Soul Scene: The Rise and Fall of the Minneapolis New Age



It’s no secret anymore. These days, it’s easy to sense that many music festivals have a little extra political kick to them. They’re like the old festivals, but with siracha sauce. After all, Gen X has moved out of the scene now, for the most part. Either they’re helping organize the festival, or they’re at home tending to their three kids and trying to program the Hulu. That’s okay. It’s the Millennials turn to take the reins.

And boy. It shows. In my seven years of music festival experience (mostly as a musician) I can hardly state the changes in the vibes from those glory days of 2010-13; when the Minneapolis scene was blowing up, Matisyahu was still the coolest Jew around, Nahko was playing shows with small time guys like us (Aitas, check us out! shameless plug) and no one had spent any reasonable amount of time thinking about Donald Trump. We were convinced that our nation was broken; that was already apparent in the Obama years. But we had no idea what kind of monster was coming down the pike.

Well. Some of us did.

Some of us saw the changes taking place, culturally, even before the advent of Trump. Because even back then, many festivals had already adopted a distinct philosophy. In fact, some of them had gone one step further, and adopted a kind of distinct spirituality. It wasn’t a new philosophy, but it was new to the Minnesota scene, in the form that it was taking. Out west, it was already all the rage, and had been for some time. We were just getting woke in Minneapolis. But we were really woke.

It was an unlikely place for the Soul to make its comeback: drug fueled rage parties with sick bass drops and groovy guitar solos. But why not?”


We did realize that our festivals were quickly becoming worship concerts. But that was why we were coming. We wanted to worship. And at that time in history, we were going to worship how we wanted to. No one wanted to stop and discuss why, at least in a serious way. We were on a bliss cloud, and to admit that as a generation we were filling the void left from our departure from our childhood experiences with organized religion is not exactly the kind of bliss material we were looking for. But there was a reason why musicians like Nahko, Trevor Hall, Tubby Love, bands like Wookie Foot, and so many other overtly spiritual artists were rising to the top of the crème: they were voicing- and clearly- the need for a return to the Soul.

It was an unlikely place for the Soul to make its comeback: drug-fueled rage parties with sick bass drops and groovy guitar solos. But why not? There is something novel, something so peculiar and still archetypal, about Logos making its return from the echelons of subculture music festivals. It had worked with the free love and anti war movement in the sixties and seventies, to some degree. And everyone knew that this new spiritual music festival would be rife with the same problems that older collective expansion of consciousness brought with it. We just didn’t care.

Because this time, were ready for it. We had history on our side. This wasn’t the first rodeo. Our grandparents and parents had prepared us for this task. And unlike them, we weren’t going to make it ugly. It wasn’t about right or wrong, it was about finding the Self. For the time being, we were keeping politics out. Politics represented the system. It represented the mainstream. And we were the freaks; the outsiders; the castoffs. That world was maya, it was an illusion. It had no relation to the culture we were creating.

But there was of course an element of right or wrong. We just didn’t want to define that yet. See, we didn’t know it, but we were playing with fire. This new spirituality we were adopting had already been making its way through the ranks of underbelly society for a hundred years.


We had unwittingly invited the New Age belief system into our lives. And the New Age has always been, and is, lubricious. Intellectually and politically, the New Age has taken a slippery manifestation. As a spirituality, it never existed as an entity of its own. It has always been a response to traditional Western hierarchy. It has always been a challenge, to some degree, of the Christian-Judeo notion that God is separate from man in a way that limits man’s natural ability; he is bound by crushing mortality and is at the mercy of his flesh throughout his life. He does not often possess supernatural ability. Miracles are reserved for prophets. The New Age directly challenges that idea through a myriad of spiritual practices, not all of them being related or even interchangeable. Alchemy, Buddhism, and Taoism serve as inspirations. Even Christianity, but Judaism to a lesser extent.

