Following a thrilling debut in 2022, Secret Dreams Music & Arts Festival returns to Thornville, OH’s Legend Valley August 17th–19th for its second-annual installment. For this sophomore edition, the Tipper-hosted electronic-meets-jam festival will bring in heavy hitters including GRiZ, STS9 (x2), Lettuce, Of The Trees (x2), Papadosio (x3), Daily Bread, Lab Group, and many more. The festival will host significant performances from top acts Tipper and GRiZ, with Secret Dreams marking Tipper’s last appearance of 2023 and one of GRiZ’s final shows ahead of an indefinite hiatus.
Also appearing at this year’s Secret Dreams are jam mainstays The Werks, who will perform over two nights. In addition to keeping the beat in the Ohio-bred foursome, drummer Rob Chafin is also one of the architects of Secret Dreams. Live For Live Music caught up with Chafin to talk about the 2023 edition of Secret Dreams, what fans can expect, and how this new festival fits into Legend Valley’s storied history [get tickets]. Note: conversation edited for length and clarity.
Live For Live Music: Rob Chafin, the music maker, the dreamer of dreams. How are you involved in Secret Dreams?
Rob Chafin: I am one of the partners and talent buyer, so I book all of the musical talent at Secret Dreams. Then I also help with producing the festival across the board as well.
Live For Live Music: What all does that entail?
Rob Chafin: A lot of things. I had a lot of experience throwing The Werk Out, other events at Legend Valley, and [Secret Dreams] brought me on to not only help with talent buying but to just help make sure the operation runs smoothly. I’ve been helping a lot of departments and just working hand-in-hand with the producers to make a stellar event.
Live For Live Music: And you’re working at Legend Valley and booking things throughout the year there too, aren’t you?
Rob Chafin: Yeah, we also do a lot of in-house shows at Legend Valley, and definitely excited with how the place has come such a long way. We were doing a lot of shows there during the pandemic, all the drive-in shows and the pod shows and everything, and we definitely have some big plans in the future to keep bringing shows to Legend Valley.
Of course, I’m really honored that the Secret Dreams team trusted me to come in and handle the talent buying … and it’s been really awesome to grow as a talent buyer and dig into the electronic world.
I don’t know if you saw, but we just announced that RE:CHARGE, which is a weekly electronic series we have every Thursday at [the venue I co-own in nearby Columbus] The Summit Musical Hall, we tag-teamed with DeBussy and Further Frequencies—who fans will recognize as an official late-night renegade from Electric Forest —to make the RE:CHARGE activation in the campground.
Live For Live Music: And now Secret Dreams is getting this reputation where you have Tipper, who’s being very selective with his shows—actually, I saw minutes before this call that this will be his last show of the year—and The Werks, who are being very selective with their shows, and then GRiZ, and this is one of his last dates before he goes on hiatus.
Rob Chafin: So, there’s a lot of must-see acts this year, especially with the headliners. Definitely very happy and honored to be Tipper’s only show for the rest of 2023. I know he is going to throw down super hard, and the Portal Stage is going to go into another dimension during his set.
Live For Live Music: I mean, what’s bringing in all these big names, all this big attention to this second-year festival in Ohio?
Rob Chafin: I think that we had such a great first year, and I’ve been reaching out to a lot of producers and managers and agents to curate this lineup. There’s been nothing but positive feedback across the board.
Everyone’s wanted to be a part of it and we’ve been really lucky that, right off the rip, thanks to Tipper and everyone’s help here, we’re fortunate to have such a killer first year and already got a good reputation for being the party people want to play.
I’ve booked GRiZ at The Werk Out before, and ever since then, he’s exponentially blown up and [I’m] super proud of Grant and all the hard work he’s put in throughout the years. He’s really one of my favorite producers, musicians, and humans in the world, and really happy to see him grow and come full circle and headline Legend Valley again, this time as a massive producer.
I’m happy that he has the well-deserved hiatus coming up so he can focus on what he wants to do for a little bit. And just really honored that he was willing to come back to Legend Valley and throw down for us after all these years.
