Meet the man behind Milwaukee Psych Fest
Since 2013, musician Andrew James Shelp has helped keep the groovy spirit of the 1960s alive through Milwaukee Psych Fest, an annual event featuring more than 20 regional, national and international bands, along with vendors, food, and drink.
This year’s Milwaukee Psych Fest will take place April 12-13 at The Cooperage (822 S. Water St.).
Besides organizing the annual music festival, Shelp plays in experimental rock band Moss Folk. He lives with his wife and daughter in Plymouth.
Name: Andrew James Shelp
Hometown: Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Other Titles: Musician, husband and father
How did Psych Fest get started? What inspired you to organize a psychedelic rock festival in Milwaukee?
I had wanted to do a festival like this for a long time, but it didn’t come to fruition until 2011, when Eric Uecke, owner of The Cactus Club, asked me to put something together for a 4/20 celebration at the bar. I started doing the festival in Milwaukee because I wanted to bring bands that no one else was bringing into town.
I’m not even remotely close to being a music promoter. I really only do the festival, and a few shows for friends throughout the year. Promoters do it for money — it’s an investment for them; they need to see a return. I do it because I love the music, and I love and miss my friends. Psych Fest is typically the only time I get to see them, so it’s important to me. Plus all their bands rule!
How did you get into psychedelic music? Who are some of your influences?
I guess I got into psychedelic music when I was pretty young. I didn’t know that it was called “psychedelic” at the time, but I grew up listening to Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Animals, the Velvet Underground — all classic old “stoner” type music. I’ve always loved the ethereal sounds, modes and tones of Eastern music as well — world music has been a huge influence on me. I’ve been obsessed with music from other countries for as long as I can remember. Hip hop, Krautrock, avant-garde, country and punk music are massive influences on my music as well. I just love music, all of it.
Many people may be surprised that Milwaukee has an annual festival dedicated to psych music. Are many psych-rock bands popping up in the city?
Not really. Or at least, not that I’m aware of. I dig the older local bands — Vocokesh, Feck, F/i and Sigmund Snopek. These groups and artists experiment and get out there far more than the new crop of bands. Most “psych” rock bands today are doom metal or stoner rock, which is totally fine, but I wouldn’t call them “psychedelic.”
You have booked a wide variety of Psych Fest acts over the years, many of them international. What were some of the best festival performances, to date?
Oh wow. Where do I start? Kikagu Moyo and Acid Mothers Temple, both bands from Japan. Loop and the Telescopes, which are U.K. legends. Klaus Johan Grobe, from Switzerland. Holydrug Couple, a Chilean band. Mexican band Lorelle Meets the Obsolete. A ton of Canadian bands. Mdou Moctar, a group from Niger. Italian group The New Candys. The band Magic Shoppe has members from all over the world in it, too.
What are some skills needed to organize a successful festival, and what’s the biggest challenge?
Besides having great networking skills, you should have patience, persistence, dedication and humility. One of the major challenges I face is time. I never have enough time to do what I need to do, it seems.
What are your future plans for Psych Fest?
I’d like it to keep growing, make it all-ages, and hold it outdoors. We will see!