The brand of New Age thinking that hit Minnesota? I’m not sure. But I know what Minnesota did to it. We put a Minnesota spin on it. Of course, like those that lived in Oregon and Washington, and Northern California, environmentalism took primary position. (When you live in a city that is surrounded by wilderness, that makes sense). At the heart of the movement was a feeling that we were all connected through Gaia. The Earth was our mother. Even if we weren’t concerned with activism, or nature at all, we were culminating a culture without even realizing it. And it’s not rocket science. Minneapolis, like the west coast, had a subculture generation that had created an entire culture based on the two things it was subconsciously starving for:

Nature, and God.

And the interface of Nature and God we have Soul. We had built a Soul movement.


The New Age has always suffered from Marxism. It could be argued that much of its beginnings were based on Hegelian and Marxist ideas, made popular by turn of the century black magicians like Aleister Crowley. It was a not much more than a slap in the face of the middle class Christian establishment, although it was spawned from upper-middle class European romanticism. A mélange of pseudo spiritualism, alchemy, and mythology interpretation. While its early forms were being adopted by fascist extremists like the Nazis and the Bolsheviks, being that it drew from Hegelian ideology, a man named Carl Jung made it what we really know it to be today.

Logos had chosen, yet again, a very unlikely source for its reentry into the world. For a long time, art had carried Soul forward, for the church was stale in America. Nothing was reviving it. Jung changed this. In ways many Christians will never understand, especially Evangelicals, Jung was partly responsible for the resurgence of the church in America in the sixties. The counter culture, like in Minneapolis in the late twenty-oughts, had created an ideological bedrock for spirituality to flourish. And the churches, back then, knew how to be cool.

Unfortunately for Christianity in the twenty-oughts, they did not seem to grasp that Logos was not only reentering the pop culture, but it was fostered by a growing sense of Eros. The conditions across American subculture were absolutely charged for a spiritual take over.

I would have loved to see the Christian church take their shot. But they didn’t. Instead, many organizations and segments of our culture stepped forward that many of us were rallying against. The state. The corporate elite. The mainstream media. They were ready and already poised to pounce.

What we got out of the subculture boom, of which our Soul renaissance in Minnesota was an integral part, was a nightmarish convergence of state, technology, and rebellion (or counterculture) that is so Hegelian in its scope it can hardly be understated. The monster that would bring us headlong into the election of Trump had found its breeding ground.


I don’t think that was the intention from the get-go. In the beginning, it was just an opportunity that was seized. Artists, politicians, and businessmen all took their shots, whether consciously or subconsciously. Some of us wanted to bring the Soul movement into the mainstream. Others wanted to bring the mainstream into the Soul movement.

The rest is fresh in our minds. Make of the new mess what you will. Alt right. Alt left. Alt Soul. Like all times in history that Logos attempts to make its cultural reentry, we stamp it out somehow, and when we do it’s under the jackboots of statist principles that we do it. I’m not going to say that the short lived spiritual movement was anything tremendous culturally; it produced very little shockwaves into popular culture. We thought it was going to rupture. I could feel it.

Still. It would be unfair to say that we did not create the conditions for a true cultural renaissance. Artists are the first to gauge the spiritual barometers of our times. And when they feel the waters are right, they will again take us back to the place where Logos and Eros meet. If we wish to make it stay, however, we will need to admit some very troubling things. Things that look far more like the Judeo Christian mindset. To the capitalist scum mindset. For we will have to admit that human suffering is inevitable. That our bubbles of bliss will always popped by the knives of tyrants if we do not strengthen ourselves. To acknowledge that cultural momentum is fragile, and it must be kept like an egg from a brutal world, guarded by angry mothers and warrior fathers.





Two Hunters (A Preview)

twoThe cold cannot be an enemy. That he had found early on. You couldn’t turn your back on it. In the city it was not more than mere annoyance, and on certain days if the happenings aligned just right it was almost totally inconsequential. But out there, in the big woods, it was God and it was omnipotent. One could only kneel in adoration and in terror of it. It hung with you in your dreams and it kept you warm somehow when it was too frigid to bear and the wind would whip your face numb and leave you blinded in love, battered into a grin. You had to worship it with absolute faith or it would alleviate you of your doubt and you would be washed to the bone by it. Scrubbed to the blueprints, by those biting northwesters.

