Smokin’ Grooves Was Anything But In the Parking Lot and Entrance Search

The highly anticipated Smokin’ Grooves festival at The Queen Mary in Long Beach, a one-day showcase of R&B, came just as the follow-up to Smokers Club Fest which took place at the same venue just a month and a half prior.

Photo by Joseph Baura

The all-star bill Saturday, June 16, 2018, included a mixture of new-age artists and the OGs, with queen Erykah Badu as the go-to headliner, as usual. The beauty was that every person in attendance — artists, DJs, managers, publicists, you name it — stayed until queen Badu took the stage at 10 p.m. was noteworthy in and of itself.

The name Smokin’ Grooves alluded to the fact that they might be a little more weed-friendly than the rest of the festivals, but I soon discovered this was not the case. My first encounter took place before I even arrived onsite. Parking at the Queen Mary is always fun [eyes rolling], with general admission forced to park offsite and take a shuttle to the main entrance.

Photo by Joseph Baura

Thankfully, I had an artist parking pass, so I made my way through the artist parking line. I saw the most intense vehicle search taking place in front of my eyes. Once the driver proved they indeed had an artist parking pass, they were instructed to get out of the car and let the cops guide their K9 dogs to sniff through each seat, each trunk, each … you get the point.

To me, this seemed unnecessary. But then again, I understand it. It’s safety precautions on behalf of all the people in attendance. As I obtained my credentials and walked through the first two stations with flying colors, I was stopped short at the metal detectors. In all honesty, I forgot about the bud that was left in my backpack. They took it all.

Jhene Aiko photo by Natalie Somekh

That didn’t stop me from smoking — or getting smoked out. The best part of these festivals is the relaxed vibe when it comes to lighting up, turning up, and doing whatever it takes to enhance our experience of taking in the live music in front of us.

Erykah Badu, Photo by Natalie Somekh

Arriving during H.E.R.’s set on the main stage meant saying “excuse me” past every single individual in the jam-packed crowd with barely any room to breathe. Every artist that performed was hand-picked to provide the most soulful, grooviest set possible, with nothing but pure love and appreciation for R&B.

Anderson .Paak, Photo by Joseph Baura

This was about to be the best day ever. Memorable sets from Anderson .Paak, THEY., Smino, Jhene Aiko, Miguel, and Badu followed suit. My question is, how did everyone else sneak their goods in?

The Roots & Busta Rhymes, Photo by Natalie Somekh

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