The Texas Smoke Break Gives Houston A Return To Live Music

The Texas Smoke Break brought out Houston notables like Slim Thug, Bun B, and more.
The Texas Smoke Break brought out Houston notables like Slim Thug, Bun B, and more. Photo by Doogie Roux

“I think we need to settle this right now,” exclaimed Le$ as he stood center stage at White Oak Music Hall next to Polyester The Saint Saturday night. Le$, who has been working with the Los Angeles rapper on an upcoming joint project, may normally be a team player, but with the current subject the MC was feeling anything but unified.

“This man,” accused Le$ as he pointed and directed the crowd’s attention toward Polyester. “This man thinks that In & Out is better than Whataburger. Boo this man!”

The audience, enjoying the concert from their individual sections, joins in on playfully booing the west coast burger staple. Polyester laughs and argues back with the crowd.

“Man, In & Out is better. In & Out is like Burger King.”

“Burger King!?” gasps Le$ before doubling over in laughter. “Actually, you said that right. In & Out IS like Burger King.”

It’s a moment that captures the easy-going spirit of The Texas Smoke Break, one of the first major concerts since the state has officially reopened after a year of venues being closed because of COVID. The concert, put on by Gas God’s, tops off a week of events dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of cannabis culture. A Sunday Brunch, a taco night at 8th Wonder, club outings, and happy hours put on by the group got Houstonians out the house earlier in the week and ready for the final event Saturday. Fans weren’t disappointed by the lineup headlined by west coast MC Larry June and featuring a who’s who of Texas notables like Slim Thug, Devin the Dude, Le$, Big Jade, Marqus Clae, and more. Plus, surprise appearances from Maxo Kream and Bun B.

“I know y’all got tables and y’all separated like it’s the club,” yelled Maxo Kream as he looked out at the White Oak lawn after being brought out as a surprise guest by DJ Mr Rogers. “But I don’t give a fuck about none of that. It’s time to turn up!”

The crowd jumped to their feet as the Alief rapper, donning a blue and red jersey from his Persona brand, walked across the stage and the guitar riff for his single “Meet Again” filled the air.

click to enlarge Devin The Dude Gets The Crowd on their feet - PHOTO BY DOOGIE ROUX
Devin The Dude Gets The Crowd on their feet
Photo by Doogie Roux
The separation to which Maxo was referring is White Oak’s grid system, their way of implementing safety protocols while still allowing attendees a chance to view the show. The usually open lawn was separated into mini squares where one to six guests could use an app to order items to be sent to their section.

“It’s everything it needed to be,” describes producer/rapper Boi Dru. “It’s exactly what’s needed right now. You can order everything of the app. You can get chairs, food, drinks, merchandise. It’s like being at a cabana or something.”

The grid system didn’t hinder the show at all with the crowd consistently jumping to their feet while artist like Slim Thug ran through their string of hits. There was also the feeling that many attendees where just happy to get out of the house and finally be able to see a live show.

“This is a great experience,” sighed a relieved Clare Rivers during one of the DJ breaks. “It’s a great vibe and everything is so accessible. This is such a good time after such a long hard year. I just feel like my soul is being fed.”

Her friend, Lea Jacobs, exclaimed a similar thought as she danced to the DJ set.

“If you are not at Texas Smoke Break tonight you are missing out at the beginning of the new season. There are so many great artists here and this feels like just the beginning of getting out there for the summer.”

The sold-out show was not only filled with fans like Rivers and Jacobs, but also plenty of Houston performers coming out to support the stars on stage.

“I don’t really come outside like that so it’s a little strange, but it feels good being back out the house,” says DJ OG Ron C as he looks at the concert from the VIP booth. “I lead a blessed life so I can just stay in and chop up records, but I had to come out the house for this. I’m here to see everybody but especially Devin and Slim. Devin use to rap in my closet so any time I get a chance to see him I’m there. I used to be on the road with Slim Thug so of course it’s good to see him perform.”

While some might think a year off would leave some performers rusty and shaking off the cobwebs, the show was packed with talent that looked as if they hadn’t missed a beat. Newcomers Big Jade and Marqus Clae stalked the stage and controlled the crowd with an energy that could be described as anything but novice. Le$ performed with his usual laid back signature style and even brought out Bun B to perform tracks from their joint album, Distant. Plus a pro cannabis concert in Houston wouldn’t be complete without Devin the Dude and the MC ran through his marijuana laced classics to the delight of the crowd. By the time Larry June hit the stage to massive applause it was apparent that Gas Gods had a hit and the hopeful beginnings of a yearly event.

click to enlarge White Oak's Grid System allowed fans to view the show and maintain distance. - PHOTO BY DOOGIE ROUX
White Oak's Grid System allowed fans to view the show and maintain distance.
Photo by Doogie Roux
For so many, after being away from live music for the past year it was a lot and DJ Shante described the feelings a few concert goers expressed while enjoying the show.

“It’s overwhelming because we just jumped back into everything so quickly. Everyone is asking you to come do this or come do that but, at the end of the day, I’m just happy to see my friends and everybody having a good time being out and about.”
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Houston Press contributor DeVaughn Douglas is a freelance writer, blogger, and podcaster. He is 1/2 of the In My Humble Opinion Podcast and 1/1 of the Sleep and Procrastination Society. (That last one isn't a podcast; he just procrastinates and sleeps a lot.)