Story and photos by Steve Robles
Despite a little moisture from the heavens and high-priced food and drink, the Cypress Hill Smokeout was a success for the bands involved, cannabis, and the city of San Bernardino.
The Smokeout has made its home at the National Orange Show Events center in San Bernardino, CA for four of its six years. San Bernardino was recently in the national spotlight when it was ravaged by one of the giant firestorms that claimed hundreds of homes in California. Sparking a more beneficial sort of flame, the Cypress Hill Smokeout this year donated a portion of its proceeds to the area Red Cross to aid those burnt out of their homes.
"The vibe was always tight here, no major problems, everybody’s always here to party, to get along," Cypress Hill member and Smokeout co-founder B-Real said. "Every concert’s going to have its minor problems, but we’ve been fortunate to where things have been kept to a minimum. We’ve had a lot of success [in San Bernardino]. People have always been pretty receptive to our show. When we saw San Bernadino was burning, it was horrible."
The 6th-Annual Smokeout took place at the NOS Events Center, drawing 21,000 fans to an unusual venue for a fledgling music festival. "Usually, festivals of this nature are thrown in what we call ‘sheds’ – amphitheater-type venues, where there’s a lot of grass," B-Real adding. "We wanted to do something unconventional, so we brought it here. We decided to try our hand out here and hopefully we can get people from LA and other places to make the trip."
When asked about what message he wanted to convey with the marijuana theme of the show, B-Real responded philosophically. "Now’s the time when you can actually change the way people think about it," he said. "There’s so much factual information out there. I can remember people 10 years ago who were anti-marijuana and as time went by, they started to get information that had been suppressed by the government and started to say, ‘Oh, well, maybe it’s not as bad as we thought it was.’ That’s the key—you have to let those people know what the real deal is, what the truth is."
In addition to the good will engendered by the charitable actions of Cypress Hill and promoter Guerilla Union, there was also much good will generated by the copious amounts of good greens circulating amongst the crowd of enthusiastic fans. Even after the rain threatened to snuff out the show, the smoke still rose for later acts Linkin Park and Cypress Hill.
In talking to young and old adult stoners, one thing became clear: after being exposed to the largest anti-drug campaign in U.S. history, the younger adult generation is ready and willing to accept the decriminalization or (better yet) the legalization of marijuana, even if they don’t partake themselves.
This was evidenced by the swamped rows of water pipe, hemp clothing, and other vendors. Eager young stoners snapped up everything from a new glass piece to literature relating to marijuana legalization. The little bazaar-type areas offered a commercial haven for those looking to expand their wardrobes as well as their minds.
Musically, this Smokeout leaned toward a harder-edged sound than previous joints. Headliner Linkin Park shared the spotlight with fellow marquee acts DMX, Pennywise, Obie Trice, One Bad Acid Trip, and the traditional 4:20 Surprise Guest. This year, it was rapper Xibit. Balancing out the festival were dozens of DJs and electronic acts that dotted the area in tents and outbuildings. It was almost too much to catch all at once.
The highlight of the show was obviously Cypress Hill. After over a decade of providing some of the best music to share a spliff by, these guys still put all other bands to shame. Mixing their hits with cuts from their upcoming album, ’Til Death Do Us Part, B-Real was all over the stage with his rapping Sen Dog, cavorting in front of a giant inflatable Buddha with a pot leaf on his belly.
Cypress Hill took the stage a couple of hours shy of their usual show-closing time, filling in for rapper DMX, fueling speculation that DMX might skip out on the Smokeout once again, having done so at a previous show. But he came out in Cypress Hill’s time slot instead and delivered what the fans wanted to hear. Well, at least the ones that were left.
The rain started to fall as night descended on the Smokeout, but that didn’t deter Linkin Park fans from sticking around. The crowd got soaked in rain and sonic fury as Linkin Park proved that they are the group that Limp Bizkit wanted to be and failed. Puffs of smoke mingled with the steam of human breath as the temperature dropped and Linkin Park brought fire to the bellies of the young people moshing and singing along.
Earlier in the day Pennywise provided a great, old-school punk performance. From "Fuck Authority" to "Now I Know" on their current release, From the Ashes, Pennywise owned the mosh pit. Before their set Bassist Fletcher admitted he quit smoking pot about 10 years ago, but he’s all for the decriminalization of the leaf.
"Right now, if they legalized marijuana and had government-controlled crops, they could use that money to fight real drugs like cocaine and heroin, that are out there killing people…and ruining families and people lives for sure," Fletcher asserted. "When it comes to alcohol, I drink it, I like it, but I’ll be the first to admit that I get in a lot of trouble with booze and I never got in trouble like that when I was smoking weed."
That mixture of punk and rock and hip-hop reflected the diversity in music and of the crowd on hand that has come to make the Smokeout one of the premiere cannabis-related concerts and events in the nation—a reputation that draws artists from all across the spectrum to it, such as Eminem DJ and rising solo artist DJ Green Lantern.
"Me and my man [Cypress Hill’s] DJ Muggs were on tour in Europe and he kept telling me, ‘Yo, you gotta come to the Smokeout, man, the Smokeout,’" Green Lantern explained. "It’s a crazy mix of people out here."
Green Lantern counts himself as part of the marijuana culture. "I’m looking for some right now," he laughed. "If you see me at a show and you go to hand me something, it’s gotta be Fire, first of all. That’s like high-grade. It’s gotta be in a Dutch Master or a Philly. We’re gonna keep it cigar."
In the end, the Smokeout has proven to fall somewhere in between the old-style rock festivals and the increasing corporate-driven profit making of the recent Ozzfests and Woodstocks. It inherently appeals to the open-minded members of the counterculture with its theme but reveals the business side in how it conducts business once patrons are inside. High food and water prices ($10 for a burger and fries, $3 for a bottle of water) and extra-tight security unfortunately contradict the mission behind this type of event.
Uniformed San Bernardino Police officers worked with mounted Sheriff’s deputies in the parking lot. This reporter witnessed a few young stoners falling into the clutches of the authorities, yelled at, intimidated, and dragged away from their friends.
The police forgot to notice that no one was fighting, turning things over, or burning things. They forgot to notice that some vendors closed up early not because they were afraid of rioting crowds, but that the natural rain would ruin their merchandise. Most of all, they forgot to take notice of what it means to be young in America today. Pushed and pressured to return to the outdated, outmoded values of 50 years ago, the youth of today’s America are a diverse and increasingly angry lot. The harder-edged lineup for this year’s Cypress Hill Smokeout should serve as both this reminder and warning: The stoners of America are becoming increasingly aware and will some day take back what’s been taken.
DJ Green Lantern will release a solo project in May/June of next year on Shady Records. This project will be executive produced by Eminem and feature appearances by the likes of Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, and other hip-hop artists. Green Lantern will also be working on several tracks from an upcoming Tupac record. More information and mix tapes of various sorts are available at www.djgreenlantern.com.
Regular Cypress Hill 4:20 show veterans Level were at their first Smokeout as well and mentioned that one of their members was recently placed on probation, but declined to say who it was. They are currently out promoting their self-titled Z-Records release, featuring the single "Living Inside of Me." More information and music are available at www.levelcd.com.