On April 20, the hallowed stoner celebration day known as 4/20, rappers Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa headlined at Red Rocks, and reggae rapper Matisyahu joined MC Talib Kweli at the Fillmore Auditorium on East Colfax. The previous day, jam bands Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Dumpstaphunk were in LoDo. It may not have been a weekend in New York City—but it wasn’t bad for a couple of spring days in the Mile High City.
“It seems as if musicians are viewing [shows in Colorado] like an Amsterdam tour,” Jay Bianchi, owner of local clubs Sancho’s Broken Arrow and Quixote’s, told me when I called him earlier this year. Which is really just a roundabout way of saying they’re looking for a place to buy and smoke pot indiscreetly without fear of getting busted.
Bianchi isn’t the only observer of the local music industry with this theory. I’ve been covering the music business as a Denver-based contributor to Rolling Stone for more than a decade, and before Colorado’s marijuana law went into effect in January I’d predicted a flood of musicians who would instruct their agents to ensure tour stops in Colorado. I also expected hordes of out-of-town fans booking flights and hotels to hear them play.
But Matisyahu, speaking from a tour stop in Miami, made a different case, as did numerous agents, managers, and concert promoters to whom I floated the “pot + musicians = tourism” equation. “I don’t think anything will change,” Matisyahu said. “Denver has always been the gateway to the West, in terms of the routing. It’s always been a place that bands will go.
“But whoever the stoner is in the band—he is looking forward to going to Denver,” Matisyahu laughs. “Mainly, it will affect guitar techs across the country.”