About halfway through A$AP Rocky’s set, which was 7 percent music and 93 percent high-as-hell ramblings delivered from his permanent seat atop a suitcase, I realized I had made a huge mistake. It was April 20, 2014, more commonly known as “4/20, bro!!” here in Denver, and I was standing in the middle of Fiddler’s Green: high, freezing, soaked from the ongoing rainstorm, and miserable. All I could think of was my warm bed, the long commute to work the next morning, and how I definitely wasn’t stoned enough for this.
I went to the show to see headliner Snoop Dogg, and I was genuinely excited at the prospect. Something about hearing the Doggfather perform live on his favorite holiday had to be a unique and fun experience, right? Wrong. That’s the problem with 4/20 shows: The idea sounds great after a couple of bong hits, but in reality, 4/20 concerts are the worst.
It’s not that performers aren’t on their game for these holiday shows; they’re often in celebratory, spontaneous moods. It’s not that weed and concerts don’t pair well together for the fans; they do, as evidenced by the enduring companionship of music and (light) drug use. But in pot-meets-concert culture, that pairing should involve sharing a joint before the show, maybe an edible. It shouldn’t involve sneaking in every bud and smoking device you have in your closet and getting so blazed that by the time Snoop Dogg is flowing through “Gin and Juice” with all the skill and ease that befits his status as one of the best West Coast rappers ever — you’re lying near-unconscious in the mud. This 4/20 crowd wasn’t there to hear “G Thang” or “Drop It Like It’s Hot”; they were there to get high in the general vicinity of a celebrated stoner — and that’s the problem.
4/20 shows aren’t about the music, though they could be. The talent and star power are already in place; I mean, this year Lil Wayne is playing a free show in my neighborhood on April 20. I should be excited to see Birdman Jr., but instead, I couldn’t be more thrilled that I’ll be an eight-hour drive away. No reek of bad weed making its way into my apartment. No hordes of tourists sporting “Mile High” shirts littering the sidewalks and parking illegally. No teenagers, who were in diapers when Weezy was in prison, playing hacky sack outside my stoop. Because that’s what 4/20 shows are: not concerts, but a gathering place for the absolute worst of stoner culture to congregate and exclaim, “Hey! We like drugs!” — and not much else.
Most likely to the chagrin of Visit Denver, 4/20 is a huge boost for the city’s economy: tons of tourists, giant entertainment events, and local businesses making bank off the uninhibited spending of stoners.
Although there is opportunity in that influx to put on concerts that could draw music fans rather than just warm, slow-moving bodies, Denver is stuck with bad-stoner shows and the same artists year after year. The crowds overindulge and go off into their own worlds rather than engaging with the performance. The vibe is nothing but boring.
Don’t get me wrong: I like weed, I love music, and sometimes that combination is wonderful. But when it comes to partaking of both on 4/20, it’s always a letdown. Join the throngs on the lawn to catch Method Man again? Hard pass and a quick “Nope.” I’d rather eat an edible, relax on my couch and blast Snoop Dogg in my headphones, absorbing every cadence and flow. No way will I fight through a crowd of indifferent “fans” who are only there because they think it’s somehow cool, somehow representative of their status, getting high in public near a celebrity who likes something they like.
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When I left that Snoop Dogg show in 2014, my concert buddy and I found we had nothing to say. Snoop was great, of course, but we expected that. We were still a little high, and we joked about how we wouldn’t remember any of this clearly in the morning — but then again, there was nothing about the 4/20 concert experience worth remembering.
Disagree with this unpopular opinion? Partaking in music this 4/20? Go to westword.com/music to read the counterpoint and to see a full listing of 4/20-related concert events on or around the date.