If you dropped a glove, it could mean the end of your fingers. If you soiled a boot and had nothing to replace it with it, it was almost certain you would lose your toes. He thought often of wandering the aborted wastelands of the Dakotas and seeing them go by, moving west, tottering on side by side: the stubs, his mother had called them, men and women and child alike eking through gray mist and veils of freezing rain, some with only one foot, some with no fingers, others missing legs from the knees down and some with arms wholly removed. He saw them bundled like inhuman materials, some without limbs at all carried out front of another, strapped upon a breast like great infants or garish babushkas, peering from the layers folded about them with pale and pinched faces, accusatory glances; nightmares of fog and slantwise snow and long devouring plains and cunning bitter winds.

Don’t stare now, his mother had told him. You just don’t stare at em. You remember that it could be you. Any wrong move and that could be you.

It wasn’t an issuance of compassion. It was a warning.

Are you getting cold? He asked her.

Morgan shook her head. She was heaving the stiff cadaver through a frozen slough. The ice cracked and choked beneath their feet and around them they could hear moving water.

I don’t like the sound of those streams, he said.

Be careful, she said. Be real careful.

He glanced at her.

I’ll do my best.

You go in, I can’t pull you out.

Aren’t you ever scared, out here, by yourself?

She shrugged. Yeah. Just of people, I guess.

But not of the woods?

What’s there to be scared of?

He shrugged. All kinds of stuff can kill you out here, especially this time of year.

Just cause something can kill you doesn’t mean you have to be scared of it.

I spose. But people are a good thing to be scared of.

Especially when you’re a little girl.

Especially then.

After a while she dropped the rope and turned to the man. Her face seemed ten years older.

Can I ask you something? She said. There’s people out here hunting people like me. Cause we’re worth money? Is that why?

Caradoc nodded slowly. That’s right, he said.


It’s. It’s uh. It’s because you weren’t born like the rest of us. It’s hard to explain, but most women can’t give birth the way people used to anymore. Because of what happened a long time ago. Doctors started doing things differently when babies were being born, they were giving them all chemicals and hormones and splicing genes, that stopped them from ever giving birth. In order to have kids, they have to get these shots now. And then they get pregnant. But you. You just need a man-

A husband.

He blinked. Yeah, he said. A husband. And you can just have a kid.

That’s how people used to do it?


Why’d they stop?

He sighed. I don’t know, Bloom. There was too many people, I guess.

Are you gonna tie me up?

I told you, I’m not tying anyone up, and I don’t plan on moving back to the city.

Why? You didn’t like it there?

No, I didn’t. Things are bad there right now. I used to love it there. But then we became poor, and it’s not a good place to live if you’re poor. Out here, you can forget about rich or poor or any of that stuff. There isn’t any use for those ideas… You’re either alive or you’re dead. Those are really the only the only things you gotta worry about, right?

Yeah. And the weather.

He smiled. Yeah, and the weather.

But how come they want me? How come I’m worth money, just cause I can have babies without shots? She picked up the rope, absently, and resumed her haul.

You know, he said. You shouldn’t get sweaty like that. If the temperature drops too fast you’ll freeze up.

I know. If it starts to drop I’m stripping some layers. Cooling off. You gonna answer my question?

He shrugged. I don’t know. It’s cause they can use your organs and your hormones and stuff for experiments. For new drugs. For commercial use. You’re not considered a human, anymore.

I’m not?

In the city they wouldn’t even consider you a human. You have to prove your citizenship… you have to earn your place there. You convince the government that you are willing to put the needs of the world community over your own when you are old enough to make your case. Until then, you legally have no rights unless granted to you by your community.

What’s that?

What’s what?

A community?

He shook his head. You know what, Bloom? This is a lot to think about right now. You’ve got too many questions. Hey, I’ve got one for you. Who taught you to read and write and stuff, anyway?

Her head hung, there was an impish shame about her. I can’t read, she said.

