The Wyclef Jean concert that University of Colorado student organizers spent about $150,000 to put on Friday as counterprogramming to the traditional 4/20 pot smoke-out on the Boulder campus drew just a few hundred students to the mostly-empty Coors Events Center.
CU student leaders estimated the crowd reached 1,000 students at its peak, but the audience that assembled -- almost all on the floor of the arena, with the 11,000 seats sitting largely empty -- appeared to be much smaller, reaching perhaps 500 people at any one time.
CU freshman Paul Silva and his friends left the show shortly after arriving and before Jean took the stage.
"We were in there, but it was lame," Silva said. "I've been disappointed in the whole
CU's Program Council hosted the concert at the request of student leaders who said they were hoping to give their classmates a place to spend the afternoon that did not include Norlin Quad, which in past years has attracted more than 10,000 pot smokers on 4/20.
The university paid Jean, a former member of the Fugees and the show's headliner, $80,000 to perform, according to his performance contract with CU.
The agreement also directed Jean to avoid "making direct references to marijuana and other illegal drugs or make 4/20 related remarks as this is a university sponsored event." Yet Jean mentioned marijuana during his first song -- and even called out student leaders for including that language in his contract.
"They told me I'm not supposed to talk about marijuana," Jean said. "But I'm about one thing -- freedom of speech."
Jean continued discussing marijuana and 4/20 throughout the show, including chanting "legalize it" during his second song.
CU Student Government Vice President Carly Robinson said the university does not plan to go after Jean for breaking the terms of his contract.
"My understanding was that it was only about 30 seconds of the show," Robinson said. "We didn't want to stop the show or spend more money than we already have on litigation for such a small portion of the show."
The doors for the concert opened at 2 p.m. and there were fewer than five students on the floor of the auditorium at 3 p.m., with more students scattered in the seats waiting for Jean, who did not take the stage until after 4:30 p.m.
CU sophomores Nathan Lockhart, A.J. Capitz and Zach Villani sat near the top of the arena until shortly before Jean began performing.
The students said they were excited about seeing the onetime Haitian presidential candidate, but even Jean's performance did not make up for all of the measures taken by the university to curtail 4/20.
"Last year was fun and don't we have the right to peacefully assemble?" Capitz said.
Villani said he was excited to see Jean perform, but the concert would have been more fun if the crowd was larger.
During the show, Jean mentioned the lack of energy in the crowd, telling students, "Weed in Boulder isn't supposed to sedate you, it's supposed to make you crazy like me."
The students agreed that while they were unhappy with Friday's campus closure, the increased security efforts by the university were successful in scaring students away from Norlin Quad. Yet the smell of marijuana still drifted through the Coors Event Center around 4:20 p.m.