Pt. 4: A Rumination on the Goose

Collaboration. Diversity. Community.

(A safe return, a love of home.)

It takes a lot to get a bunch of people in a room together. It takes even more to get a bunch of different people in a room together.

This year, ROCKchester is focusing on being as diverse as the world we are living in. Amplifying new voices, amplifying voices that may have not had the means to amplify themselves. Amplification and understanding: two ideas worth pondering on and striving for.

Migration happens. We move. Into different homes… Into different headspaces… Into different habits…

Consider the V shapes geese form in the Midwestern sky—the coalescence as each individual trades off point position and others fall back, encouraging the pace to be kept through shrill vocalizations. I imagine you’ll think differently when you hear the honks now.

It is in out best interest to meditate on how to give up more control to others. “In an environment lacking in loving support, the Goose will draw their eyes inward.” Communicate your needs to others. Follow your gut. Remember your roots.

But, geese are dicks. Right?

For some, the goose is a punk symbol: it is a creature that is easily disturbed, loud, and annoying. But reconsider the communal nature of the goose. When have you ever seen one traveling alone? When have you ever seen a pack leave one of its members in harm’s way?

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like wild geese, harsh and exciting -

over and over announcing your place.” — Mary Oliver





I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of place.

Place is physical, mental, emotional. “Where are you at?” can be answered with an exact physical location, a simple description, or a prolonged self-analysis. Places can be crammed with so many memories and emotions that every time we exist in a physical location it evokes a certain incomprehensible feeling. We communicate and understand art through these conceptualizations of place.

Additionally, there are people that color and contextualize our sense of place (among other things). Music and arts festivals such as the one you are reading about currently are a confluence of different people in different places in their lives. It’s important to understand that. It’s also important to accept that. Place is subjective—just like art.

Personally, I haven’t figured out what my next move is. I’m in between places. Just like most of the people you’ll find at this festival. I purposely enforced an age limit (25 and under) on our artists because I believe these ages are the busiest, yet most pivotal times in our lives. Even still, everyone involved in ROCKchester chooses to create art.

They choose to pursue subjectivity rather than concreteness.

They choose to spend a life attempting to evoke emotion from others.

They all choose art.

Rochester, for this festival and for myself, is the ultimate place—a home. As this festival’s roots have continued to grow for just over 2 years, Rochester has been sturdy soil. Our people are as supportive as they are stoic.

In our third year, we are growing out past the city limits following a two hour radius—stretching north to the Twin Cities, east beyond the Mississippi to La Crosse and Eau Claire, west across the plains to Mankato, and south to our neighboring cities and the Iowan border.

Rochester is the convergence: a central point—a home base. A place steady enough to relax your doubt and changing fast enough to peak your curiosity.  

So relax, connect, interact, and enjoy. As my mentor, Ryan Utterback (owner of Pure Rock Studios), said to me upon arriving back at the studio,

Welcome home.


Music is People

by Isaac Jahns


I’m not supposed to be writing this.


Not because I don’t have the writing ability or musical prowess (debatable), but because I was supposed to be a jock. Sports were my life.


This was never in doubt through my early years. I was throwing a baseball and kicking a soccer ball as soon as I could stand. I signed up for baseball, football, soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming, and even some golf lessons as soon as I could. I even decided to go to college to become a sports broadcaster (and that dream is still very much alive).


Slowly but surely, though, everything fizzled out.


I never had the killer instinct that the best athletes have: the drive to dominate an opponent. My high school athletic career ended as I sat on the bench for most of Mayo High School’s 2015 baseball season. My focus was quickly shifting to the arts, a move that started with two lines in Mayo’s fall musical and turned into a lifelong passion.


My musical journey began one nondescript fall day during my sophomore year at Mayo. I like to be alone for a couple hours each day, and as a kid I would spend that time in my room playing video games, looking at my baseball card collection, or things like that. That day, though, nothing interested me. I decided to unpack the acoustic guitar my parents bought me when I took guitar lessons a few years prior - and I haven’t stopped teaching myself since.


Since that day, I’ve worked to improve my musical talent. I’ve never feared performing in front of large crowds (weirdly, it’s the opposite - I have a huge fear of talking to small groups), so I was itching to play shows the second I learned how to play and sing at the same time. This has made my performances part laboratory and part showcase. I put on the best show I possibly can, but also try new things to see what does and doesn’t work.


