Cypress Hill Smokeout Festival with Rusko, Wiz Khalifa, Korn, Sublime with Rome, Thievery Corporation
NOS Events Center, San Bernardino
Love was in the San Bernardino air Saturday. Well, that, and the scent of chili cheese fries and pizza mingling with weed smoked out of Grape Swisher Sweets.
Considering Cypress Hill long has dabbled in other genres, plucking and tossing elements from Latin, metal, rock, reggae and psychedelic into their pot, it's no surprise their annual Smokeout Festival embraces them, too. In 2010, French/Spanish singer Manu Chao shared the day with Deadmau5. This year, in anticipation of his upcoming collaborative EP with Cypress, brostep brah Rusko was billed alongside weed connoisseurs Curren$y and Wiz Khalifa.
In addition to the requisite "I [heart sign] Weed" t-shirts layered with leis of fake marijuana leaves, girls in fishnets, fuzzy boots and fluorescent short shorts (shout out to the few who gave a nod to the home team by sticking on weed leaf pasties) wandered the fairgrounds. It's probably the closest I'll ever get to HARD L.A.
In general, the sets weren't exciting, but doubtful many of the almost 20,000 attendees cared much. Of course, marijuana strains of every color and creed were being smoked -- and in such ingenious ways as on a HighPad -- but the increasing sloppiness indicated more than puffing and passing were going on. Medics had to roll a couple people out in wheelchairs, but hey, at least it wasn't from fighting.
Drug Most Likely Consumed by Crowd: Weed. Duh.
Overheard: "One already on the ground," as a girl collapsed onto the concrete. It was maybe 5:15 p.m.
One of Forbes' Hip Hop Cash Kings, Khalifa made 11 million dollars last year and recently predicted this year he'd pull in 100 mill. Not that potheads are given to exaggeration or anything, but Pittsburgh's king of rap has given us reason to believe he'll eventually hit that goal. After disappointing most of the longtime fans who set him up for his payday with last year's Rolling Papers, his debut album under Atlantic, Khalifa recently wrote an earnest blog post announcing his intention to get back to his roots. Maybe not the most artistically daring decision, but Khalifa always has had one of the smartest teams in the business: while the tracks he played Saturday from his upcoming mixtape, Taylor Allderdice, were reminiscent of the breakout Kush and Orange Juice, he'll probably continue experimenting on his next official album.
Meanwhile, he keeps refining his stage persona into a chiller Axl Rose. Wearing slim white pants and a billowing paisley button-down, and looping a long scarf around his microphone stand, he snaked his way through a balanced set of new, mainstream ("5 O'clock") and old ("Never Been," "Mezmorized") hits. He was less lively than he used to be - no trademark stripping off his shirt to show his completely tatted-up chest - but then again, he's about to become a family man.
Drug Most Likely Consumed by Crowd: Weed. Again, duh.
Overheard: "Okay, enough with the politics." -B-Real
You gotta give it to Cypress Hill. In a genre where most artists have a career span of one album - if they're lucky - the group's clocked 20 years and counting in the game. Much of that success has just as much to do with their incredibly smart marketing and branding (see B-Real's BReal.TV) as their willingness to collaborate and experiment.
But, as Sen Dog told us in an interview earlier that afternoon, the fans are always going to think the first album is the best. That thought seemed to guide their modest set (they gave themselves an hour as opposed to the 75- or 90-minute sets of other acts). "Illusions" is still badass, but those songs sampling War and Dusty Springfield sounded a lot cooler when we were kids, right?
Sublime with Rome
Drug Most Likely Consumed by Crowd: 40s?
Overheard: "I'm enjoying this more than I thought I would because I feel like I'm back in high school."
Every song could have been capped with a hearty '90s-era "FAHCK, dude!" Then again, ska still rules in L.A.
Drug Most Likely Consumed by Crowd: Mushrooms
Overheard: Nothing. By that point, people were too stoned to talk.
No stage was more suited to host an act Saturday than the "Massive Stoned Garden" was to Thievery Corporation. We've never been to Burning Man, but from what we've read, this seemed a small-scale recreation. Huddles of people in pitch-black corners smoked, the lit end of a joint the only evidence of their existence. A large group encircled and, transfixed, stared at people performing (?!) to Thievery Corporation's sitar-spiked acid jazz by twirling glow-in-the-dark hula hoops or flipping those nunchunks-like glow sticks. Suddenly, a guy next to us began doing sun salutations. Namaste, brother.
Drug Most Likely Consumed by Crowd: Coke
Overheard: "Korn aren't what they used to be."
Maybe Korn are different now, but in whatever incarnation the nu metal band appeared Saturday, they were entertaining. Over guitar riffs that sounded like guttural screams, Jonathan Davis threw his head back and generally looked like he was getting tasered. It was my first metal show, and though I can't name any of Korn's songs, there were three in a row I asked everyone standing in my vicinity to name because I liked them. No one could, but whatever. Korn puts on a show.
Drug Most Likely Consumed by Crowd: MDMA
Overheard: "Did you see the band before him? There were like 10 singers. With wireless mics. They sounded fucking amazing. This is ONE DJ!"
Twenty minutes past Rusko's scheduled start time, the stage crew was still fiddling with the dubstep DJ's two turntables and a microphone, and the completely full crowd began to boo. Suddenly, a scrawny kid emerged and said, "Are we fucking good to go? There are no set times anymore! I'm gonna play till I'm finished!" Frankly, it's hard to imagine Rusko ever being "finished." Like a jackrabbit on speed, or Jessie Spano before she spazzed, or an old-school aerobics instructor, he leapt and bounced, legs and arms akimbo, his entire set. Grabbing the mic, he hollered, "Let's see if anybody knows this one!" and the audience lost its entire mind as he dropped the bass on "Somebody to Love."
Though I figured it was just me who thought the set sounded like one long, continuous song, by the time the big reveal came- Travis Barker and Cypress Hill joining Rusko onstage - half the crowd had cleared out. It was 1 a.m. Where did they think they were, EDC? Obviously, stoners still rule Smokeout.
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