LEWISTON — Despite a falling blanket of slush, more than 2,000 people sold out Bates College's Gray Cage on Saturday night to see hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg.
"It's snowing and I am here," longtime fan and Bates sophomore James Watkins said. "We thought it was only a rumor that he was coming, but I've got my ticket."
Minutes after the doors opened, people pressed against a stage bathed in blue lights and decorated in a 12-foot-tall banner with Dogg's name and the image of a lingerie-clad woman.
The show began with an R-rated video featuring hard parties, guns, magic and Snoop Dogg.
At 9:30 p.m., opening act Dephonic took the stage with the greeting, "What up Maine?" The Philadelphia-based band fused rap and guitar-heavy indie rock.
The crowd danced in place, lifting their hands in the air with the beat.
The man known as "The Doggfather" climbed the at stage about 10:45 p.m. wearing a down parka and carrying a jewel-encrusted mic.
"Where are the sexy ladies at?" he asked.
As expected, song lyrics got risque after that.
Fans arrive early
Bob Levasseur and brothers Nate and Evan Aurelio drove two hours from Winterport to attend the show. For the hip-hop fans, it was a rare opportunity.
"I've been a fan since I was little," Levasseur said. "How often does Snoop Dogg come to Maine? Never."
Across the Bates campus, the concert has been topic No. 1, Watkins said.
The day tickets went on sale for students, some skipped classes to purchase one the specially grooved and glittered tickets. Two days later, when the general public was given a chance, the tickets sold online in 90 seconds.
Lydia Lazarou of Turner bought tickets that morning for her husband, Stephen, as a combination birthday present and fifth wedding anniversary gift.
"The minute they flipped, she got 'em," Stephen said. She shocked him with them on Thursday. "I smiled all day until my face hurt."
Snoop Dogg has been one of the biggest names in rap for more than a decade, earning 12 Grammys and selling millions of CDs.
His music career began in 1992 when he was discovered by Dr. Dre. His debut album, Doggystyle, was released a year later under Death Row Records. The record went quadruple platinum and spawned several hit singles, including "What's My Name" and "Gin & Juice."
A new record following 2009's "Malice in Wonderland" called "More Malice: Deluxe Album and Movie" is to be released on March 23.
Despite the success, the concert worried some locals who have read headlines about the rapper's troubled criminal history. Campus security, Lewiston police officers and a private firm, Taylor Made Security of Saco, all staffed the show.
At press time, there were no reports of problems.
In 2007, Snoop Dogg, born Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr., pleaded no contest to felony gun and marijuana charges and agreed to five years' probation and 800 hours of community service, according to The Associated Press.
In 1990, he was convicted of cocaine possession. Six years later, after his career as a rapper had taken off, he was acquitted of a murder charge after an alleged street-gang member was killed by gunfire from a vehicle in which Snoop Dogg was traveling. In 1997, he pleaded guilty on an earlier weopons charge in exchange for three years' probation and a promise to make public service announcements against violence, AP reported.