Yesterday, no one who wanted to smoke needed to set aside a room for it. They only had to come to Fiddler’s Green, where Snoop Dogg was headlining the third edition of his annual 4/20 concert, backed by Future, Kevin Gates, Tory Lanez and Raven Felix. As the night wore on, puffs of smoke appeared over the heads of the packed crowd like cartoon thought bubbles. Walking around the venue, I could smell every variety of marijuana scent — earthy, citrusy, woody — that you can imagine.
Snoop never really changes. See him play the same show three years in a row, like I have, and it becomes clear that he’s reached a point in his career where he’s happy to hit cruise control and follow the pattern he’s charted over the past 23 years. The Doggfather played the same songs he always does, drawing heavily from the foundational Doggystyle. Most of the visuals projected on the screen behind him, CGI Caddies and booty-shorted female dancers, were reused from past years. At times, it seemed like he was even repeating the same stage banter word for word. When Snoop goes, you get the sense that he’ll make a great hologram.
Not that his predictability is necessarily a bad thing. Snoop Dogg is the same master entertainer he’s always been, and hearing him nail “Gin and Juice” or “Who Am I” for the thousandth time is still satisfying, like listening to a favorite greatest-hits album. Over the decades, he’s developed one of the most recognizable and consistent flows in rap; even when he sets a classic cut like “Lodi Dodi” next to a new one, as he did with his verse from “California Gurls," it never seems to clash.
Some credit has to go to co-headliner Future, who provided some much-needed aural texture. The Georgia-born rapper banged through an energetic set, hitting a peak with a laser-synth-tinged rendition of “Same Damn Time.” Credit, too, to Kevin Gates, who, for as down and nasty as he gets, can be a surprisingly evocative storyteller when he wants to be (and quick on his feet: “Shoutout to shorty — she just fainted,” he said when a woman passed out in the front row between songs. “I do that to people sometimes.”)
Notably absent was the glut of cannabis imagery that’s characterized Snoop’s previous 4/20 shows in Denver. Gone were the dancers dressed as giant joints and the mid-set breaks to hit a bong on stage. In its place, audience members got long, slickly produced commercials for pot culture site Merry Jane and Leafs by Snoop, a signature line of flower, extracts and edibles packaged like something you’d buy from Starbucks. (Leafs by Snoop, with its hipster-boutique branding, is probably more illustrative of the weed industry in 2016 than anything else: They've stopped selling us drugs and, like all other luxury-goods manufacturers, started selling us FOMO.)
Three years into Colorado’s relationship with legalized weed, 4/20 has lost some (okay, a lot) of its countercultural edge. Looking around the crowd, it felt more like St. Patrick’s Day with smoke, a day society has set aside when you can get completely and utterly blasted without anyone accusing you of having a problem. Weed is the medium, not the point, of that same public celebration of excess, as evidenced by the conspicuously massive spliffs being lit throughout the audience. (No normal person casually smokes weed in five-inch joints, the same way no normal person comes home after a long day at work and kicks back with a Jäger Bomb.)
Before launching into his final number, “Young, Wild, and Free,” Snoop took off his glasses, like he does every year, and promised the crowd that he’d be back in Denver for 4/20 next year. It’s a safe bet that when the ritual returns, the crowds will still be there for it.
Check out the full slideshow of Snoop Dogg's annual Wellness Retreat at Fiddler's Green.