INTERVIEW: Andrew Shelp of Milwaukee Psych Fest
Now entering its sixth year of operation, Milwaukee Psych Fest is becoming a local institution amongst Milwaukee’s music scene. This year’s festival will be held on May 4th and 5th, spread across Bay View and Riverwest, with multi-stage shows taking place at Boone and Crockett’s new location, as well as Company Brewing. Milwaukee bands will be playing alongside bands from across the country, as well as Canada, Chile, and Norway. This all wouldn’t be possible however without the tireless work of Andrew Shelp, who created the festival. We caught up with him to check in about this year’s festival and the progression of Psych Fest in just six short years:
B&E: How did the idea for Milwaukee Psych Fest start?
AS: Well, I had the idea back in 2008/2009 after I had come back from being out on the road touring. I missed all of the people that I had played shows with and just thought to myself that it would be great to bring them all to where I live, seeing as how touring year round just wasn’t a viable option for me at that time. That idea didn’t come to fruition until 2011 after I had moved back to Milwaukee and stared working at Cactus Club. Eric Uecke, the Cactus Club owner, asked me if I wanted to put together a show for April 20th, a date otherwise known as 420, the “stoners holiday”. So of course I was happy to oblige. It was under a different moniker but it was absolutely the beginning of what is now known as the Milwaukee Psych Fest. I owe a lot to Eric (as well as Kelsey and Alex) and Cactus Club and hold him and that bar and that staff near and dear to my heart. It feels weird not doing it there this year. That is for sure. Anyways, yeah. That’s why I started it doing it. To bring all of the friends that I’ve made throughout the years while being out on the road to me and to show my friends here in town what my friends abroad are doing. It’s a total friend fest!
B&E: Were the venues initially receptive to the idea, or did you have to sell them on it?
AS: Absokutely! Eric at Cactus, as I touched on previously has always been open and supportive in past years and now with the move to Company Brewing and Boone and Crockett I have two of the festival’s biggest proponents and supporters yet! George (Company) and John (Boone) have been nothing short of amazing! Like, “roll out the red carpet. What can we do to help?” amazing! This year is going to be PHENOMENAL!!!
B&E: We noticed this year’s lineup includes more bands from out of state/country. Are more people hitting you up, or are you out searching for those bands?
AS: Yep. I always fill a majority of the lineup with out of state and international bands. Like I said, I’m bringing in my friends. Literally 90% of these bands that have been booked in all of the years of doing MPF are friends. Mostly close friends. I receive about 50-75 requests and inquiries from bands from all over the world and sift through those but ultimately I stick with friends. I do always book at least one band that I had never heard of before each year. Especially if they’re excited and enthusiastic! Last year Snoozy Moon from Montana was booked and they ruled! It was great! This year it’s a band from Oslo, Norway. Mayflower Madame. Kind of reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain. Super nice guys! Happy to have them here! I also focus on getting as many international bands as possible. I was really hoping to have 6/7 continents covered this year but it didn’t work out in the end. Oh well. The lineup is STACKED this year so I can’t be too disappointed.
B&E: Who has been your favorite booking from previous Psych Fests?
AS: Loop (UK). By far. Kikagaku Moyo (Japan) is by far the best band in my opinion but Loop was huge for me. They have been a huge part of my life and were a significant influence. Klaus Johan Grobe (Switzerland) was pretty sweet too! The first year that Holydrug Couple (Chile) played was pretty amazing though too. Hell, I guess pretty much every damn band has blown my mind one or another! Ha!
B&E: What aspect of Psych Fest have you noticed the most growth (bands, venues, etc.)?
AS: The interest in general. From attendee growth to band interest, it’s on a continuous upward slope and it rules! I love seeing everyone having fun!
B&E: Where do you want to take things from here? Even bigger venues?
AS: Outdoors. It has always been my intention. I’d also love to get enough in sponsorship money to make it free and all ages. Outdoors, camping and all ages are my current priorities with it though.
B&E: Lastly, what is your favorite part of running a festival year in and year out?
AS: Seeing so many friends and so many people smiling, laughing, moving to the music and having a good time! The absolute best part of it all though is seeing all of the people enjoying the music, swaying or dancing to the music and looking over and seeing my wife and daughter dancing and waving to me from across the venue. It is literally the best feeling in the world and just the thought of it brings a tear to my eye.