Review: Snoop Dogg at SnowBall Music Festival, 03/03/12


At times it seemed like the entire weekend pointed toward Snoop Dogg's Saturday-night set. Diplo mentioned Snoop's imminent arrival during a Friday-night set and showed off an exclusive drop the Doggfather had recorded for Major Lazer. Periodically for the last 36 hours, strangers could be heard yelling, "Snoop, snoop-a-loop" echoing Will Ferrell in Old School. Even the lead singer of TV on the Radio mentioned that he was excited to see Snoop (having never imagined that he'd cross paths with him in Vail). With the show about to start, it was clear those signs had manifested themselves for everyone: The crowd waiting for Snoop to take the stage was the biggest of any act thus far.

When the show started, the reason for all the excitement was clear. Snoop just runs shit. Twenty years in the hip-hop game hasn't made his trademark weed stories and pimp talk tired -- it's made them classics. His longevity has made him a master of the style he's blazed ever since his national debut in in the early '90s. Folks had been smoking since breakfast in preparation for this, and everyone knew all the words. He covered a verse from 50 Cent's "P.I.M.P." before dropping into "Next Episode/Smoke Weed Everyday," with the whole crowd filling in for Nate Dogg on the hook.

Snoop's stage show included a full band (drummer, keys, guitar, bass and DJ) along with a cast of characters, including a guy in a cartoon dog costume (think Doggystyle cover art) and a few other people who were just sort of hanging out on stage. The band gave a mixtape fluidity to the proceedings -- Snoop would do a verse and hook from a song, then cut over to something else. By the time the band dropped into "Nothin' But a G Thang," about four songs in, the party was in full swing.

There was an interlude where the band jammed and Snoop offered instructions to the crowd on when and how to light up the next joint/blunt/bowl (the audience was doing okay without his help in that department). There was no shortage of smoke-break interludes during the first half of the set. Snoop, of course, was smoking, too, and passing stuff into the crowd, and they passed it back to him. He even commented that someone passed him some bomb shit. He riled the crowd with some readily expected call-and-response: "How y'all feeling tonight? [cheers] How many people here are smoking weed? [more cheers]," and then he served up "Gin & Juice," which drove the crowd into a frenzy.

A vet of outdoor festivals and snowboarding events, Snoop might've been the most intelligently dressed of the performers this weekend, rocking a jacket worth of layers underneath an oversized mechanic's shirt and another down jacket. At one point, he shed the outer jacket and appeared casual, but is still warm. Smooth. Turning down the set down a little, he offered up some pimp talk for all the ladies.

After another chronic break, where the band jammed on a slow groove while Snoop improvised casual weed talk and moments of crooning, once everyone was sufficiently charged, Snoop announced "DJ, give me some of that shit from 1993 we can all sing along to." He and the crew then proceeded to testify that no one on stage "loves these hoes." The costumed Nasty Dogg character waved a three and a half foot rubber dick around. There was never more than ten minute stretches between people yelling "Snoop, Snoop-a-loop." No one was streaking though.

Out of nowhere the DJ dropped the horn intro to Bob & Earl's "Harlem Shuffle," which is perhaps better known as the intro to House of Pain's party anthem "Jump Around." They proceeded to cover a verse from that before freezing on the line about "smacking a hoe." We all came to get down, and that's what was happening. While we all thought the party was in full swing earlier, somehow, it found another level when they went from "Jump Around" to "What's my Name?" Snoop is a consummate performer. He doesn't have a hype man finishing his lines. When the music cuts out, he's killing every word of a tight line.

Snoop was clearly having as a good time as the crowd was. "I'll be back to this part of Colorado any time you want me," he told the cheering crowd. "No matter how cold it is. I love y'all. Real shit."

He closed out the set with the anthemic pop glory of "Young, Wild and Free," the tune he features on with Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars. Wiz's verses are pre-recorded, and Snoop performed his own, but the chorus becomes an appropriately transcendent moment, a summation of the weekend's activities for many attendees: "So what we get drunk/So what we smoke weed/We don't care who sees/So what we go out/That's how it's supposed to be/Living young, wild and free."

As Snoop delivered those lines, hands were clapping in the air and college girls with their eyes closed were singing their hearts out like a reality TV audition. It was glorious. Exactly the kind of justification for self-indulgence we all came looking for in the first place.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: If you're under the age of forty and don't jam at least part of Snoop's catalog for certain occasions (parties, mostly), then I don't know what to tell you other than sorry about the direction your life has taken.

Random Detail: Bob and Earl's "Harlem Shuffle" is the jam. It served as the origin of the "Jump Around" intro sample, as well as the popularization of the phrase "Shake your tail feathers."

By the Way: The girl standing behind me was amazed that Snoop would smoke on stage and was very worried that he'd be arrested (ending the show prematurely). Alas, her fears did not come true.

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