Extravaganja 2016

Northampton, MA

April 30, 2016

By Marc Lovely with additional reporting by LMNR staff and photos by Kelly D.

Reader discretion is advised as this article contains adult content.

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The cloud was thick and hazy over the Three County Fairgrounds of Northampton on the Saturday afternoon of April 30, but it had no direct correlation with the weather. Extravaganja, in all its glory and new location, celebrated its 25th anniversary with a great lineup of live music and an assortment of speakers that focused primarily on the advocacy of marijuana. There were vendors selling everything from clothing to water pipes to wooden devices that can conceal up to three joints and a smorgasbord of snacks and refreshments that would make an honest stoner blush.  I walked through the gate like the thousands of others who poured onto the spacious grounds to recognize and celebrate the wonderful benefits of an herb that has been shunned from society for far too long.

Roots of Creation really got the growing crowd going for the second set after Shokazoba warmed everyone up a bit.  RoC kicked off the set with a medley of songs including “Oh Lord” into “Punk RoC.”  Then they introduced their new song “Searchin'” from their chart-topping triple album Livin’ Free.

Check out the article on Roots of Creation and their new album which topped the Billboard reggae charts.  

At this point, the crowd really got going and the focus started to move away from milling around and smoking (well, not completely, since that was the whole point of the day) and grooving on the music vibe.  With deep bass lines and killer guitar riffs, Roots of Creation really does push way beyond the boundaries of the reggae label.  They call themselves “Reggae/Rock/Dubtronica Hybrid,” but what I really heard was a hard edge to simple grooves that really gets to the soul.  I hadn’t heard Roots of Creation for a while.  Loved it. 

After Roots of Creation, the crowd was treated to Northampton MA’s eclectic and eccentric project, Llama Lasagne.  Llama Lasagne is a “multi-genre, theme-based party ensemble experience mostly compiled of local musicians, artists, businesses, and deejays residing in or previously from Western Massachusetts.”    This project is rockin’, full of amazing talent and a great sense of humor.  The Llama Lasagne’s Ganga set did not disappoint.

With marijuana leaf dancers out in front and life-size joint-smoking lips setting the mood, the band started out with a spoof on Danny and the Junior’s 1957 “At The Hop,” but this time it was “Let’s Go Smoke Some Pot.”   But when they came on with songs like Cypress Hill’s “Hits from the Bong,” the crowd really got into it.  Another of my favorites from the set was when they did Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman,” with Nate Martel’s soulful voice singing “Everybody must get stoned” and Anders Warringer venturing out between the leaf dancers, dancing and laughing madly, praising the skies for the magical plant.  Like most of their sets, they jumped all over the musical spectrum. They dabbed in and out of genres to reveal that they are so much more than a cover band who mechanically learns and plays the music like some sort of automaton. Instead they came with a large, rowdy ensemble mostly dressed in corresponding white, button-up shirts, black trousers, and fedoras that donned a large weed leaf. Oh, and I couldn’t leave out the two dancing pot leaves that seemed to get the crowd all fired up during Rick James’ “Mary Jane”.

When the Llama set ended, I took my time to wander the grounds, curious of what I might encounter. As I made my way from vendor to vendor I finally realized how big this thing has grown. From what used to be a small festival on the Amherst common, Extravaganja has blossomed into a booming party. The event, which is organized by the officers and members of the UMass Cannabis Reform Coalition, expected to reel in close to 7,000 people. I wasn’t trying to be cute about the cloud over the field either. There really was a thick, continuous cloud. But while the people continued to close in on Northampton, the surrounding towns had to deal with the headaches that result with hefty amounts of traffic. That was pretty much the extent of trouble caused by Extravaganja. Sure people inside the event walked at a snail’s pace and the line for food was unusually long, but for the amount of people there really was no major incident. The police were visibly present, but from what I witnessed and heard there were no altercations whatsoever.

I got my food, a monstrous baked potato piled high with tender beef brisket, slathered with barbeque sauce, just in time to catch The Alchemystics lay down a beauty of a set. There were a few technical difficulties to begin with, but naturally everyone just went with it and they eventually were worked out.

Songs like “Fire” got the crowd back on their feet in no time. With dope rhymes from Force, the band’s MC, and special guest Catalyst, the positive vibe continued to flow into “What We Need” and “Thinking ‘Bout You”.    

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