The truth about Colorado’s music scene is that it never, ever turns into the next Seattle or the next Portland or the next Detroit. The transformation didn’t happen when the Eagles picked (the now-defunct venue) Tulagi as its home base in Boulder. It didn’t happen when the Samples and Big Head Todd and the Monsters threatened to turn the state into an international jam-band metropolis. It didn’t happen when the Fray and the Flobots had their hits. And it appears as if it’s not going to happen now, even if Snoop and Wiz can walk into a storefront on South Broadway to load up on chronic. “[Marijuana] might be a nice perk once you’re there, but it’s not really the reason we’re going,” says Peter Schwartz, the New York booking agent for numerous hip-hop stars, including hemp-friendly rappers such as Khalifa, Cypress Hill, and Redman. “And let’s keep in mind, realistically, that people who enjoy marijuana have it. They don’t really need to go to Colorado for it.”
On top of that, consider Colorado’s restrictive rules about pot use: You still can’t smoke anything (legally) at a public concert (that includes cigarettes and cloves); you still can’t (legally) smoke weed in a public place; and you certainly can’t (legally) bring ganja on an airplane or carry it into a neighboring state. “Most musicians are talking about it, and we’re all pretty psyched on it,” says Marco Benevento, an indie musician based in Woodstock, New York, who is so associated with marijuana that fans approach after concerts to gift him with edibles and vaporizers. He adds, though, that pot smokers crossing the Centennial State’s lines have to be more careful than ever. “We’re also kind of scared to drive in and out of Colorado,” he says. “We’ve heard people are getting busted around borders and whatnot.”
Still, music promoters here have tried to lure crowds with cannabis—although perhaps not in the way most would expect. In April, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra announced three summer bring-your-own-pot shows sponsored in part by a promoter called Edible Events. “Part of our goal is to bring in a younger audience and a more diverse audience, and I would suggest that the patrons of the cannabis industry are both younger and more diverse than the patrons of the symphony orchestra,” Jerry Kern, the symphony’s executive director, told the Denver Post.
By May, city officials threatened to shut down the event due to a concern that classical music fans might commit the illegal act of toking up in a public concert venue. In the end, the symphony retooled the concerts into private events—the first of which raised $50,000 through sponsorship and donations. The scrambling at the time led to mixed messages among symphony officials. This spring, I spoke with a vice president who backed off Kern’s statements. But in June, Laura Bond, the CSO’s public-relations director, reverted to Kern’s sunnier spin: “People are coming here for music as a destination—if marijuana helps sweeten that profile, we’re all for participating in that.”