When I found out that Chipotle was putting on a free festival in the middle of Golden Gate Park with one of my favorite artists playing, I couldn’t believe it. As a newcomer to San Francisco, and a first time Cultivate festival goer, I pretty much had my head in the clouds with how awesome this was going to be. And from the festival side of things, they didn’t disappoint.
Sprawled across Golden Gate Park sat the main stage, several Chipotle tents, a 21+ section, and plenty of Chipotle inspired exhibits. The best part of these exhibits, besides the knowledge they offered, was that just for visiting 4 of the 5 displays, you earned yourself a free burrito, bowl, or tacos. In addition, just about every vendor was giving away free drink and snack samples. Before the end of the evening, my partner and I had stocked up on apple juice, chocolate milk, baby carrots, hot dogs, granola bars, and a delicious vegan chocolate bar from Pop Nation.
As for the music itself, the festival saw performances by Neon Trees, Andrew McMahon, Charli XCX, Small Pools, American Authors and DJ Christopher Golub, as well as chef demonstrations by Graham Elliot and more. As a huge Andrew McMahon fan, I’m a little biased on how incredible the performances were (and how great the sound was). I have to admit, having seen McMahon perform before, I was a little unsure how well his music might translate to an outdoor arena like Cultivate. But after announcing he’d be playing Everything In Transit in full, and kicking straight into “Holiday From Real,” my worries disappeared. The energy, passion, and talent of McMahon and his band shone through, and I spent the next 45 minutes mesmerized by their performance.
As for the press side of things, I walked away from the experience more than a little disappointed. Although, let me be clear in saying this was obviously a behind the scenes issue. All of those working the press tent were nothing short of amazing, and extremely helpful and sympathetic in a situation that unfortunately seemed to pin them (unfairly) as the bad guys.
After being notified just a day prior to the festival that interviews with performing artists would be available (and then having the times changed the evening before), we were told they would be group interviews. Not ideal, but understandable. Because I craft our interview questions to the individual, I spent the next few hours coming up with questions for both McMahon and Neon Trees.
However, when I arrived for my first interview with Andrew McMahon, it ended up being several mini interviews/photo shoots in which every single media outlet except mine got their personal 3-5 minutes to shoot/talk to McMahon. I was the last one up and as soon as there was an opening, I was told by staff that McMahon had to go prepare for his set and wouldn’t be available for anything else. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame McMahon on this one. I believe this is the result of poor organization behind the scenes. But nevertheless, the results are the same.
As frustrating as that experience was, it was about to be topped. When I appeared at the press tent later for the scheduled group interview with Neon Trees, I was told the band had cancelled their appearance for press all together. Aside from personal disappointment, I couldn’t help but feel a little annoyed that I had wasted several hours preparing for two interviews that didn’t end up happening.
My suggestion? If the artists only have 10 minutes to spare and you have more than one press outlet interested, do an actual group interview/photo shoot. (Not unlike this one we participated in at Warped Tour for Mayday Parade.) Ask the artist(s) to spend 7 minutes with all the journalists, each getting a chance to ask their question. This way, everyone gets at least one question in, a lot more material to write about, and no one is left out. The remaining 3 can be spent with the artist(s) in front of whatever backdrop, with photographers snapping away. That way, everyone has a fair shot at the coverage they prepared for.
Press aside, the festival was a hit, and I commend Chipotle for putting on such an incredible event for free. As a journalist, the organization for press left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. However, as a festival goer, music lover, and Chipotle fan, the fest was a fantastic way to spend a beautiful Saturday in the park.
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