New York City’s first cannabis cup after legalization in the state arrived this past 4/20 with a large event that featured classic music acts such as Bob Marley’s old compatriots The Wailers. Occurring at club Amazura in Queens, NYC: 420 by NY-Harvest Fest was a combination concert festival, marketplace, fashion show, and art happening. For those that made it out to the festivities, there was much to see and do.
As growers competed by presenting their latest crops, vendors sold all types of paraphernalia and even marijuana plants themselves. Artists displayed crafts such as marijuana buds and mushrooms encased in glass and lit by LED lights. Stereotypical stoner clothing, tie-dye, and hemp materials were hawked. Haggling with a stoned hippy can be a trip, trust me. In addition to the usual roach clips, ashtrays, blowtorches, pipes, and bongs you expect to find, there were unusual things for sale such as marijuana sex oil. It was almost overwhelming to see actual marijuana and mushrooms being sold. Even plants and seeds were for sale. It’s a brave new world for potheads in New York.
In meeting the various vendors and growers, it was obvious that the overall ethnic makeup of the participants was white. Despite the prominence of Black and Hispanic entertainers on the bill and the demographics of the local Jamaica, Queens neighborhood, there was little representation of POC vendors and growers at NYC: 420. With the current trend for equity in marijuana legalization in New York, this seemed a rather missed opportunity. Hopefully, this will be addressed by next year’s event.
NYC: 420 also had a bake-off competition. Bakers battled it out over who made the best brownies. That wasn’t the only food on hand as tacos were served made with marijuana on the second floor. The upper level also displayed trippy artwork and had a DJ providing ethereal beats to jam to as the tacos began to kick in.
If you’re like me and edibles get you too fucked up, you probably prefer smoking your marijuana. As smoking and vaping are not allowed inside NYC venues, stoners had to go outside to get high if they wanted to light up. I had hoped that Club Amazura would have had a rooftop to chill out on (and other attendees we overheard), but tokers had to smoke cramped up together in front of the club behind a barricade. Smoke from the barbecue vendors overpowered even our huge clouds of pot smoke that we would end up smelling like meat. That coupled with the lack of seating inside made it rather hard for people to fully enjoy their high. There really was nowhere to lounge and veg out.
“Though all of the vendors were friendly and knowledgeable, when it came to customer service I’ve got to give it to the folks at Bud Bus Inc. Not only is their concept badass, but they take great care of their customers. When I had a stoner moment and left the Packwoods I bought behind at their table, they helped me track down someone in charge (who “may or may not be the owner”). He was able to confirm my error because he in fact was smoking the pack himself! We both enjoyed a good chuckle over our stoner actions and he gave his squad the OK to hook me up with TWO packs of Truffle Packarillos after the mix-up. I highly recommend you check them out if you’re in the Jersey area. Products and service are on point!”
After a fashion show featuring runway models in body paint, the main musical acts took the stage. The Original Wailers were excellent and played all the great hits such as “One Love” and “Get Up, Stand Up”. Their set was accentuated by a dazzling laser light show. Unfortunately, it was a rather sparse crowd the Original Wailers played to. The large-sized club never came close to being filled with attendees. Seeing a legendary band like the Original Wailers play to such a small crowd was disappointing. Perhaps it was due to people still being wary of going out due to COVID concerns.
The rapper Immortal Technique is another well-known name, especially here in NYC. Born in Peru, but raised in Harlem, Immortal Technique has been an active member of New York’s hip-hop community. Having never shied away from getting political, Immortal Technique took the opportunity to vent out his frustrations against inequality oppressive systems in between rocking the mic.
It was after Immortal Technique set that’s when things got a little weird. While there was a smattering of political speeches throughout the day, they were short and to the point. Unlike the one aging hippy with the handlebar mustache who was introduced by Immortal Technique and ended up rambling about CIA conspiracies, Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon, and the film Air America. The mic had to be pulled from his hand so that a few hip-hop acts could perform. The generational divide in cannabis culture seemed to be exemplified at that very moment.
The rest of the evening’s entertainment was devoted to dance music. Radio Rahim’s Old School Dance Party featured hip-hop legend Grandmaster Dee from Whodini. With appearances by DJ Jeffrey D and DJ Redboy, classic hip-hop tracks from the 80s and 90s were served up. The breakdancer turned rapper turned DJ, Toney Touch also performed his own set. Renowned turntablist DJ Keoki, whose career started as a club kid in the infamous Limelight scene, spun Grateful Dead hits.
Again, seeing such a legendary line-up of talent play in a half-empty club was a bummer. Better promotion needs to happen for next year’s event. Another issue I had with the venue was the lack of custodians. I never saw one custodian there and there was plenty of trash and spills that were never cleaned up. That alongside the lack of lounge areas really brought down the enjoyment level for me despite the great musical line-up and wonderful and diverse selection of art, fashion, and merchandise on hand. Not to mention the great weed that was available.
This can very well be chalked up to growing pains. Legalization has just started in New York, and it may take some time for a true above-ground cannabis culture to get its footing here. All these issues can easily be addressed by next 4/20. I for one look forward to what the next year of legal pot in New York brings.
Stay tuned for Sin Dee’s review of the edibles, merch, and bud purchased at NYC:420. Post coming soon!