Wednesday, March 7th 2012
Shows: SmokeOut Festival
Whether they came for the variety of acts on the bill or the ceremony of finding skunk-leaf common ground in a public setting, the 5th annual Cypress Hill SmokeOut Festival was a massive, if understated, success this past weekend at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, CA. Guerilla Union, you’ve done it again.
Featuring a collage of acts with varying followings, mainstage closers Korn were preceded by surprisingly powerful sets from Wiz Khalifa and Cypress Hill, as well as Sublime with Rome. On the indoor stage, named the Massive Stoned Garden for the smoking revelers, saw the likes of Thievery Corporation, MSTRKRFT and show-closer Rusko, who brought out a few all-star guests to end the night on a marathon high note.
Sublime with Rome walked a fine line between live karaoke and cool island breeze, though their professionalism can’t be slighted. Bassist Eric Wilson — the only remaining original member, since drummer Bud Gaugh has departed – largely kept to himself onstage despite massive crowd reaction to old hits Smoke Two Joints and Date Rape. Replacement frontman Rome Ramirez did his best to build on the legacy with new originals like Panic and Take It or Leave It, which were met with lukewarm crowd response.
For those in a more low-end groove mood headed to the Massive Stoned Garden for Thievery Corporation‘s fantastic 95-minute set of intricate, entrancing sitar and bass grooves.
Somewhat amazingly, Korn essentially blew everything else out of the water with a set that leaned heavily in the direction of their new dubstep immersion. The band closed out the main stage with a genre-leaping rage-fest in front of blinding LED screens. New dubstep-laced songs translated with pulsing juggernaut spirit, while beefed up and beat-overdosed versions of tracks like Blind and Freak on a Leash breathed new life into old classics. New lacings of electronica and a focus on beats made what many expected to be a tired run of hits become an actually impressively evolved performance.
While the SmokeOut offered more than enough musical goods to satisfy a standard mini-festival crowd, another feature of the festival drew just as much enthusiasm as the music: cannabis. As in previous years, a separate “Patient Area” within the festival grounds was designated for festivalgoers with medical marijuana cards to “medicate” openly.
While an appreciated offering, the heavily secured Patient Area was a reminder of how far we still have to go as a culture to embrace widespread cannabis approval. Nevertheless, the first thing I heard upon entering the festival was someone bellowing from the stage: “Who here smokes weed every day?” The roar of the crowd was indicative that I had arrived in a uniquely permissive setting for the skunky-funk.
If you missed this year’s fest, don’t fret: if B-Real is to be believed, you’ll have plenty more chances to catch the SmokeOut in the coming years.