Live For Live Music: Very cool. If I could even rewind for a second back to how Secret Dreams came together last year for its debut. Because in a lot of ways, it dropped out of the clear blue sky. Like, “Holy crap, there’s this thing with Dosio and Tipper and The Werks. Everybody’s here.” So, can you tell me a bit about how Secret Dreams came about?
Rob Chafin: Dave Kriner, who was a partner in Resonance Festival, Bobby Clamage, myself, and a few other key players came together and were looking to throw a type of event that was similar to Resonance and The Werk Out Festival, a little more electronic leaning though, and to have the concept of building something around Tipper.
A lot of credit goes to Tipper’s management for helping imagine and curate the Portal Stage, which is an incredible stage at the event with a massive video wall, designed with lasers. The Portal Stage allows the VJs to get super creative with their visuals, and I think it’s a really cool concept.
Detox Unit + Steven Haman – Secret Dreams – 8/19/22 – Partial
[Video: shake n bake]
Jade Cicada – Secret Dreams – 8/19/22 – Partial
So basically, we created this new festival, carrying the torch from Resonance and The Werk Out vibes, in conjunction with Tipper’s management and created this whole new event.
Last year was such an awesome time and we were really happy that we had such a great inaugural year. We were excited to step it up even more this year and add GRiZ and a bunch more awesome producers and bands…There’s a lot of elements of The Werk Out Festival and Resonance this year, like having historic acts like Lettuce and Andy Frasco and Dopapod, and of course, The Werks, lespecial, TAUK, and all those types of bands—merging that with the flourishing electronic scene and experimental bass scene—to create an epic experience for everybody.
Live For Live Music: That’s interesting you say that, talking about merging those worlds. Because in the 2000s and 2010s you had this big jam band boom—and that scene is still very much alive—but now you’re having electronic, the bass music, all the different facets of it, is really becoming that sound of the future.
Rob Chafin: Absolutely. I’ve always been such a huge fan of electronic music ever since I was little, and it’s just cool to see how it’s progressed over the years, when we have OGs like Tipper, and even GRiZ at this point [at Secret Dreams]. Then you got all these awesome up-and-comers. I’ve been really lucky to work with a lot of them during our RE:CHARGE series and it’s pretty exciting to see that different type of music come up, and the community that is building around, not only that, but this event as well. It’s really awesome and really rewarding to see all the smiling faces when you look out in the crowd during the event.
There is something I call “the first smile.” The first smile is when you’re an event producer, and it’s the first day, the crowd comes in and you’re frantically running around trying to tie up loose ends. You’re stressed out, and then you look up and you see the first person smiling from ear to ear, so happy to be there. You’re like, “Yep, this is why we do it. This moment right here.” I always call it the first smile and it happens every year to me and I look forward to the first smile at Secret Dreams this year.
Live For Live Music: That’s a really awesome sentiment. And then as we’re talking about building up the festival, building up that scene, what kind of changes can people expect this year as compared to last year’s Secret Dreams?
Rob Chafin: We’re changing the layout on the venue side and adding a lot more immersive art installations, as well as the live painters and muralists which will be featured very heavily this year. So, we’re definitely ramping up the art and the installation side of things, thanks to our amazing Creative Director Gavin Gerundo (Gavinger).
This year we’re foregoing throwing The Werk Out to combine forces with Secret Dreams and bring some of that Werk Out flavor in. One of the flavors of The Werk Out has always been collaboration and having guests sit in and everything. This year, we’re really excited to have a lot of sit-ins and collaborations with all the artists, a lot of surprise sets, and things like that for people to look forward to here. So, I don’t want to say too much and give away all the secrets, but you get what I’m putting down.
Live For Live Music: I feel it. As we’re talking about The Werk Out, there’s a lot of the old friends, like you’ve mentioned already, the people like Papadosio, Lettuce, and Dopapod, that frequented The Werk Out. Do you feel any sort of connection between The Werks and Secret Dreams as you guys come back for year two, especially in a year where you’re taking a year off of The Werk Out? Well deserved by the way.
