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.