PREVIEW: Midwest Psych Fest

By Ryan G

While Christian Alternative was the subgenre that drove me to start a music blog, it was the Ohio Psychedelic scene that really helped Tuned Up get legs in the beginning. No, that’s not a twist I saw coming either, but I’d be remiss not to pay homage to this part of our history from time to time. This isn’t to say that we’ve moved on from this subculture – I’d argue the opposite. Tuned Up loves transcendent music more than ever these days.

Benjamin Ahlteen has been a big force in our story. This creative that wears many hats we first became familiar with as the frontperson for DOMES and a prominent figure in defunct DIY showcase Worst Kept Secret Fest, and they would later build the (in)famous Tuned Up vaporwave wall that made its debut public appearance at Steadfast Fest 2022.

This same spirit is being carried on in Midwest Psych Fest, a gathering being held on Troubadour Farm in rural Galena, OH on September 15th and 16th. In an age where music experiences are pivoting towards large, destination festivals in touristy areas, the liabilities of them are starting to emerge too (look at what’s happening with Blue Ridge Rock Festival right now!). I contend that golden age of smaller, regional niche fests might be on the horizon.

Midwest Psych Fest is one of those events that has the potential to be an annual favorite. So, we sat down with fest organizers Benjamin Ahlteen and Andrew Davis to learn more about what to expect. Tickets are available here. Every band is worth your while, but we’re particularly stoked about the wall of sound from The You Suck Flying Circus, the weirdo rock of Gelatinus Cube, the epic organized chaos of Cellar Dwellar, and the spooky rock of the Lycan Bite.

TUNED UP: Tell us about the origin of Midwest Psych Fest

Andrew Davis: I’ve been throwing psychedelic house shows known as ‘Acid Mas’ with the band Mas Bagua. Midwest Psych Fest grew from those early shows. Andrew began to work with Geoff Spall, one of the organizers of Worst Kept Secret Fest, on a bigger event with lots more bands and community members and trippy stuff. 

Ben Ahlteen: I’ve been in the indie rock scene since the mid 2000s when I was in highschool.  I only ever had opportunities to play bar shows and the festivals I went to, while a great setting to have a psychedelic experience, lacked the music that I really needed to hear to take me there.  I knew then that I wanted to take what I liked from those experiences, present it in a new way, and create an environment where everyone can feel safe and enjoy, not just for the social butterflies and without reliance on substances for a transformative experience.

What about the 2023 festival experience has you particularly excited?

AD: As a species, humans have really begun to explore the deep and far reach of telepathic communication. Digital life has propelled us in this direction without most of us being aware at all that this is what we are doing. So now, we’ve got people coming together physically, mentally, and spiritually all at the same time and it’s really awesome.

BA: The LINEUP!  This is my favorite lineup we’ve ever had, and the first one we took submissions for rather than just asking around.   Also, the ET welcome party, I know some of you are out there and we can’t wait to meet you. 

What about the psych scene moves you specifically?

BA: The lack of musical boundaries that lends to melding of different influences.  Also, I think the goal of bringing a listener to an elevated mental or spiritual space, bringing visions and stories back from an experience and presenting it with music is very very cool. 

AD: The community. People are really coming together out there. And also, what makes Psych, Psych? It’s the flow. The music that’s coming out of the scene really moves us, physically. We can’t stand still.

What are your goals for the festival this year and in the future?

AD: Like always, our goal for the festival is to get together and have a really good time playing music and hanging out with our buds. And on a deeper level, our aim is to expand the conscious awareness of those people who trust us with the task. The time for little thinking is over, the pettiness and partisan politics. It’s time to evolve now and the easiest (and most fun) way to evolve is through music and art. We formed a non-profit organization this year so we’re looking at doing this for the foreseeable future. 

BA: This year specifically our goal is to welcome out all of the aliens and weirdos among us to hang out and partake in one of the greatest human traditions: a great party. 

I think it would also be great to get enough funding to make it a free event, but we do keep the price lower than any other camput festival I’ve seen at &40 for the entire weekend. 

Who’s one artist you would book if money were not an object?

BA: Animal Collective or King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard would get my vote, I think they’re really doing wonders to keep psychedelic music in the public eye. A lineup with them, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, The Oh Sees, Deerhunter oh I could go on and on! I dream about this all the time.  If we had the deep pockets I think our lineup would share a lot with Primavera sound or Desert Days, they have some of my favorite programming of all festivals.   If time travel were more affordable I’d want one of the old greats like Caravan, The Pretty Things, or Donovan. 

The festival takes place on family property – what about it lends itself particularly well to your vision?

BA: The Troubadour Farm llends itself to larger crowds than a bar and smaller crowds than a corporate festival. At big festivals it’s so easy to get separated from the people you came there with.  The ability to do anything we want with the property and take as long as we need to set up is also very advantageous. Plus I grew up here and always wanted to share the space with people.  We keep most of the property and surrounding areas as a nature preserve so you get to see a lot of happy critters out here too.

How do you see this festival paying homage to your roots in Worst Kept Secret Fest?

BA: Andrew and I both lived right down the street from it and were booked a few times. We really loved the community and the vibe of a larger DIY event.  We met Joshua Ziegfeld, the third part of our planning trifecta there and we’ve been staying in touch and working off and on with parts of that crew ever since.   

What music is dominating your listening habits currently?

BA: I’m going through playlists that my high school music students have made for me, it keeps me up to date and out of cycling the same listening patterns. My personal choices have been falling in the dream pop realm, always Beach House, but Tanukichan and Jay Som are some of my latest repeat listens.   I’ve also been listening to a lot of those government hearing about Extraterrestrials…And reruns of Coast to Coast, of course. 


Full lineup below:

Check out these related articles:


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *