Chicago, IL saw the debut of another multi-genre music festival. The one-stage Cultivate Music Festival was at the same time, a celebration of Cannabis Culture. For festival organizers, vendors, musicians, and attendees, it was a good time. It was also a celebration of the fact that in the year 2023, citizens are able to use cannabis not only medicinally but recreationally and in the open sans fear of prosecution. Of course, there was also some really good music and performances, including one of the more famous marijuana anthems in decades. Punk was just one of the genres, but those representative bands presented rollicking sets in an otherwise, yes, mellow weekend, including for those who don’t partake in cannabis themselves but agree its use should be legal.
Rewinding the festival from Sunday, August 27 to back to Friday, August 25:
Fishbone had the crowd in hand. Angelo Moore led his bandmates through a non-stop set with his legendary facial expressions and dance moves. Strutting across the stage, kicking out his legs at times, other times playing the sax, Moore was electric.
As hyper as Moore was, John Norwood Fisher on bass and vocals was just as powerful in his stoicism while Walter Kibby aka Dirty Walt blasted away on his trumpet.
The trio, along with the rest of the band members, kept Fishbone sounding as fresh and as powerful as ever.
Afroman is not considered to be in the punk genre. However, watch the video to “Lemon Pound Cake,” the first song he performed at this fest, then look up the events that inspired Afroman to write the song. The man is punk AF.
Afroman, whose real name is Joseph Edgar Foreman, announced in December 2022, that he was running for President in 2024. I am not sure of the present status of his campaign but his judging from his abundantly fun set at this fest, I wouldn’t bet against him getting more than a few votes. Backed by DJ on The 1, Afroman led the crowd in a rousing rendition of his most famous tune. Many members of the crowd, those who partake holding up their various cannabis delivery implements, and those who don’t holding up their empty hands, sang loudly, when the title lyric came up.
Oh, and the set was especially a treat for Vee Sonnets of The Crombies, as Afroman borrowed his guitar to play during his set. Afroman shows you don’t have to be “Punk” to be punk.
The Crombies, one of the Chicago punk scene’s favorite hometown two-tone ska outfit, put on an exuberant performance. Lead singer Mike Park (note his Instagram and yes that is me in his most recent image, with long-time friends, including those in the band, and familiar-looking new acquaintances. Photo by Corinne Lydon) in his signature chilled out mode. Despite a recent very serious clavicle break earlier this year, guitar player Dave Simon spun around the stage, as bass player Kevin Lustrup pogoed in place.
Guitar player Vee Sonnets, drummer Matt Meuzelaar, and keyboardist Karl Gustafson provided powerful, if not flashy, work. They put the steady in rock steady. Gustafson sported a t-shirt emblazoned with words that perfectly sum up the spirit of the festival: “Everything Dope About America Comes From Chicago.” As a born and raised on Long Island transplant to the Windy City, I have slightly conflicted feelings about it. But I dig it and think much is true about it, sans pizza. (NY Slices for life!) Prodigious trombone player, Andrew Zelm added a dash of classic 2-tone ska flair at the far side of the stage. Though Zelm is not always on stage with the band, he has played trombone on every The Crombies recording.
Speaking of horns, Park, who started playing trumpet in the 4th grade, showed off his considerable skills on the instrument.
I never get tired of watching a Crombies set. I am not alone in that, by far.
Milwaukee’s Highball Holiday returned to Chicago and gave an energetic and affable performance. Paraphrasing the band’s lead singer, Shahanna McKinney Baldon, after spotting my cap with this site’s name emblazoned across it, she loudly alerted the crowd that “Dying Scene is in the house!” And we were, though the house was actually a parking lot on a steamy day. She also held up her phone throughout much of the set as she live-streamed the band’s performance.
Highball Holiday also dedicated its performance to Matt Norberg, a member of the band who died on July 18, 2023. David Wake of De La Buena joined the band on stage to make sure they could still perform in the absence of Norberg.
McKinney Baldon spoke of the struggles of mental illness, and had the crowd recite back to her, various crisis hotlines numbers. The national crisis hotline number is 988.
But the band members also celebrated all of their loved ones, and life in general with a delightful set.
Finally, McKinney Baldon made sure to point out sports teams in Milwaukee are better than those in Chicago, while simultaneously bemoaning that Wisconsin has not yet decriminalized cannabis use.
These highballers sure know how make every single day a holiday.
Day 2 was an easy one for DS, as there was just one band on our “to cover” list. The Goddamn Gallows, with Mikey Classic, at the helm, put on a rambunctious set. Baby Genius, was a spark plug on both on drums and when he took the mic and the headed to the front of the stage. The hard-hitting ensemble, which also included Jayke Orvis and Bafunfa, tore through its performance. The Goddamn Gallows are currently on tour so check them out when they hit your town. It’ll be a favor you grant yourself.
Lucky Boys Confusion, another Chicago group, gave a forceful performance as the day moved into evening. It was an enjoyable set and the popular band fit well on the bill.
Andy Frasco & the U.N. put on a set easily described as dynamic. Frasco, at the keys, gave a magnetic performance. This was even more so when he moved to the hot pavement of the crowd area sans shoes. Dancing joyfully, Frasco requested those in attendance to hold hands as they sang a rendition of the Jewish Folk song Hava Nagila. Naturally, the crowd enthusiastically complied. Hava Nagila is traditionally played at various celebrations, perhaps most notably weddings. Andy Frasco and the U.N. left little doubt it found this Friday a time for celebrating.
Mac Sabbath, the fast food-themed Black Sabbath parody band, may seem silly at first and indeed they elicited many a laugh. But underlying the goofiness of musicians dressed as demented and eerie versions of the mascots for a certain fast food behemoth, there is actually a more serious message. Vocalist Ronald Osbourne, guitar player Slayer MacCheeze; bass player Grimalice on bass, the Catburglar on drums, are sending a warning. The warning being how fun, corporate-created characters are actually devices used to manipulate children into unhealthy eating habits which may last a lifetime. Neither the fun nor the message lost on a certain heavy metal legend and loving “Papa” to a young girl name Pearl in 2018.
OTNES, out of Nashville, TN, kicked off the music at this fest in a solid way. Self-described as gender-bending pop, OTNES aka Emily Blue, might not be considered punk. However, the pleasant performance was a great way to kick off the festival.
Please see more photos from Cultivate Music Festival. Thanks, and Cheers!