Smokers Club Festival takes a step forward in its second year

Hip-hop fans had plenty to be excited about leading into this weekend’s The Smokers Club Festival in Long Beach. With a stacked lineup that offered a mix of highly regarded names and bright young stars on the rise, the festival promised to be a massive upgrade from last year’s one day event, and rarely did it disappoint.

Kid Cudi dazzled in his Sunday headlining spot, reveling in the moment as he captivated the crowd with a medley of his many hits. Kenan Draughorne | Daily Trojan

All eyes were on headliner Kid Cudi as Sunday evening approached. He did not disappoint and put on a mesmerizing performance. Losing himself entirely in the music, Cudi was all smiles as he ran through timeless hits, keeping the moment engaging during more downtempo songs with his vivid, genuine reactions on stage.

When he picked up the tempo to rhyme his part on David Guetta’s “Memories,” the crowd rose to the occasion accordingly, leaping in the air with energy and singing along at full volume.

Saturday’s headliner Wiz Khalifa impressed as well, treating fans to a rare performance of his cherished 2011 mixtape Kush & Orange Juice. Supported by a live band, a towering inflatable orange pierced with a straw, and dozens of joint-shaped inflatables tossed over the crowd, the Pittsburgh rapper had an unwavering control over the atmosphere throughout and left fans in a blissful daze. Near the middle of his set, Khalifa brought out Curren$y to perform “Glass House,” sending the crowd into a frenzy in the process.

Isaiah Rashad had another standout set on the festival’s second day, taking the stage during sunset hours and making the most of his time slot. Earlier in the day, Atlanta rapper J.I.D had put on a phenomenal show of his own, and he emerged again to support Rashad during his set, performing “NEVER” off his well-received 2017 album The Never Story. Not to be outdone, Rashad followed up with tender performance of “4r da Squaw” from his own album The Sun’s Tirade, connecting on a deep level with his sincerity.

The Smokers Club Festival this year was just as its name suggests: a collection of stoners joining to celebrate the newly legalized herb. A cluster of tents at the event offered edibles, vaping supplies and other paraphernalia for those looking to stock up over the weekend. Whether attendees purchased their materials on site or brought it from home, they were quick to light up at every turn, drawing comments from artists on stage about the hazy expressions on the faces of those in the crowd.

Despite the musical talent that was on display over the weekend, however, festival infrastructure unfortunately left much to be desired. Choosing to host parking off-site in downtown Long Beach proved to be a logistical nightmare, as shuttle lines from the venue into the city itself were long and unclear after the festival, forcing many to walk over a mile back to their cars or order an astronomically surged ride-share. Set design at the various performances was limited, as each artist instead was showcased on generic stages that didn’t offer much to please the eyes.

Ohio rapper Trippie Redd’s last-minute cancellation on Saturday also raised some eyebrows, although Young Thug certainly

Fellow DreamVille rappers EarthGang (right) acted as J.I.D’s hypemen during his early afternoon set, ensuring that the audience was always engaged. Kenan Draughorne | Daily Trojan

qualified as a satisfying replacement when he emerged instead. The Atlanta artist seemed disengaged during his set, often absently walking around on stage while a recording of his verse played through the speakers instead, but he still provided enough exciting moments to keep the energy high after the no-show.

Despite the operational troubles, however, The Queen Mary proved to be a gorgeous setting for the festival on both days. Beautiful weather made the scenery surrounding the oceanside venue more than pleasant, with the walk between stages made enjoyable thanks to the picturesque viewpoint overlooking the adjacent Queensway Bay.

Without question, this year’s event was a significant improvement over the inaugural Smokers Club festival last year, and should hopefully clear the way for an even more fully-formed event in the coming years.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars