The most superfluous smoke machine in the world was employed during Wiz Khalifa's 4/20 set at Red Rocks. Partway through the Pittsburgh rapper's performance, someone backstage turned on the thing, and its output was immediately subsumed into the cloud of pot smoke cascading down from the stands.
There's weed at every Red Rocks concert, but once the rain cleared out on Sunday, the smoke blanketed the venue, blowing out over the sandstone fins that flank the stage. Unlike at the rally at Civic Center Park or the Cannabis Cup, politics and legalization barely touched the first recreational 4/20 at the venue. Instead, Snoop's Wellness Retreat stayed firmly focused on the party, and the canon of glorifying narratives that rap has built around it over the years.
Snoop's famously laid-back flow seems impervious to both time and overindulgence, and on Sunday, he made the most of it, drawing a good chunk of his set from his early albums. The best moments came when he bit into cuts from Doggystyle like "Tha Shiznit" and "Gin and Juice", hitting every line as smoothly as he did back in 1993. The audience (few of whom seemed old enough to remember Snoop's debut) were on the lookout for nostalgia, and ate those classics up.
That hunt for nostalgia made for some of the night's weirder moments, as Snoop dove into classic collaborations whose other creators are gone. A Biggie cut dropped into the set seemed like more of a half-hearted singalong than a tribute, and it was strange to hear Snoop play second fiddle to a recording of 2Pac on "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted."
Taken in context, it's surprising how quickly some of Snoop's G-Funk pot narratives have started to feel dated after legalization in Colorado. While the black market that Snoop celebrates in his songs definitely still exists in the state, one gets the sense that its on the decline. Now anyone with a Colorado I.D. can walk into a dispensary and buy Snoop's proverbial ounce; the guy sitting next to me was rolling his joints out of a fishing fly box with his strains sorted and labeled in different compartments. The hustlers taking pot to the bank today have badges from the state and the relatively clean criminal records needed to earn them. Not that that's enough to put a damper on Snoop's weed-infused brand. The man has preached the wonders of Mary Jane for long enough that the connection has become intrinsic, enough so that when he gave users of his iPhone photo-booth app the chance to buy a golden joint sticker for $100 last year, some people actually took him up on it.
Earlier in the night, a brief squall during Harlem rapper Smoke DZA's opening set put a damper on the party before it had even properly started, extinguishing lighters and sending fans on the flanks running for cover in the trees. While the rain stopped by the time Y.G. took the stage, the soaked audience, many of whom had pretty obviously dressed for the 70-degree weather Denver had gotten earlier that day, took a little longer to recover.
Wiz Khalifa finally managed to coax some life out of the crowd, getting them bobbing with a high-test rendition of his Empire-Of-The-Sun-sampling "The Thrill". If anyone totally embodied the spirit of the holiday, it was Khalifa, who, along with his band, smoked not only during the set, but seemingly non-stop throughout the night, passing joints during songs and hitting a bong under the spotlight during a "smoke break" halfway through. Despite being presumably stoned out of his gourd, Khalifa put on an energetic performance, bouncing around the stage as the audience sang along to hits like "Black and Yellow" and "Roll Up" and conducting the opening strains of "Maan!" using his lit doob like a baton.
In the end, though, not even the headliner himself could fully overcome the weather; by the end of Snoop's Wellness Retreat, a good portion of the people around us seemed like they were well on their way to contracting pneumonia. When Snoop launched into the chorus of "Young, Wild, and Free," the cold, wet crowd had already started to stream out the gates.
By the Way: Snoop performed his entire set wearing a jersey with the word "C.O.K.E." on the back and a picture of an eight-ball on the sleeve.
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