If music producer Megan Hamilton’s life were a film, the story arc would begin with her as a 16-year-old living in Montana and dreaming of attending Chico State University in Northern California — a school notoriously known for its stoned student body.
The following scenes would detail her coming-of-age story. We’d see her attending Montana State University instead of Chico and then moving to Minneapolis to study at the Art Institute, where she’d discover her talent for making music — and her love of weed. We’d see her performing at small venues around town and rattling the roof off with electrifying bass, and eventually playing bigger venues in neighboring states. The story would document her rise into festival stardom and inevitably culminate in a moment occurring this weekend, July 14-16: Performing at Northern Nights Music Festival.
The festival is taking place on the border of Humboldt and Mendocino counties — in the Solar Plexus of the Emerald Triangle — just several hours west of Chico State University. In her life's film, we'd see Megan remembering how she dreamt of attending college in cannabis country when she was young and realizing that she would always find her way into the NorCal trees.
“I have never played an actual cannabis festival before,” Megan told MERRY JANE in an interview. “I have played lots of events that are correlated with cannabis companies playing in Denver, but I am really excited about playing Northern Nights. It’s funny because I wanted to attend Chico State when I was, like, 16 — and I didn’t even smoke weed yet then, so, I guess I just always knew it was coming for me.”
Megan’s Northern Nights set feels fated in many ways. As a daily cannabis consumer and nature lover, performing an event like Northern Nights is a mash-up of Megan’s passion and tastes.
“I love Northern California; it’s so beautiful there,” Megan said. “I have also smoked weed from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed every day for the past 10 years.”
She said that’s a bit of an exaggeration, noting that when she travels and doesn’t have weed, she barely thinks about it.
“My therapist calls it ‘checklist mode’ when I’m working like that, which is often. It’s when I have to get to the airport, and I have to get to soundcheck and have a ton of stuff to do. In my mind, anything outside of that checklist doesn’t occur until everything is checked off. Then I can unwind and do what I normally do, but some days I don’t even think about it, which is shocking, but I guess it’s always good to take a break.”
Without directly saying it, Megan essentially explained that weed is her life. Not necessarily in an obsessive way, but she takes it more like a multivitamin.
“I love weed. Are you kidding me?” she said. "I have some stomach issues that it’s so significantly game-changing for me and has made it possible to perform when I haven’t felt well or when we’ve all been up for three days at a festival, and I have to play at 4:30 in the morning. Or sometimes you get heartburn from being nervous. Weed can make me anxious sometimes, but 98% of the time, the opposite is true for me.”
Northern Nights, which is taking place at Cooks Campground, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. It’s a massive feat considering the hardships the cannabis industry at large is currently facing, and the fact Northern Nights is the first live music event to weave cannabis into its festival model. MERRY JANE interviewed festival co-founder Andrew Blap last year about why San Francisco's Outside Lands Music Festival gets the credit for having the first on-site consumption area (called Grass Lands) inside of a festival. He explained that Northern Nights actually did it first.
"We were basically planning our events at the same time," Blap told MERRY JANE. "The people who put on Grass Lands come to Northern Nights, we know them well. They helped us get our permits, and we helped them get theirs, and we still work closely with them. Obviously, if 80,000 people are going to a festival in San Francisco, the media is going to cover it. We're only at about 10,000 people, so we get it."
Northern Nights Music Festival is hosting many cannabis industry heavyweights this year, including Cookies, Puffco, Humboldt Seed Company, Ridgeline Farms, and many more. The goal, as always, is to highlight the brands and people at the center of cannabis culture.
And the best part is, many of the performers on the lineup — like Megan Hamilton — are also cannabis consumers and advocates for the culture.
“Weed slaps in every way, and I utilize it as much as possible,” Megan said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
For more information about Northern Nights Music Festival and to buy tickets, visit their website.