Beds, dancers in transparent robes, and an original ambient score were involved.
The annual high-holiday known as 4/20 has proud but humble roots. In 1971, a small group of hippies—known at the time, perhaps only to themselves, as the Waldos—began assembling daily in San Rafael, California at 4:20 PM to smoke weed. From there, the "tea-time" tradition steadily spread far and wide, mainly via the traveling freak carnival known as Grateful Dead tour.
Today, in a development that would surely have blown the Waldos' minds back in 1971, the unofficial pot-smoking time of day has morphed into an annual international celebration on April 20th (4/20). The high holiday is now so firmly established in the popular consciousness that it's often commercialized by corporate companies like Burger King and Chipotle to sell junk food.
Sigh. As someone who loves weed and hates both advertising and shitty pizza, I've got mixed feelings about Totino's Pizza Rolls (owned by General Mills) taking out a billboard to wish me a happy 4/20. Where were they when we were getting high (and arrested)?
So, in light of Big Marijuana and the new idea that weed is really a lifestyle accoutrement for the rich and trendy, I walked into last night's launch party for Sigur Rós' new cannabis-infused gumdrops with trepidation, fearing an ambush from the other end of the cannabis cultural appropriation spectrum. Held at Neuehouse in Hollywood, a seriously upscale co-working space for creative class elites, the event was described in the invitation as a "private interactive, multi-sensory sound bath." Guests would get to try the limited-edition candy, which was made in collaboration with leading upscale cannabis edibles company Lord Jones, while experiencing a set from the Icelandic post-rock icons.
While waiting in line to get my hands on a Lord Jones Wild Sigurberry gum drop, I felt a growing fear that we might all be headed to a corporate event masquerading as a stoner celebration. Luckily, I didn't encounter any branded brainwashing attempts on premises, though what followed was certainly weird, in a take-me-to-your-guru kind of way.
But first, I gotta say, that gumdrop tasted delightfully sweet and tart, with a sharp mixed berry flavor that I hastily described as "snozberry" in my notes (the press release says it was "inspired by the flavors of foraged Icelandic berries"). "A pleasantly slimy mouthfeel," remarked a fellow gum dropper next to me in line. The limited-edition edibles came in six dosage profiles, ranging from 10% THC to 10% CBD with different ratios of these key cannabinoids available, all packaged in a collector's edition box on par with a high-end chocolatier. (Note: Now is apparently the time to get in on the ground floor of collecting edibles packaging).
Neuehouse, meanwhile, occupies the historic CBS Radio Building on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood—the first space in the world purposely built for radio broadcasting. Ushered into the old Studio A—where they shot the pilot for I Love Lucy, and the Beach Boys recorded Good Vibrations—I entered a darkened space thick with smoke and bathed in a low rumbling sound coming from speakers hidden by darkness and smoke throughout the studio.
Finding a spot on the sound stage floor, which was covered in fluffy sheepskin rugs, leather couches and a few mattresses, I settled in for the sound bath—a kind of New Age ceremony meant to blend music, meditation and an aural massage—as the low rumbling sounds undulated and artificial candles flickered.
Suspended from the ceiling, a sonically-controlled glowing light orb by artist Juan Azulay slowly escalated in visual intensity as, hidden from view behind a black curtain, Sigur Rós, utilizing a computer, a mixer and a mic, embarked on an original ambient score for the evening's ceremony that featured their distinctive blend of ethereal soundscapes and chanting in a made-up language, with the mix busked live.
Appearing out of the smoke and darkness, three nearly naked figures shrouded in transparent robes, holding candles, and swinging censers of incense moved through the crowd in a quasi-religious procession. Meanwhile, Sigur Rós' distinctive musical progressions built and receded in tandem with the light orb, which cast down a range of colors and visual patterns, recalling everything from a firing neuron to a birthing planet.
In a word: trippy, but a vein of trippy that reaches back not to the Summer of Love fifty years ago, but to the oldest days of psychedelic shamanism, at the dawn of what we've come to think of as civilization. As for my own internal mind state, I felt but a micro-dose from the Sigurberry I consumed, which by design promised a potency sufficiently low to allow a reasonable person to actually eat an entire gumdrop (or two?!) without blasting off into a full-blown mystical experience.
So while it was certainly pleasantly immersive to have a nice little influx of THC into my endocannabinoid system while experiencing the sensory delights all around me, it wasn't anything more than a cosmic tickle. At one point, Sigur Rós blessed us with a wave of bass sounds strong enough to feel them buzz my nervous system, and that definitely set my high self tingling. But mostly, it was just a pretty chill way to slip into a nice hot sound bath and unwind. Despite hosting a crowd of about a hundred people, including many who looked more cannabis-curious than hardcore-doper, nobody seemed to be freaking out on weed gumdrops.
After about 90 minutes, things wrapped up as low-key as they started, with the candle procession team leading the members of Sigur Rós out of Studio A just before the house lights slowly came up. As the crowd dispersed into the night, one woman in a stylish red dress remained blissfully asleep on one of the mattresses.
I slipped out before the staff rousted her.
Follow David Bienenstock on Twitter