedics during Wiz Khalifa’s afternoon set.
It wasn’t until around five o’clock – probably the hottest point of the entire day – that people started pouring into NOS and it was immediately clear that I was out of place in my knee-length dress and cardigan. Girls wore the tightest shirts and the shortest shorts possible – one girl we saw was only wearing underwear and fishnets with pot leaf stickers covering her nipples – and an assortment of plastic weed leaf jewelry. Most of the guys wore black t-shirts with Cypress Hill and Smokeout fest screen prints. A number of vendors set up shop throughout the festival grounds, selling everything one might need at the Smokeout, from t-shirts to bongs to kitschy weed-themed collectibles.
Though a “patient area” was designated near the Massive Stoned Garden, most people preferred to light up in the crowd. It was totally understandable – even at the Smokeout fest, it’s still weird for a cop to tell you where you can legally blaze. For the most part, security seemed unconcerned with those who opted to smoke outside of the patient area. The uniformed officers present were polite, and many were amused, totally cool with allowing young smokers’ their one day in a green paradise.
“Who came to get high with Cypress Hill tonight,” B-Real asked around 6:30 p.m. Massive cheers rippled through the audience and smoke filled the air. Seeing Cypress Hill in 2012 is kind of like time traveling; nothing much seems to have changed in the Cypress Hill universe. Twenty years after the release of the legendary rap group’s multi-platinum self-titled debut, their music still continues to speak to millions of stoners worldwide. They ran through their long list of canonical classics like “Ain’t Going Out Like That”, “Insane in the Brain”, “How I Could Kill A Man”, and “Tequila Sunrise” over the next hour. “The DEA can suck my nut,” someone yelled as Cypress Hill wrapped up its late afternoon set.
Sublime with Rome followed and like Cypress Hell, they played nothing but hits—that’s all anyone wanted to hear, anyway, even though the reformed Sublime released their debut album, Yours Truly, last summer. Hearing “Wrong Way”, “Date Rape”, and “Santeria” live over 15 years since lead singer Bradley Nowell’s untimely death was an incredibly strange experience; even though Rome sounded substantially better than Nowell did at some of his last performances with the group, his voice just didn’t sit right with hardcore Sublime fans, and the audience thinned rather quickly. We understand the desire to recapture the Sublime magic, but maybe it’s time to let go and move on.
The performances inside the Low End Theory were criminally under-attended, but that wasn’t exactly surprising. So much of the Smokeout is about nostalgia – why else would you book Sublime for anything in 2012? – that your typical Smokeout attendee probably wouldn’t be interested in the kind of forward-thinking hip-hop and electronica produced by the Low End theory crew. But for those a little more open minded, we received killer intimate performances from rappers Fashawn and Schoolboy Q, Monome-wielding electronic wizard Daedelus, and LET residents Gaslamp Killer, Nocando, Daddy Kev, and DJ Nobody.
MSTRKRFT, Wolfgang Gartner, and Rusko brought more club-oriented beats – as well as impressive visual shows – to the Massive Stoned Garden. As the pavilion filled up for Rusko’s delayed 11:10 p.m. closing, rumors of the fire marshal showing up spread quickly, but our photographer camped out by the stage said the wait was due to some extensive technical difficulties. After about a half-hour delay, Rusko performed with Cypress Hill and surprise guest Travis Barker on drums to a packed house.
The Cypress Hill Smokeout 2012 was remarkably well organized. The event’s website presented the rules and regulations of the fest clearly and attendees were mostly respectful. The festival followed Coachella’s tried and true formula – combine a diverse lineup with the desert heat and copious amounts of drugs to create a mind-altering musical experience – to great success, an incredible feat for an event surrounded by a such complicated political and legal issues. Despite a few early hiccups, the Smokeout was definitely worth the long, frustrating drive.
Photography by Joseph Engel.