That's a lot of empty floor at the Fillmore Auditorium on 4/20, and this shot was snapped about 45 minutes into headliner Matisyahu's set at the Waldos Music Festival. (Ricardo Baca, The Cannabist)

4/20 entertainment offerings grew too much, too soon (opinion)

Last week we marveled at the plethora of entertainment options for revelers on 4/20 weekend.

And how could we not? In the year between 4/20/13 and 4/20/14, Red Rocks’ 4/20 load doubled to two sold-out shows, the Cannabis Cup grew two-to-three times by issuing 37,000 tickets (including vendors and media) and at least five brand new music festivals popped up throughout the state.

But after surveying the scene this weekend, the growth in many ways was too much and too soon.

Yes, the Cup’s three-hour lines and shoulder-to-shoulder slogs indicated a big crowd, and perhaps it took away from Civic Center’s crowd, which still numbered in an estimated tens of thousands of people. At night the locals and tourists alike headed up the hill for sold-out concerts at Red Rocks on the 19th and 20th.

But what about the other events — like the three-day Daze on the Green music festival featuring Tea Leaf Green, Dumpstaphunk and Karl Denson? On Sunday afternoon it seemed as if there were fewer than 50 fans in the spacious Sculpture Park as the first band of the day played. The crowd later in the evening numbered between 300 and 500.

What about the Waldos Music Festival at the Fillmore Auditorium on 4/20? With a lineup of rappers Talib Kweli and Matisyahu, surely they could fill up the 3,600-capacity Fillmore on such an entertainment holiday? Not so much. As dressed up as the Fillmore was with neon signage for Waldos sponsor Dixie Elixirs, the floor was mostly empty with the house roughly one-quarter full. It was a more pleasant live music experience for the fans, allowing plenty of room to sway and smoke, but it wasn’t the packed house many assumed it would be given the occasion-specific line-up, central location and carefully chosen night.

Like any other entertainment holiday, some venues thrived while others starved — and this survival-of-the-fittest competition for an audience will surely narrow the field down to those with the proper concept. Which of these festivals will return for a second year on 4/20/15? Chances are, we’ll know sooner than later.

Of course nailing down the right concept or aesthetic on a day like 4/20 is a precarious dance. Many still revel in that brand of stoner culture that includes the pot-leaf sunglasses, the teetering “Cat in the Hat” striped hats and the dated (or some might say “timeless”) Snoop Dogg concert that oddly resembles a show he played five or 10 years ago. (A line straight from our 4/20 review: “Snoop asked several times if it was OK to go old school, and the crowd was most enthusiastic then; the highlights (get it?) included a crisply laid down ‘Lodi Dodi’ and crowd favorite ‘Gin and Juice.'”) Others are trying to change the face of cannabis, and booking fitting-but-not-cliche artists such as Karl Denson and Talib Kweli are a part of that strategy. After this year’s 4/20 celebration, the former certainly seems to be the more successful approach.