20 Four 20: Curating the Ultimate 4/20 Music Festival

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

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:


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.

18. ISIS
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.

17. TOOL
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?”


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.

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.

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?

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.

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.


EDM, however you define it, has perhaps no more strident a marijuana advocate than British basshead Rusko. He’s sparred with his abolitionist counterpart, Deadmau5, on the subject of drug-taking, he’s encouraged his stoniest fans to get politically active and he’s produced some of the bong-shattering best beats to back up his words. If we left him off this fest, God knows we’d be reading Tweets about it.

Flosstradamus’ Cannabis Cup blend of hip-hop, trap and EDM practically loads the bowl and smokes it for you. Would it surprise you to learn that the duo started making music just so that they’d never have to buy their own weed again? We made that up, but there’s a strong ring of truth to it, isn’t there? If dancing all night is your version of “chill,” you can’t miss their set. You never know when Juicy J might show up.

Let’s be real: any musician who goes by the name “Pretty Lights” was going to pretty much be guaranteed to smoke green. It probably doesn’t hurt that he’s from Colorado — the bleeding edge of sanctioned U.S. weed worship. The electronic artist even has a strain of bud named after him. If he didn’t perform at this fest, he’d probably buy a ticket.

The dark, downbeat tempos of Massive Attack’s groundbreaking Blue Lines record have been the de facto soundtrack for couchlock since the ‘90s. The trip-hop collective released their first new music in years this January, making 2016 the perfect time to drag these folks back out of the shadows. Let's use our collective psychic energy! Just close your eyes and inhale.

Don’t act like Endtroducing… didn’t blow your fucking mind, dude. Those worn-in drum breaks sound like the clanking of a cannabis-combustion engine, and they’ve powered countless, funky trips to the center of the soul in the years since Shadow’s debut. He proved to a lot of people that quality, outer-space hip-hop didn’t need a bunch of raps…just a bunch of wraps.


No way we’re leaving the hometown boy off of this. Devin the Dude has pledged his soul to the holy triumvirate of pussy, weed and alcohol, but if he’s being honest with himself, the coughee probably sits just a little higher on the throne that the other two. “Doobie Ashtray,” in particular, remains the finest, most introspective paean to the reefer in Southern rap history.

Method Man and Redman love to smoke so much that they made a damn movie about it. They’ve been promising a sequel to How High ever since, but we’d settle for a blunt-choked set of their tag-team classics to get our festival crowd rocking as one. Few hip-hop acts command a stage like these two, and if you ain’t with that, expect a cloud of smoke in your face.

Here’s one for the young cats. Twenty years from now, Kid Cudi is going to be the guy that all the up-and-coming weed rappers look up to. Hell, he was so high in 2010 that he thought recording and releasing an alt-rock concept album was a good idea. It wasn’t, and some of the stuff he’s released since hasn’t been much better. But who remembers that shit? This guy practically invented the “lonely stoner” rap persona, and your kid already thinks Man on the Moon is a stone-cold classic.

Cypress Hill was weed rap before weed rap was a thing, and to this day, nobody has done it better. “Dr. Greenthumb.” “Hits From the Bong.” Do we really even need to justify putting B-Real and company on this festival? It would take a lot more words to justify leaving them off of it.

Snoop Dogg has made a fascinating transition over the years from being one of White America’s most feared gangstas to one of its most beloved pimps. Maybe it’s that nobody who burns and much ‘dro as Snoop can be all that scary (watch those bodyguards, though, bruh). In fact, weed smoking has practically become the Doggfather’s second career. So when he arrives onstage at last in a puff of smoke, there’s not much you can do but lick it, light it, hit it and chill…‘til the next episode.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.