You can’t read?

I can read a book that Grandpa has, by the pictures. It’s called, Goodnight Moon.

So you just read the pictures? What the hell does that mean?

I read the pictures, she said. I know what the words say because I know what words go with the pictures. Grandpa’s read it to me so many times.

He smiled. So you have it memorized.

I guess.

Will you tell me it?

I can do that. Right now?

Please, he said.


That was the way they went for a long time. Chatting about aimless things. Meandering and buoyant topics that were like the reflections of stars on the dark of a lake. Then it was close to nightfall and they still had not reached her grandfather’s cabin, so they settled down into the spruce and he cut away some thin boughs and made a very makeshift shelter against the wind. Night fell not long after they had lit their fire. Tossing in innumerable armloads of dry twigs and birch bark, the only thing they could get to burn.

It was a tiny fire and they huddled about it and warmed their hands and feet.

It’s not far now, she said. We’re close.

That’s good, he said. He looked out across the flames and the bowl of the valley, black deviating forms of timber, the cerulean lunar glow on snowdrifts, the gaunt trunks of birch laying across the way illuminated like bones in a temple of relics. A late world of darkness and antishape and the suspension of certainty.


He woke to the sound of men speaking. When he blinked himself to sight the girl was gone and the fire was out. Embers and all snuffed and covered. The girl was gone. He swung his arms about, feeling for her. She was nowhere. All about the night was soft, opaque. He listened. The voices were close. Somewhere to his right. He tried to quit his shivering.

Someone was saying, I can smell the damn fire smoke.

Me too.

You keep looking for tracks.

I bet they’re right over there.

Well look.

A light swept across the forest. Flashed before him for a moment, seeped through the wall of spruce boughs behind him. Then it was jerked away.

You saw that, right? Said the voice.

Yeah I did.

He watched. A waxy amoebic structure configurated before him. A man. And he realized it was nearly on top of the deer.

The light flicked on again. There he was, dressed in expensive looking gear. A new parka. A lime-green facemask.

He was not a wanderer. He was from the city.

It’s a fucking deer, the man said. As if startled by it, he swung the beam into the structure. Blinded, Caradoc lay shielding his eyes.

Jesus Christ, who the fuck are you? The man cried.

Someone behind him and to his side flicked on a light of their own and laid the beam across the shelter. Caradoc fumbled for his knife.

I asked you a goddamn question, the man snarled.

I’m just a wanderer, Caradoc said quickly. A wanderer, from the city. His hand scoured the cold earth but it was gone, it was somewhere his hand was not.

You sure about that? We found an Old Birth back there, about a mile. You sure you ain’t related to him? The man grinned horribly in his ski mask.

Caradoc said, I don’t know anyone. I’m just dragging that deer.

You need it? The man gestured behind him with his thumb.

What, the deer?

Yeah. You really need this thing?

Yes. I need it.

The man looked back to where his friend was and tilted the flashlight to his own chin so that his friend could see his grin. Then he turned the light on Caradoc once again. You know, I don’t think you do. I think you must have a lot of deer, running around these pretty hills.

Caradoc was silent.

The man took a step toward him, his mouth was fogging up, his face small canyons of shadow. You know, he said. I think you can afford to let us take this thing. I think you’re being selfish.

The second man, out of sight, chimed in:

Just fuckin take it, JD. He’s not gonna do shit. Or I’ll shoot his ass.

I think we need to check to see if he’s got a tag, said JD. Grinning. I think we need to see if he’s not an Old Birth. The old one back there, we cut him near in half looking for his tag. And then we found he was an Old Birth, when we poked around. Think we may need to poke around your insides too.

Caradoc spit.

Fuck you, he said.

Let’s get that deer and go, said the second man.

JD looked at him. Then at Caradoc. Then he shined his light down at the deer where it lay frozen stiff in the snow. His face screwed up.

Wait a minute, he said. Where’s the bow at?- and this was just before an arrow passed through the meat of his shoulder and splintered at the bone.


Find the rest of Two Hunters on Amazon today or in a bookstore near you.


