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A Guide to Raising a Music and Marijuana Festival for the First Time

“The busy people turned out to be late ticket buyers,” Louie Mendicino mocks. A veteran business owner and promoter of tumultuous rock shootouts, Mendicino knows how to sell tickets on a large scale, but he’s a little down on attendance at the first Chicago Cultivate Festival, a three-day music and marijuana (and culinary) party. Also good as Cultivate is not about “edge margins”. It’s about educating a misinformed public – mostly through music, but partially through peer-to-peer learning. This event is packed with knowledgeable vendors, nonprofits, and local creatives. (Rap hero Vic Mensa is scheduled to take the stage. Mensa is the founder and pro-marijuana of cannabis brand 93 Boyz, and there’s a lot more where he comes from.)

“I went to one of our booths and asked ‘What is CBD?’ you might ask. Mendicino says, “‘What are its medicinal properties? How is it medically useful?'”

Cultivate takes place August 25-27 within the confines of The Nursery, a 60,000-square-foot Near West Side site. It’s a modest space despite being centrally located, and an indication of what Mendicino is up against.

“Our biggest problem – and we haven’t gotten over the top yet – has to do with the cannabis industry,” Mendicino says. “The reason we started this is to bridge the gap between the cannabis industry and the consumer. We are here to educate people about the industry.”

Terry Zwigoff’s “Crumb” is perhaps the most agile portrait in all nonfiction cinema. But don’t worry about the Brooklyn quartet, Friday’s protagonist who calls himself Crumb and is guilty of hypocritical advertising by doing so. There is nothing Zwigoffian or distasteful in the group. These guys did well as classmates at a private liberal arts college, and their recumbent, sunny aristo-rock is pure ordinary fantasy until you dig deeper. Crumb’s words reveal a trembling concern.

Is the Manor-bred dream pop full of hidden meaning? That’s a tempting prospect on its own, but it’s worth snooping around Friday for Andy Frasco and the BM’s two-stage live organ pop.

Mendicino ascribes to the melting pot theory of coalition building, and certainly Saturday’s roster meets that grand ideal with its beaucoup spice. If you’re fussy about diversity, what more could you ask for? Promotional materials for Cultivate list the Record Company’s name in capital letters—and why not. The Record Company is as good and visible as any new band doing the neo-blues Muscle Shoals thing. Other artists scheduled for 26th include Black Lips, whose rough-hewn surf rock is a disturbing delight, and The Pharcyde, whose contentious ways have long been a nuisance. Yet the band changed hip hop forever with their wildly freeform and hyperactive 1992 debut.

From a geospatial perspective, Graveyard was probably the biggest payoff of the entire weekend. Don’t be fooled by the band’s Swedish performance. True, they embody the principle of working smart instead of working hard (their fourth and latest album came out in 2018). But these guys are shameless scumbags, enjoying their jaw-dropping guitar scum. Pioneer Joakim Nilsson is Scandinavia’s almost evil sorcerer, emitting oddly high-pitched sound waves, but very shy of travel; Continental Europe is so far away that he will travel with the aim of melting his face. In fact, Cultivate is Graveyard’s only US concert in 2023. How did Mendicino lure these selective demons into our beautiful city?

“It wasn’t easy,” he says with a mocking chuckle. “But look, I’m a music fan. There were certain things I was after because every band in this project has a universal appeal. And I think Graveyard sums it up, right? We have that dark rock ‘n’ roll edge but we also have beautiful melodic tones.

Singer GZA performs at a concert at the Postbahnhof in Berlin, Germany, on February 7, 2012.

“I came in the ’90s,” says Mendicino. “I’m an all-around music fan and definitely a fan of ’90s hip hop.” This is evident from Wu-Tang’s recruitment of founding member GZA. A chess master in the truest sense of the word, GZA’s cold, harsh didactic rigor set him apart; Although his imagination was rich in his own right, he was not a conscious wild man like some of his bandmates. On Sunday, the four-member backing group will join him for his album-length rendition of “Liquid Swords.”

Please be warned that “Liquid Swords” lack the joy of summer. This is a sci-fi epic so brutal and methodical that it can freeze your blood. Next, you’ll want to soak up the relatively relaxed desert rock vibes of Earthless (to say nothing about the wide variety of reggae spinner Julian Marley).

When and where: 14-22 August 25-27 (rain or sunny) at The Nursery, 1800 W. Lake St.

Transport: Just south of Cultivate, 1901 W. Madison St. Parking is available outside the United Center at Or take the CTA to the Ashland & Lake Green Line stop.

Tickets: Re-entry is only allowed for VIP ticket holders. General admission includes access to the dispensary service, but GA card holders cannot leave the festival area otherwise. One-day general passes start at $49.98. One-day VIP passes are $89.98. Three-day tickets range in price from $99.98 to $219.98 (all tickets 21 and over) chicagocultivate.com

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