20 Four 20: Curating the Ultimate 4/20 Music Festival
Snoop Dogg performs with Wiz Khalifa August 20 at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Photo by Larami Culbertson
Asking “what if:” It’s a cherished stoner pastime right up there with trimming, grinding, stuffing and rolling. What if 9/11 was an inside job? What if we could communicate with dolphins? What if God was one of us? There’s been no demonstrable end to the open questions that have plagued and puzzled cannabis aficionados ever since the first Swisher Sweet was clumsily glued back together with spit.
One question, however, has perhaps stirred more debate in the counterculture than any topic since pipes vs. papers: What if somebody put together the ultimate stoner music festival? Now, sure: Some might argue that any music festival inevitably ends up as a stoner music festival. And judging solely from the way your girlfriend’s hair smelled after Buzzfest, that point clearly has some merit to it. But if someone were to set out to create the ULTIMATE stoner music festival, it probably wouldn’t be co-headlined by the motherfucking Offspring, now would it?
Because it’s nearly 4/20, the annual, unofficial holiday upon which dopesmokers have chosen to indulge in slightly more weed than every other day, the proud fellows of Houston Press Music recognize that it’s your green-given right not to have to think real hard. That’s why we’ve taken the liberty of drafting a fantasy lineup of the 20 reddest-eyed purveyors of good vibes that we could cook up. We’ve tried to keep it somewhat realistic: Bob Marley, after all, ain’t walking through that door. These are all acts with a majority of members who are still living, and conceivably in good enough playing shape to perform.
You’ll find a pretty decent selection of popular styles represented below, but as we all must concede, a good list typically starts more arguments than it solves. So pull that Adidas box top out from under your couch, because it’s time to start breaking it down:
THE JIMI HENDRIX MEMORIAL ROCK STAGE
Perhaps the ultimate, self-professed stoner-rock band, Sleep set the bar high for heavy, distorted communion with one’s own mind with their 1992 classic, Holy Mountain. When their hour-long, one-song followup, Dopesmoker, was rejected by their record label in ’95, the band decided to just call it quits. Their lungs were probably pretty beat up by then, anyway. But the trio, led by High on Fire’s Matt Pike, has made sporadic appearances at fests since then, and our ideal stonerfest would be total bullshit without them.
This early ‘90s Desert Rock touchstone band comprised members of later acts like Queens of the Stone Age, Fu Manchu and Dwarves, but for sheer, experimental, neo-psychedelic heaviness, none of them ever quite topped Kyuss. Some of the members have performed Kyuss material since the band’s breakup, including a group of them most calling themselves Vista Chino. But any real reunion would have to feature the biggest holdout: QOTSA’s Josh Homme.
Time was, calling yourself a fan of Isis didn’t raise any eyebrows. The sludgy, screamy L.A. “post-metal” (or whatever the fuck) group convinced an entire generation of hardcore kids that breaking edge might be pretty awesome, after all, with their beautifully crushing riffs. The band has been defunct since 2010, which is too damn long. If they refused to reunite for the world’s greatest 4/20 fest, we might as well turn them over to the Islamic State.
Getting Tool to do much of anything is even harder than getting your average pothead to do anything, so it’s kind of hard to count on these guys. That said, they’ve always been amenable to playing for large sums of money. If that’s what it takes to get “46&2” on to this festival playlist, then we’re willing to line up some sponsors. We won’t even request press access. Just lasers.
After being crushed with heaviness for hours, we’re going to want to close out the rock stage with something at least a LITTLE lighter. Spiritualized fits the bill nicely. Their Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space album was pretty much an instant stoner classic, and they didn’t even need to down-tune their guitars to make it. Don’t you think it’s time the dope fiends of the world “Come Together?”
THE LEGENDS OF LUNG CAPACITY STAGE
OK, yeah, we know all about how you don’t like Phish. They’re geeky, they’re unrepentant noodlers and their lyrics are pretty fucking meaningless. But to leave them off the ultimate 4/20 fest would be an unforgivable travesty. Since taking the torch from the Grateful Dead, Phish’s traveling circus of fans has more or less formed the backbone of the drug culture in the U.S., devoting huge chunks of time, money and energy to smoking out and listening to live music. A Phish concert is a 4/20 festival. They belong here.
14. BLACK SABBATH
The grandfathers of heavy stoner rock (well, ALL heavy rock, practically), Black Sabbath has produced hours worth of guitar riffs that sound exactly like your bong smells. That kind of punishing, Gibson-produced synesthesia is exactly what we’re going for here. If you can’t bang your head to “Sweet Leaf,” this ain’t your festival, jack.
13. BOB DYLAN
It’s been decades since Bob Dylan was an icon of the counterculture, and nearly as long since he’s been considered cool. But the fact remains that almost no one in American history did more to make marijuana seem like a good idea to white people than Bob Dylan. He introduced the Beatles to the stuff, for God’s sake, and he’s got reams of varied material that sounds amazing stoned or straight. What do you say we burn one more with Bob while we still can?
12. BUNNY WAILER
Ok, so Mr. Marley is long gone from this plane, and Peter Tosh has been gone seemingly forever, too. But this festival cannot go on without a legendary representative from the Wailers’ triumphal rise. So, Bunny Wailer it is, man. Reggae is so closely associated with ganja that we literally could not get away without having some of the real, irie shit on the bill. Bunny’s got it covered.
11. WILLIE NELSON
Did you know that Willie Nelson plays country music? The man’s become practically better known for his marijuana advocacy over the years than he is for his tunes. Willie was hardly the only outlaw country superstar to partake, but he’s damned near the only one we’ve got left standing—and singing. Invoke our Texas bias if you must, but we ain’t leaving Willie out of this.
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