Copyright 2017 by Ethan Fleisher and Blue Wolf Bounty Books

America, and the Android Future: Imagining a Hybrid Nation


I grew up in a place called America. As a child I was often confused as to where or what America actually was, because on the map there is clearly a North America and a South America, but no America. There is a Central America, but it is not where I live. So how I lived in the miraculous place called America, when it did not seem to exist, I could not fathom. Now that I am grown nothing is any clearer. There are we the Americans, and there is The World. My globe is here, soaked in the red blood of the corn fields and the white bones of the plantations and the blue sky where drones scour foreign mountain ranges for evidence of terror activity. The water that comes out my tap tastes like hard work and blue collar sweat. Broad swaths of potato fields remind me of the magic of an order of small fries.
Somehow in the air America drifts. It is not any one of the fifty states, no, but it is an ether that is carried in jet streams throughout the land, replenishing its many components. I cannot help but see this place America as a trinitarian being-metaphysically it follows the same kind of blueprints as Jesus Christ. It remains fifty independent states, though it is also the United States, and finally it is America, which is a non-physical concept we all intrinsically understand but cannot really put into words. Christians feel this when they step out of church on Sunday and order a quick Starbucks on the way out the door, or hit up Hardees for some cheeseburgers to top off the Body of Christ.
But America is bitter sweet and we know it. On certain evenings it feels like something uniquely folky, something risen from a tameless wilderness and constructed in rebellion. The rebellion of a culture that we used to see as petulant and silly, if we’re honest. America is ranch hands and deer hunting and guns and Native American genocide and black slavery and loons and grizzly bears and the Bald Eagle. America is rugged. We have committed every sin so we know the tricks. We instinctively mistrust rich blood.
And yet we are the very bastion of capitalism in the west, a burden we don’t yet know how to carry. A title we were never sure how to carry. What did the cowboy ever want to do aside from ride off into the sunset with his sweet loving lady? What’s he supposed to do with nuclear arms races and with global trade activity and international espionage? He’s not cut out for this world.
We are approaching a world of global automation. Capitalism has gave way to such extraordinary heights of luxury that we are inevitably on the path to transferring huge amounts of our daily labor to machines that will do our work for free. There will still be jobs to be had with these machines, but they will be highly specialized tasks carried out by specialized workers. So the question is arising in our culture now- how do we keep capitalism creating prosperity for humans when machines do capitalism better than we do?
I find the poetic justice to be too sweet.


History is actually just the story of people who think like machines killing people who don’t think like machines, with machines. Ask any nation’s indigenous tribes and they will spin for you an accurate yarn. Today’s systems are more efficient than ever before: communism, capitalism, or any hybrid of the two, are machine systems. They take the spirit of the human person and place it within a clearly defined set of directives. The existence of all subjects are reduced to the will of the system, of the government, or the economy. On many levels these systems mirror the workings of a machine, made to carry out a single task and to just keep doing that thing forever. Capitalism has found a way to create growth at staggering rates despite the ecological ramifications and it does not know how to do anything else. It is built for one thing only: profit and growth and prosperity for those who adopt it. It does this with a ruthless efficiency. Communism was never able to achieve levels of economic luxury, but it did find highly exploitable methods of controlling populations and rendering them loyal to fanatic regimes.
In this new world we are entering, communism and capitalism will both be utilized under single entities. China and its bulldog Hong Kong have already demonstrated clearly how devastatingly efficient this hybridization is. Even Marx admitted that communism could only be completed with the help of the capitalists. Luxury communism rests on the fruits of capitalism.
And so capitalism, in order to remain efficient, must adopt its nemesis in order to remain relevant in the world that it created. It’s Shakespearean. After all this time, a piece of that holy American trinity is ready to be dethroned: America, the metaphysical spirit of our rugged and often violent roots. It will be forgotten. The spirit, though filled with scandal and turmoil, was a precious one. It was rooted to the earth, albeit a bloodstained one. Without it we will be mere actors. Or more correctly, machines.