As a high schooler, I was becoming aware of the Rochester music scene, led by fellow Spartan (and first baseman!) Sam Butterfass, as well as the dynamic pair Dylan Hilliker and Kevin Andrews. Sketches and Progression piqued my interest in making original music, even functioning as a paradigm shift - if these people could successfully release original music, why not me?


Like everything else in music, I dove headfirst into the scene, while bringing five of my friends along for the ride. The subconscious mentality of trial-by-fire continued through the saga of six Mayo graduates with little to no prior music experience, with the added bonus of a heavy social media presence and lots of interest from friends and family. This was the beginning of Younge Park.


ROCKchester’s core vision resonated with me and my bandmates. We played the first ROCKchester against all odds (college - mono - broken guitars - the works), and it was the most fun I’d ever had on stage. Over that summer, I got closer to Dylan and Kevin, while the band started to musically drift apart. After releasing a subpar EP and playing a couple more shows, we stopped making music.


Younge Park was one of the worst bands to play shows in Rochester.


We also broke the fire code (twice) at Cafe Steam because so many people showed up to watch us play.


This dichotomy revealed six things about the people in our area that I will always believe:


  1. People in Rochester care about the arts.

  2. People in Rochester don’t have enough time to support the arts in the ways they wish they could.

  3. People in Rochester need constant reminders about art and music, because they have a million other things happening and it’s hard to prioritize your free time when it’s so scarce.

  4. If you (respectfully!!!) pester people from Rochester to come to your show, they’ll do it.

  5. People in Rochester desperately need and want dedicated spaces for artists and musicians to write, create, perform, collaborate, and thrive.

  6. People in Rochester want these spaces and events to happen, but no one has had the time, money, or direction/vision to successfully create and develop these spaces.


After taking a semester off from music, I started a project called Greentop, based in Younge Park’s target sound of anthemic indie-rock, but with additions from my personal influences in the blues, folk and soul world. One EP is already released to the world, and I’m working on a full-length record to release late this summer. I’ve also partnered with Kevin as co-social media and marketing directors for ROCKchester. High school me would be speechless.


This festival is a microcosm of what I want to see happen in Rochester’s future. I truly believe that the majority of Rochesterites want to see art thrive here - all it’ll take is a concerted effort from community leaders to win people over. Free time is hard to come by here. Work does not necessarily run 9-5. It runs from sunup to sundown, morning to night, day by day, on-call shift to on-call shift. When work life is so hectic, free time must be well-spent. It must be cherished. It can’t go to a bad show in a bad venue.


Let me speak directly to you, the average Rochester citizen. Maybe you’re a doctor, or you’ve never worked for the Clinic or OMC. Maybe you’re just finding out who you are and what your passion is. Maybe you’ve always had a secret passion for music, but haven’t ever done anything about it. Maybe you love art. Maybe you’ve never seen a show in your life.


I am here to tell you that Rochester’s musicians and artists are the real deal. If you give us a chance, you will not be disappointed. I personally guarantee it.


Give us a shot. You won’t regret it. Music is people, and in our minds, the more the merrier.

Pt. 3 Lineup Annoucement

It's about that time...

Ever since Kev, my mom, and I dreamed up the idea of Rochester's first music festival focused on young adult talent, we've been working to get to this point. Every year, it keeps getting bigger. Every year, we keep pushing ourselves to grow and reach further. It's all led up to this.

Our whole planning team, all of our artists, and our incredible sponsors are here to accomplish one thing: feeling. It's the experience and the community we're after—that's what started this festival in the first place. 

So check the contours—it's your community. We hope you consider joining it in a few short months (and beyond).

#ROCKchesterPt3 #goosecrew

In Their Element - Greentop

In the Midwest, towns split off into different communities and social circles. It's how we cope with daily life; we categorize, organize, and get on with it. This is especially true in Rochester's sports and arts ecosystems, respectively. Both are valid and worthy of support; most of our team has spent time in both of those worlds. However, we wanted to challenge these ideals just as Isaac Jahns of Greentop has been doing since his debut at the Mayo High School talent show back in 2015 (R.I.P. Newman's Own). Baseball player turned guitarist, Jahns has shown that you can be a sports journalist, a division III roller hockey athlete, and an indie rocker at the same time. He packed an acoustic guitar and his hockey equipment for this session; sports and art are not mutually exclusive anymore.