Rob Chafin: Thank you. I mean, obviously, we feel a big connection because last year we headlined Wednesday night on the main stage—we headlined the first night of Secret Dreams ever [laughs]—so that holds a special place in our hearts. We really enjoyed that set, and we’re very honored to play late-night after GRiZ on Thursday and directly before Lettuce on Saturday.
So we’re really excited to be a big part of the event this year, playing multiple nights. We’re definitely planning some monster sets here. We’re really excited to get back to Legend Valley. Man, I don’t even know how many times we played Legend Valley at this point, but I’d like to think we’ve probably played the most sets out of anyone ever there maybe [laughs].
Live For Live Music: It’s honestly possible.
Rob Chafin: I guess the home team advantage of being at Legend Valley is it’s our home away from home, and man, we’re so lucky to be able to have such a wonderful gem of a venue in our backyard here. I can’t say enough about [Legend Valley owners Steve and Laura Trickle] and everyone who’s involved in Legend Valley.
Live For Live Music: Touching on that history, like you said, you guys, The Werks, have a very long, very storied history with Legend Valley, which is one of the most famous venues in all of Ohio. Where does Secret Dreams come into that epic history of Legend Valley?
Rob Chafin: Good question. I look at Secret Dreams as the next generation of events and concerts at Legend Valley, and [it’s] really awesome to be exploring uncharted territories as we move forward. … I’m just excited to build this whole brand new thing for the next generation here.
Live For Live Music: It is very cool, man, once again, that history between Werk Out and Legend Valley and now bringing that into this next phase with Secret Dreams.
I know you’ve been touching on the reputation that Secret Dreams built that first year, especially that last day where the team came together after, and I say this from personal experience, a near-apocalyptic rainstorm. You guys put on Tipper, basically right on schedule. How the hell did you pull that off?
Rob Chafin: That was a day to remember. We were throwing down hay right in front of Tipper. I was holding a flashlight while Tipper was setting up. It was literally like a scene from a movie, but then we pulled it off and we were all high-fiving, like I can’t believe we did that. And it was just a testament to all the professionals and all the stage managers, the production staff, the site ops team, Steve Trickle himself for grabbing all the hay and being on the front lines, the fans for holding off and letting us put the hay down and clean up the stage, so we can get a proper Tipper set.
The water fried the video walls, so we only had lasers. It was a crazy dark party, and it was one of the best Tipper sets I’ve ever seen. Sometimes, when you’re faced with adversity like that, magic happens and special moments like that happen, and those epic pictures of everyone with the rainbow, with the lightning going through it happened.
It’s like sometimes when things appear to be the darkest, that’s when the light shines through, and you’re able to make the magic happen.
Tipper – Secret Dreams – 8/20/23 – Full Set
[Video: Crazy Perihelion]
Live For Live Music: And as we’re wrapping up, we’ve talked a lot about The Werk Out, we’ve talked about Resonance, we have talked about these other festivals that have existed. But what do you think is Secret Dreams’ own unique identity?
Rob Chafin: I really do think that the thing that really sets Secret Dreams apart from a lot of these other events is the focus on the live painters and muralists. There’s a massive team. People will see them stationed up. It’s literally so many live painters and immersive art installations.
I just think that the overall art experience, in conjunction with the eclectic lineup, I feel really helps set us apart. We’re also an independent music festival. We’re not owned by any large corporation. We’re a bunch of music lovers that do this for the love and the passion of the music and seeing the fans react. I feel like that also sets us apart. We’re the independent guy trying to throw an awesome party for everyone. I think that that vibe shines through when you compare us to other events.
Live For Live Music: And then, lastly, do you have any other secrets left to reveal?
Rob Chafin: [Laughs knowingly] We got lots of secrets…
But seriously, we look forward to everyone seeing all the surprises and all the hard work and everything that we’ve been working on all year. …We are fans ourselves. We’re [an] independent festival. We’re all music lovers, and we look at the festival from lineup curation to art installations to experience, we look at that as a fan-first event, and we pride ourselves on that. And we look forward to hosting everyone.
Live For Live Music: Alright, then. You keep your secrets.
Secret Dreams returns to Legend Valley August 17th–19th. Tickets are on sale here. Check out the full lineup below.
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