Probably the greatest things in the world are music, free stuff, and Chipotle, and this past weekend all three came together in the form of Cultivate, a free festival hosted by Chipotle. Put on in three different cities across the country every year, this was the second year in a row that Loring Park in Minneapolis was chosen as a location. Thousands of people gathered to eat good food, see famous chefs, and listen to great music. Five bands were scheduled to play — Hippo Campus, Anderson East, X Ambassadors, Atlas Genius, and Walk the Moon. Unfortunately, Walk the Moon were not able to play due to stormy weather, and the festival was cut short. But the rest of the bands got to finish their sets, and it made for a fun day nonetheless.
My friends and I arrived around 9:30, an hour-and-a-half before the gates were scheduled to open, and there was already a fairly lengthy line. When the staff made the decision to open the gates at 10:30 instead of 11, everyone in line mobbed the gates and then sprinted to the stage. Thankfully, we managed to be in front.
While the equipment onstage was being set up and soundcheck started, I talked to some of the people around me about who they were most excited to see. Hippo Campus and Walk the Moon were clear favorites.
Hippo Campus were the first to play at noon. Theirs was by far my favorite set the entire day — Minnesota natives themselves, they kicked off the festival nicely with local, familiar music. I was a big fan before seeing them, but while watching their set I had one of those experiences where you see a band you like live for the first time, and suddenly you realize “This is my favorite band. Where have they been all my life?”
Anderson East played next. The most unique stylistically of the whole festival, his soulful vocals and bluesy guitar was not my favorite type of music. But even despite that, he was definitely talented, and the crowd was very into it.
Due to a spontaneous change of plans on my group’s part, I ended up missing most of X Ambassadors, but I did get to hear a few songs, including their most recent hit “Renegade,” an awesome alt-rock tune that was even better live. I happened to be standing backstage for the last few songs of their set, and it was actually an incredibly cool experience to be able to see the crowd from behind the stage, and to be able to hear everyone singing along together from a different perspective than fans usually get.
I hadn’t listened to a whole lot of Atlas Genius’ music (aside from singles on the radio) before seeing them, so because of that, and because I was getting impatient for Walk the Moon, their set was not particularly outstanding to me personally. However they had a very solid stage presence and their standard (but enjoyable) alt-rock sound very clearly won over the crowd. They reminded everyone that they have a new album coming out in just a few days, and they played some new songs from it. The songs were very promising, and represented what I expect will be a decent album.
The festival was way larger than last year, and near the end they took down the fences surrounding the stage right before Walk the Moon were supposed to come on so that more people could fit inside. Even right away in the morning when Hippo Campus played, the crowd surrounding the stage was as big as it was last year during the closing sets. It was crazy by the time Walk the Moon were scheduled to play, which made it all the more disappointing as the band came onstage, apologizing profusely for not being allowed to play due to the bad weather.
After saying their goodbyes and apologies, the rain came in harder and everyone made their way to their cars, most people muttering angrily about the unfortunate (though probably responsible) decision to cut the festival short.
Despite it’s rather heartbreaking end, the day was still loads of fun and an all-around success. Up until the end it was clear everyone there was simply happy to be in the presence of great bands and music lovers, and the atmosphere was so positive and welcoming. There won’t be any announcements about the location of Cultivate Festival 2016 until early next year, but I for one am crossing my fingers they decide to host it in the Twin Cities once again.