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.





Genocide and Time Schisms: Today’s Psychology of Wilderness and Progress

My grandfather tells me stories.

When winters came through the jack pine barrens of northwest Minnesota with such tenacity that the world was washed away. Disappeared in a violent white. -50 wind-chill, 80mph winds. They tied a rope from the door of the house to the barn so that they could find their way through the snow blind to feed the cattle. The creek below the hill, tucked back in a low slough shrouded by white pine, would stay open and running through the winter months. They boiled the frigid waters. Wandered bleary eyed in the morning to fill a basin. A kitchen saturated in the smell of woodsmoke and side pork.

Sometimes he talks about those ancient beasts that were so commonplace to his prior universe. Characters not only roaming the scablands of the post-depression era but of his heart. His eyes impart a depth when he gets to these parts of the tale.


He describes the Prairie Chicken.

A small beast. A mostly ground-dwelling bird, about the size of a small chicken (and similar shape, hence the name). “Well we used to just lean right out the windows of our car at times,” he admits. “They would be feeding in the cornfield, see, and we would just lean right out the window and pop em off. That was the last time I ever saw one around here, actually. I stopped on the way home and popped one and drove up and down the road, because it was illegal to shoot them even at that time. Then I took home. A dark meat. Really good eating. But I think about it now, and that was the last we ever saw of em. Beautiful birds too. You don’t see them now. Not at all.”

But I did see a Prairie Chicken recently. Oddly enough, near the very cornfield my grandfather remembers shooting the last chicken he ever saw. I saw the little bird making its way below the spruce at the rim of the field, its plumage dark and luxurious. It was bent low and scrounging for grub. I did not think about it enough when I saw it: that it may be the place of the last Prairie Chicken I ever see, too.

The Greater Prairie Chicken was a colorful bird once commonplace in Western Minnesota. Although it was first thought to dominate only the American midwest, “blocking out the sun” of the Great Plains and the tall-grass prairie. But forks and fingers of the tallgrass prairie reach throughout North Dakota, western Minnesota, and into the southern tallgrass plains of Manitoba, and one way or another the birds made their way into the furthest reaches of the northern prairie. There is debate as to when and how the birds came to exist there, but all the same, they did.

Today, it is rare to find a Greater Prairie Chicken anywhere, but even rarer in western Minnesota. I have that image of the bird frozen in my mind now, but already it’s melting away. Turning fuzzy. Just like the conifer bog where I laid eyes on it, my memory of the Prairie Chicken will continue to change, to shrink, and to blur, until one day, it will not be a memory at all, but a story, a half-true yarn, kept in a half-true history, shrouded and dust-covered in some corner of my failing mind.



Wild animals and the landscapes they live in have occupied their own wonderful, innate, and sometimes fearful position in the human heart. For thousands of years they were central to understanding of our understanding of the universe. We saw the world as an inherently wild place. The world was Cormac McCarthy’s Mexico: there was no order in it “save that which death has put there.”

Things have changed.

When our new generations view the world, they see it through the lens of an android, not the eyes of an animal. No other shift in perception has changed the world more. Not first wave feminism, neo-liberalism, or even capitalism. It was however the primary shift that engendered these movements: we saw ourselves as awaking from a nasty, brutish chrysalis into some new beautiful meta-human. Spiritually, we witnessed ourselves ascend from the status of half-man, half-animal, into a half-man half-angel. Today we can update that viewpoint one step further to half-man half-machine. We are androidian. 

Although this shift from animal to android brought unprecedented wealth to certain parts of civilization, it had cataclysmic effects on our wilderness. The wild inordinate world is no longer our psychological foreground. It is an afterthought. A mythic place set in the past.

Nothing could put our wild environments in a more precarious position. Wilderness still exists, though much of our government sponsored “environmentalists” claim the opposite. But it exists as a kind of waking dream. It is a place that embodies collectively our past but no part of our future: from the very origin of our species to the second Industrial Revolution. Yet it does not, in our new androidian hive-mind, represent anything resembling the world we see as our present and future. What has occurred is that the present-future vectors of our psychology have been cleaved in two. There is present-future on one temporal axis, and past on another. In our hyper-technological world, present-future can be lumped into one category. We remind ourselves of this ontology often in the expression, “the future is now.”

Somehow, however, the past has been shoved into a state of perpetual extinction. It is waning away; we are weaning ourselves off it like a teenager leaving the comfort of their parent’s guidance. As a result, there is very little hope that wilderness will survive into the future; it is effectively gated out of the dominant human world-view. It is set in a temporal landscape that looks like a cemetery. Everything is declared dead there regardless of its taciturn locus in the present. Its purpose in the present-future complex is simply to remind us that a past existed at all.

Think about this. The future has not happened yet, but it can be shaped by what is occurring in the present. That is why they are being seen as interconnected elements. But the past is gone. It is inert. It is a fossil.

Our wild places and our wild societies are being fossilized before they’re even dead.

Although it may seem like a natural psychological progression given humanity’s “progress”, but we must remember that this is progress designed by the colonial industrial ruling class. In fact, we can really begin to see how insidious this mindset is when we admit to ourselves that the whole of the world’s population of indigenous peoples fits into this categorical past-life as well. Along with the wild world they have built their societies around, indigenous people are being sent to the gulags and gas chambers of civilization’s past, right along with the staples of their worldviews: wilderness.


When wilderness and our last standing wild places are placed in a world that, to dominant industrial culture, stands outside of our current and future realm, it stands no chance of survival. The psychological schism we are creating in the new generations will the last damnation it could possibly suffer. They have already forgotten wilderness. Their idea of environmentalism looks more like gardening and shopping splurges at Trader Joe’s than it does the actual environments they pretend to somehow represent. The past is not the past if it is still living today.

Let me be perfect clear here. What I am describing is the psychological finishing touches on a thousand-year old genocide that will finally be finished when our new generations come to fruition in the world. The industrial ruling class has weaponized everything to this end. To finish off and decimate that last annoying splinters of the earth’s natural world so that the new “present-future” view of the earth can take over in totality. We are weaponized. Our industries are weaponized.

“The past is never where you left it.” Katherine Anne Porter


Dream Shepherd

Under night.
Night touches the dark tracks
of pine
rooting in the between-worlds,
there rouses spirits
once called tricksters
once called teachers.

Now they only frighten us,
so we tell stories
of how they might condemn us.

I hear the whip-or-will.
It sings from the first moment
of utter dark
to the first moment
of pregnant light.
My tracks are soundless
and take flight
in the dusky shadows
as doves
or peregrines,
birds that may take my
step to dream heights.

The night world and the world
of dream
are not separated,
but are like two silver paths
who meet in a center
at a crossroads.

are made
from the breathing void
and they fly on the wings of bats
into our dozing heads.
There are shepherds, who in that world
guide their dream flock

to crossroads
that see no false light
that do not bare the stamp of man
we find the places of soul offering
portals we cannot cross.
My soul is a portal tonight
that all may cross.

A shepherd,
staff in hand,
points the way over sleep-green knolls
into vernal waters where
he knows nightmares are to be fished.
The flock posesses a unity
swims through the dark river
of nothing
their bevy dancing through ether
colored like flashing coins of deja-vu.

Everything lives under the moon now.

Tonight my soul is open.
I cannot hold a grudge
when power is glistening
in every blade of sedge grass
every trembling bulrush.
Tonight, on the waters
glowbugs haunt
and the ghosts gawk at the beauty,
taking small souls in jars.
Tonight my soul is open.
I do not fear the dark
but am wary at the sound
of footsteps approach