Tales From Cannabis Cup: Day Two

New contributor Roger Norville shares his Cannabis Cup experience with us…

I paid the price for a long and arduous first day in Amsterdam with a solid 14-hour sleep. By the time I woke up I had already missed the seminar I was hoping to see at the Cannabis Cup, though I suspect I’m not the first person who has done that.

[Photo by @musicsumo]

Blowing off the expo, the order of the day became a further exploration of the competing coffee shops. Voyageurs, Bluebird, 420 Cafe – there are dozens of places vying for best coffeeshop and they all stock different competing strains, so as a judge it behooves one to get around as much as possible.

Though each coffee shop has its own vibe, they all operate basically the same. Most have a standard bar serving non-alcoholic drinks alongside of which is a smaller counter that sells the smokeables. There is generally a laminated menu offering about a dozen different kinds of marijuana and hashish, priced about eight euros and up per gram, plus there are pre-rolled hash and weed joints available, with or without tobacco. Most places sell space cake as well.

There is a five gram limit per person and that rule extends beyond the coffeeshops; one can only legally possess five grams. There is also a limit to how much product a coffeeshop can have on the premises at any one time, and the busier places need their suppliers to come back several times a day to restock.

And that is where things get a little sketchy. According to the murky balance of law and tolerance in The Netherlands the stuff just magically (and legally) appears at the back doors of the coffeeshops. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s been working for decades.

[Photo via @ThePotcast]

To the end user (pardon the term) it all seems to work very well. Tourists absolutely flock to these places. It’s often hard to find a seat in most coffeeshops as people from all over the world sit amongst a smattering of locals and enjoy a freedom not afforded them at home. Let’s face it, most of these people are not doing anything they can’t do in their own country, they’re just doing it in the open and legally. And it feels good.

People want product, people buy product, good times and profits abound. It sure looks like a sensible system when you see it in motion.

With a full day of exhausting research behind me and feeling the need to unwind I headed to Melkweg for the evening’s entertainment. The Cannabis Cup pass includes nightly concerts, all in the DJ/hip-hop vein and all at Melkweg, one of Amsterdam’s premier music venues.

I arrived to find rapper N.O.R.A and DJ Scram Jones kicking it out to a full house. The bars were busy, the beer was flowing and with about 1,200 people smoking heavily there was no need for a dry ice machine.

The audience was kept busy between acts lunging for a multitude of free t-shirts and other swag that was hurled from the stage. The promoters were also tossing enormous joints into the crowd. “They’re for sharing,” they yelled. “Puff, puff, pass! Puff, puff, pass!”

The air was so thick you could barely see the stage when DJ Symphony started the show with a booming, “We came all the way from New York City, let’s see your hands in the air!” He did his best to get the crowd off their mellow and hyped for the headlining act Ghostface Killah.

The Wu-Tang Clan alumni emerged wearing an oversize red jacket and obligatory baseball hat. He lifted the mic to his lips and let loose with an endless barrage of rhymes that weaved around manic drops by DJ Symphony for the next 75 minutes..

It seemed like it took a while for Ghostface to truly get into the groove. After the first song he called out the light guy. “You gotta change this shit up muthafucka! We gotta work tough, it’s the muthafuggin Cannabis Cup!” The lights merely changed from a static white to an equally static red. After the next song he had some words for his accompanist. “DJ’s being an ass right now, been smoking that shit too, huh?”

[Photo by @DJBonesUK]

He even took a moment to berate the crowd, telling them he gets energy from the audience, and if they aren’t putting it out he can’t give it back. “You’re my Duracell batteries,” he urged, “let’s see you jump up and down!” But the audience was so sedated they couldn’t sustain energy more than thirty seconds at a stretch.

In what looked like a last-ditch effort to get the room hyped he invited fans to help sing some Wu-Tang classics. A few audience members were led onto the stage as the DJ kicked into Protect Your Neck. The pressure was on but Ghostface told us not to take it easy on them. “If they fuck up make sure you boo their asses off the stage!”

Killah started off with the first verse and then handed the mic off to a fan who did an admiral job. For the second verse he handed the mic to another fan who just absolutely killed it. This guy took the moment and ran with it, he rapped his ass off like he had been living for this. It was truly his Rocky moment; he went the distance and we were all there to see it. His verse done, he handed off the mic to thunderous applause, easily the most enthusiasm the crowd had felt all night.

Ghostface felt it too. “That shit is real,” he said. “N—–, you just won the Stanley Cup!” And with that the spent fan vomited right then and there on the stage.

For good or ill that was the peak moment everyone was looking for, and launching into another Wu-Tang standard C.R.E.A.M. Ghostface Killah managed to ride the energy for the rest of the set. It was fitting that he closed the show by saying, “Peace to my n—– who threw up on the stage!” Killah knows who got the party started.

[Photo via @blacktheripper]

After the show I had a hankering for some rock and roll so I headed across the Leidseplein to a live music bar called The Waterhouse, live bands every night and the cover is always just one euro.

There was a kickin’ four piece band with a pair of guitar powerhouses playing the shit out of two chords. They started off their set with Bill Withers’ Use Me and raged to a dozen patrons like they were a crowd of thousands. Every song turned into a massive guitar battle with the rhythm section stepping up with a few dazzlers of their own.

In short it was a great cap to a long day.

The beer kept coming and so did the killer rock and roll. I don’t know which did me in, but somehow I ended up asleep in my hotel room.

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