Words by Taylor Carik
Electro-psychedelic. Rave music. Noise. Like anything worth investigating or anything worth deeply enjoying, the music of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s greatly varied electronic music scene doesn’t fit in a single genre or description.
Where it does fit, surprisingly, is a scenic farm an hour outside the Cities.
The Great Beyond Festival, from intrepid promoters Steven and Jasmine Seuling of Intellephunk and Dustin Zahn of Enemy Records, is unique in terms of focus, curation and community for body-moving electronic music.
For one, the diverse lineup at The Great Beyond hails from all over the world, even though the festival has clear ties to the area, and even more reflects the highly-informed tastes of the organizers. Additionally, the weekend-long festival happens at a special location—literally an idyllic farm at the Minnesota River Valley Sanctuary near Franklin, MN.
“The Great Beyond has a festival feel, but not the festival crowd,” says Zahn. “Last year everybody was walking around with big grins on their faces, the energy was really good. And there were no bugs.”
Such a robust event can be rare (electronic music fans may be familiar with similarly-focused outdoor/camping events across the country, like Sustain-Release in New York or Honcho Campout in Pennsylvania), even though the demand is great. Last year’s The Great Beyond Festival was entirely sold out. As Zahn points out, “A lot of the music we’re doing is relaxed, hypnotic, psychedelic and that attracts people looking to have fun.”
The festival draws on Minneapolis-St. Pauls’ historical techno roots here, plus connections to Chicago, Detroit and other midwest rave outlets. So, is this festival a part of the electronic music scene here? Is there a scene here?
“Short answer, yes, there’s a ‘scene,’ insofar as there’s a group of people who are passionate about electronic music, throwing events, and connecting them beyond Minneapolis,” says Peter Lansky, a DJ and producer who’s been an electronic music fixture here and played The Great Beyond last year. “But you could ask 100 people if there’s any real electronic scene in MSP and get 100 different answers.”
Most of those answers would include two things: Minneapolis-St. Paul’s ridiculous 2 AM bar close times and the essential Communion showcase. 2 AM bar close has always made underground events more vital than legal ones, and those require a huge amount of time, effort and money to produce. That’s where the regular showcase Communion, which regularly happens at The Pourhouse, comes in. Likely the longest-running and most recognizable legal event of its kind—one that sounds and feels like a rave, but is above ground and public, so it’s easy to project most of the focus of the scene onto that one event.
“You can’t overstate how badly 2 AM bar close puts a damper on shit,” Lansky says “It’s not an ideal place to be an electronic music fan, but it’s not significantly better anywhere else in the country. Even L.A. and New York have their own challenges.”
The death of smaller venues and parties, accelerated by COVID, has intensified that focus on underground work. Thankfully, the Seulings and Intellephunk take their roles as leading promoters seriously and pay attention to curation, diversity, and experimentation, especially during the last few years, and that culminates in The Great Beyond.
“We always look at programming events as a puzzle to put together, we pick out things that we’re excited about, things that fit,” says Zahn. For the festival that means, “We’re able to stack the bill a bit.”
He adds, “There’s people we’ve always wanted to get forever, but haven’t had the right setting, but with this weekend we can make them fit.” That includes DJ Nobu, one of the world’s most in-demands selectors all the way from Japan who does an acclaimed ‘Future Terror’ party, and international sensation from Britain The Advent.
The vibe of The Great Beyond also connects to the engaging visuals for the festival, a combination of different ideas about magic, tarot, space travel, ‘50s psychology books and more art directed and executed by artists Ryote and Carolyn Kopecky.
Speaking of vibes, where are all the photos of fans dancing out at the farm? Zahn says, “We don’t try to keep this sort of thing to a minimum in order to maintain an environment where people feel free to do their thing no matter what that thing is.”