In our series, "HiTunes," we investigate various marijuana lore throughout music history, debunking myths and sifting through hazy rumors for the blunt truth. What was the first song to reference weed? Why have multiple artists written songs warning others about smoking with Willie Nelson? Why do so many songs about weed reference Humphrey Bogart? We'll explore these urban legends and more.
Our last edition of HiTunes explored iconic tales of musicians smoking heroic amounts herb in the studio, an action that's difficult to quantify and rarely caught on camera. So for this go-round, we're opting for a topic that provides a few more visual aides. Concerts and cannabis go together like a fine wine and cheese pairing — weed can relax the mind and heighten the senses, making live music all the more powerful. Usually though, it's the audiences members, not the performers, who are toking up (at least during the concert, that is).
If you're smoking among a crowd of people, especially if it's a General Admission concert, it's a bit harder to be singled out by security, although it still happens all of the time. Onstage, as a performer, you may be a bit more above the law, but if you're within a strict jurisdiction, you can still get popped for possession and/or consumption. Just ask Chris Brown, who was almost arrested in Ghana after smoking what appeared to be a joint onstage, even though it ended up being a tobacco-filled fake.
Smoking on stage seems to have become more common in the wake of certain states' legalization efforts. But even in places like Colorado, where legal weed sales have been in place since 2014, indoor smoking is only allowed in designated venues, and most music venues don't qualify. That said, if you're a famous musician, you can pretty much get away with whatever while performing in the States. But for music fans and cannabis enthusiasts alike, a general rule of thumb should apply to concerts: outdoor venues FTW.
Due to all this, as well as the recent proliferation of camera phones, we don't have a ton of video examples of artists toking while performing from back in the day. Not even in the Woodstock documentary, surprisingly enough. We did, however, find one particularly noteworthy instance from 20+ years ago. Read on for a look back at some entertaining tales of artists engaging in memorable, mid-concert puffage.
5. Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa Hold an Impromptu Smoking Contest
If you go to see a joint Snoop/Wiz show, you better expect to see some blunts lit up. What attendees at (the MERRY JANE-sponsored) 2016 High Road Tour may not have been expecting, though, was a full-on smoke-off between two of the greatest tokers to ever walk this green Earth. During performances of the sometimes-duo's song "Kush Ups," the two rappers designated a time towards the end of the song for trading a blunt back-and-forth, each one taking as many puffs as they could hold in their lungs, with the loser being the person who coughs first. In the instance captured above, Wiz loses, but both take in titanic amounts in a very short time span.
4. Miley Cyrus Lights Up at the MTV EMA Awards
When I began researching this edition of HiTunes by doing a preliminary Google of "smoking weed on stage," this story made up at least half of the entries on the first couple pages of results. The reasons for that are obvious: A) Miley's a huge star B) this occurred during her headline-making 2013 wild phase and C) it also happened to take place during an internationally-televised event, which no other performance on this list can claim.
Basically, while accepting an EMA (MTV's European Music Award) for her song "Wrecking Ball," Miley said, 'You know, I couldn't fit this award in my bag, but I did find this," producing a half-smoked joint out of her Chanel clutch. With the J in her mouth, she finished her speech — "So thank you guys so much" — while lighting it up. The crowd screamed, British tabloids spontaneously combusted, outraged viewers took to the web for angered responses. Miley ethered everyone (yours truly included) with a UK radio interview later that week:
"I don't care what the media says because I don't Google myself. So I don't know what they say and I don't care because it's a bunch of people that maybe one time in their life they dreamt about being a journalist and then they became what they are."
3. Melissa Etheridge Smokes Onstage at the 2016 Cannabis Cup
This is the only instance of onstage toking for which we don't have video evidence, but enough news reports came out in its wake that it's been healthily confirmed. Folk rock singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge has been an activist for her entire career, devoting herself to LQBTQ rights, environmental protection, and, of course, cannabis legalization. Despite being outspoken about her love for the herb ever since being diagnosed with cancer in 2004 and subsequently getting prescribed medical marijuana, Etheridge had apparently never smoked onstage until 2016, at a very fitting venue.
Onstage at the High Time Medical Cannabis Cup in Clio, Michigan, Etheridge reportedly produced a pre-rolled joint, told the crowd, "This is my first time ever smoking while performing," and lit up. In the past, she had admitted to performing while high, but lighting one up in front of a crowd is a whole different story. About a year later, Etheridge was even arrested at the U.S.-Canada border for possession of cannabis oil. Her mid-life love affair with weed is an inspiration to us all.
2. Nickelback's Chad Kroeger Proves He Isn't a Cop By Lighting a J
Canadian adult rock fixture Nickelback haven't always had the coolest reputation, to be sure. Google "Nickelback sucks" or "Nickelback worst band" and you'll turn up a ton of results, both deathly serious and a little tongue-in-cheek, such as the once-infamous IsNickelbackTheWorstBandEver.Tumblr.com. But hey, even if their music isn't for you, at least they seem like chill guys (they are Canadian, after all).
In the above video, taken at a concert in Mansfield, Massachusetts during the 'Back's 2010 tour, frontman Chad Kroeger picks up a joint thrown onstage by a fan, and after an extended dad joke, eventually smokes it. "I see that somebody pre-rolled one of those tobacco cigarettes," he declares in his best "I am not a cop" voice. "Nothing but tobacco in this bad boy." This goes on for about a minute before he gets the "Marlboro," as he facetiously calls it, lit. The crowd erupts, and Kroeger looks very pleased with himself. Knowing how conservative the few card-carrying Nickelback fans in my life are, the band may have lost some fans for this. As a result, we can't help but salute their bravery — dad jokes or not.
1. Cypress Hill Get Banned from SNL After Smoking Onstage
Remember back in the intro when I explained the risks of smoking onstage as a performer? Here's a teachable moment from 1993. L.A. rap group, and noted cannabis connoisseurs, Cypress Hill appeared on SNL in support of their triple-platinum album Black Sunday, performing their hits "Insane in the Membrane" and "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That." According to the group's DJ Muggs in the above video, the show's staff had forbade them from lighting up in 30 Rock, but as they hinted in the latter song, they weren't about to go out like that.
"Yo, New York City, they said I couldn't light my joint, you know what I'm saying," said Muggs, "Well, we ain't going out like that!" He proceeded to spark his J, and finished the performance by knocking over the group's bongo kit, ensuring that Cypress Hill got a lifetime ban from the late night show that still persists to this day.
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