I'd heard them constantly throughout my young years growing up in the Bay Area, but I never really listened to the Grateful Dead until I was 16. I was moody and pubescent as heck, but “Sugar Magnolia” made me want to be crazy in the sunlight, yes indeed.
Listening to the Grateful Dead so much made me want to try weed, so I started going into the woods with a friend and smoking out of an apple next to waterfalls and babbling brooks. To be honest, I probably only inhaled one-fourth of the time—I was not cool, by any means. But this was when I first discovered that sometimes, given the right conditions, music and weed can go together nicely.
Here’s the thing: There is a huge difference between half-heartedly smoking low-quality weed and blasting American Beauty through your iPod headphones in the forest vs. getting stoned out of your gourd on Oregon’s dispensary-grade cannabis for a live concert of music. The setting always defines my weed-smokin’ experience—for example, sitting in the Schnitz’s low-hanging balcony while pleasantly faded for Brian Wilson’s recent tour playing all of Pet Sounds was perfect. But if you smoke before Ratatat, you might spend half the time standing completely still, surrounded by hundreds of sweaty ravers, and the other half of the time dodging the red lasers. It might be a good idea to altogether avoid being high at house shows, which often take place in dark, cramped basements—prime territory for a silent anxiety meltdown.
But there’s one particular experience that’s forever burned into my mind, so here’s a cautionary tale.
Brazilian dream weaver Seu Jorge recently toured the US playing the David Bowie songs he covered in Wes Anderson’s 2004 cult classic The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Jorge barely even knew Bowie’s lyrics when he hastily translated and sang them in his native Portuguese for the film. Nevertheless, his gentle deconstructions won over countless ears, including these two. So you can imagine my delight when he announced a tour stop at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.
That day, my BFF picked me up from work, and as soon as I got in the car she nodded towards a tiny green Tupperware and jiggled her eyebrows suggestively. It was full of delectable, weed-infused dark chocolate shavings. I hadn’t planned to get high, but I also hadn’t had dessert (red flag—always have dessert). We parked, I gorged myself, felt fine, and we trudged up to our nosebleed seats.
It hit me during “Starman.” Sitting on a stool, Jorge seemed miles away—the room was dark, save for twinkle lights illuminating his feet as he gingerly strummed the acoustic guitar. Hypnotic images of Ziggy Stardust were projected behind the stage. Jorge was a warm glow in another galaxy, and I was high as balls.
Suddenly, I realized I couldn’t tell whether the audience was singing along in Portuguese or if there was just an extreme echo. It freaked me out. I began perspiring heavily.
I tried to talk to my significantly less high BFF, who looked perplexed as I whispered to her frantically. My eyes locked on Jorge, afraid to look away. Compounding my anxiety, some rowdy middle-aged women started shouting stuff at him; I still don’t know what they yelled, but I could smell the cheap Chianti from rows away. Minutes later, ushers escorted them out. I was terrified—was I next?
Eventually the concert ended, and my BFF asked if I was ready to leave. I would’ve been, if only I’d been able to feel my legs. They were both sound asleep, sweet little sausages lulled into a slumber by the delicate coos of Jorge. My BFF, in true BFF fashion, slung my limp arm over her shoulder, hoisted me up, and helped me down to the ground floor, one stair at a time.
The relationship between weed and music is beautiful and mysterious; scientists still seek to explain the two elements’ codependent power. Norman Mailer once told High Times that when he listened to jazz stoned, “Simple things became complex; complex things clarified themselves.”
Though my experience at Seu Jorge wasn’t the end of the world, it’s not one I ever hope to repeat. So I guess the moral of this story is to watch your freaking butt with edibles.