Dreams became reality this past weekend at Legend Valley in Thornville, OH for the debut of Secret Dreams Music & Arts Festival. The three-day event curated by Papadosio brought together a cross-section of electronic, jam, and livetronica acts from across the spectrum including Tipper, Emancipator, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Desert Dwellers, and many more.
The first-ever Secret Dreams was not without its challenges. Many fans arriving for the first official day on Thursday were greeted with the news that STS9 would not perform that weekend. Early Thursday evening, the jamtronica pioneers announced that a member of the band tested positive for COVID, forcing the band to miss its Friday set ahead of Papadosio. Festival organizers reshuffled the deck and tapped SunSquabi to perform on Friday evening—just over 12 hours after the band’s late-night set the previous day—and instead pushed Pigeons into STS9’s slot.
The most critical setback, however, came on the festival’s final day as an End-Of-Days level thunderstorm tore through central Ohio early Saturday evening. For nearly an hour, festival-goers were battered with torrential rain and an almost-constant string of nearby lightning strikes. But the rainclouds eventually gave way to a sky adorned with a double rainbow as the entire campground communally wondered if Tipper would still be able to play his headlining set on the Portal Stage. Aside from the importance of delivering a headlining set, the performance took on added significance as it was one of the lauded DJ’s only two remaining shows of the year (alongside Same Same But Different) as Dave Tipper continues to battle chronic health issues.
In accordance with Saturday’s “Silly Wonka” theme, the music-makers and dreamers of dreams that organized Secret Dreams came through and overcame weather damage to the Portal Stage to deliver Tipper’s headlining set. Though the rain had stopped by the time he went on at 11:15 p.m. (only 15 minutes later than originally scheduled), Tipper performed from beneath a canopy that effectively blocked the video display board. Instead, a chorus of lasers lit up the enveloping trees and night sky to create a uniquely focused experience for the attendees. Additionally, the inch of goopy mud that surrounded the stage ensured that attendees would be up and dancing for this set.
Despite these challenges, Secret Dreams was not defined by its setbacks as organizers developed a new layout that exposed areas of Legend Valley previously hidden to even some of the Midwest’s most experienced festival-goers. While the main Lucid Stage hosted live bands like Papadosio (including an arcade-themed set and an improvisational set), PPPP, SunSquabi, Funk You, and brief, rain-shortened sets from The Main Squeeze and Tycho‘s live band, the Portal Stage transported attendees into electronic realms with seamless sets by Jade Cicada, Detox Unit, Desert Dwellers, Emancipator, Opiuo, Maddy O’Neal, Daily Bread, and more. Late-night revelers on Friday night were rewarded with a string of sets from Cloudchord and Random Rab that led into a sunrise DJ set from Tycho, occurring 12 hours ahead of his live band set on the main stage which was tearfully cut short by inclement weather.
One of the festival’s best secrets, however, was the Woods Stage. Tucked in the back of Legend Valley, the forested stage provided an idyllic environment for late-night sets from festival mainstays SunSquabi, LITZ, Manic Focus (live band), Dizgo, rising local favorites BareFuzz, and a ’90s hip-hop & R&B set from The Main Squeeze that was thankfully salvaged on Saturday after the storm. The tree-lined dancing space provided a world all its own and provided a welcome reprieve for some of the festival’s more instrumentally-minded attendees still reeling from the absence of STS9.
After rain damage rendered the Portal Stage unusable following Emancipator on Saturday, a new challenger emerged in the battle of the stages as a number of renegade setups including the Renegade Bus Stage and Subsanctuary Stage popped up throughout the campgrounds to host late-night sets from Chris Karns, Mickman, Detox Unit, Danny Grooves, Alejo, Mickman, Johnny Quest, Psydell, Arcturus, Wink, and more to close out the festival as dawn began to break on Sunday morning.
By bringing together festival favorites from all corners of the electronic, jam, and livetronic worlds, Secret Dreams constructed an experience most music-lovers can only see at night when they close their eyes. The event brought together different folks and facets of live music to curate a unique ecosystem of music lovers where cross-pollination was an element of survival. Though not everything went according to plan, organizers kept the dream alive and sent attendees home with many more fantasies for next year.
Funk You, Mike Gantzer – “Important To You”, “Shining Star” (Earth, Wind & Fire) – 8/18/22
Papadosio – “Fever Theme” (Dr. Mario) [Pro-Shot] – 8/18/22
Papadosio – Double Dragon Theme [Pro-Shot] – 8/18/22
Papadosio – “Aquatic Ambience” (Donkey Kong Country) [Pro-Shot] – 8/18/22
Papadosio – Zelda Medley [Pro-Shot] – 8/18/22
Papadosio, Nick Gerlach – “Mario Bob-omb” [Pro-Shot] – 8/18/23
SunSquabi – “Top Down” – 8/19/22
[Video: Crazy Perihelion]
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Mike Gantzer – “Whirled” – 8/19/22
[Video: Jonathon Bowen]
Detox Unit + Steven Haman – Secret Dreams – 8/19/22 – Partial
[Video: shake n bake]
Jade Cicada – Secret Dreams – 8/19/22 – Partial
Tipper – Secret Dreams – 8/20/22 – Full Set
[Video: Crazy Perihelion]
Mickman – Secret Dreams – 8/20/22 – Partial
[Video: Ben Mecha]