In Their Element - Fauna & Flora

When pondering the location for the Fauna & Flora shoot we could not help but think of Fox & Fern Floral Shop. The two names are synonyms of each other—the former broader and bigger than the latter. Isn't that what makes music special though? That it resonates beyond the walls it's played in? That it reverberates even after we have left? Fauna & Flora has that sound. It's dreamy but centered in the earth. It sprouts as a flower does and howls like a wolf. They shared some new songs with us. You get first peek.

In Their Element - Sam Butterfass

The names Sam Butterfass and Café Steam are synonymous to those who know the two; it's symbiotic, mutualistic. After hours, coffees and acoustic guitars and voices all have the chance to flow freely. Will's setting up and cracking jokes, Emily's shooting, Isaac's tweeting—all is right in the world. This is also the time where Sam is at his most candid. It's all in the late nights, the glasses shielding tired eyes, the streetlights above. Like the coffee, the music is smooth and rich and everything it's made to be.

In Their Element Series - Trailer

Music often influences the connections we make both with people and with places. The In Their Element series puts ROCKchester artists into settings they are most familiar or most associated with for personal, intimate performances. 


Wyatt Moran

Directed by: Dylan Hilliker

Shot by: Emily Nelson and Jack Hilliker

Edited by: Will Forsman

Audio by: Mitchell Nelson


Sam Butterfass

Directed by: Dylan Hilliker and Will Forsman

Shot by: Will Forsman

Edited by: Will Forsman

Audio by: Mitchell Nelson


Fauna & Flora

Directed by: Dylan Hilliker

Shot by: Emily Nelson and Kevin Andrews

Edited by: Will Forsman

Audio by: Mitchell Nelson



Directed by: Kevin Andrews

Shot by: Emily Nelson and Kevin Andrews

Edited by: Will Forsman

Audio by: Mitchell Nelson

Pt. 3 Dates Announced

Fly with us. Check the contours.

#ROCKchesterPt3 will be June 1-2, 2018 at Pure Rock Studios in Rochester, MN.

We can't wait to share all of the talent that our Southeastern Minnesota arts community has to offer. Look for these posters around the Med City and surrounding areas in the coming weeks. Line up will be announced at the beginning of April.

Check the contours; it's your community, too.



There's something to be said about vulnerability.

Before starting this festival, I held the notion that the core ideological debate between the Rochester community and the local arts scene was whether careers in music and the arts were feasible career paths and whether those pursuing said career paths deserved to be praised/rewarded for their commitment to their craft. I believed I was the only one with this idea. It was me vs. the world-- with "the world" being the city of Rochester.

As a high school student feeling creatively hindered in the public school system and limited in the scarce musical opportunities in town, my form of rebellion was writing (generally) angry and (sometimes) contemplative music as well as rounding up a tag team of any high schooler that was playing non-school-related instruments.

We got better together. We felt the same emotions.

At the end of the day of the inaugural ROCKchester Festival at the now-deceased Wicked Moose, there was an outline of a future arts community. People showed up and were interested in what we had done. We were able to pay every teen performer $50-- exactly what we had aimed to. However, I misconstrued the success of the event as a "fad". Obviously, that opinion was misplaced, but the need to be taken seriously has guided most of the creative decisions in my life-- including the development of this festival.

Fast forward to ROCKchester pt. 2 held at Pure Rock Studios last summer-- the day that I realized this festival was bigger than what I could handle (but like-- in a good way). 500 people expected; attendance totaling just barely under 200. Although the attendence of the event was disappointing, numerous lessons were learned that day, including:

1. Community engagement is not a number. Experiences cannot be quantified.

2. Preparation anxiety only happens as a result of taking on too much responsibility by yourself.

3. A shift in culture only happens when passionate people make a conscious, united effort.

4. People will stand at music shows (see 3)

These takeaways led me to continue to work to opening myself up to new viewpoints and opportunities. Vulnerability and trust in people is invaluable in festival production and in life. To the friends, mentors, and colleagues I have made through music and festival planning, thank you teaching me the skills to be emotionally and creatively vulnerable and to approach new ideas and problems in multiple different ways.

From the inception of our festival in the summer of 2015 to now, the local Minnesotan music climate has changed in a major way thanks to a number of key players. To all of those listed: I have the utmost respect for all that you are doing and am continually encouraged to work harder every day because of what you have put into the world.

These are groups (see: My Town, My Music, Cafe Steam, Carpet Booth Studios, Positive Tuesday, The Jive Mill, Pure Rock Studios, Riverside Concerts, Gallery 24, Northern Sun Productions, etc, etc) that are making music happen and continually bringing big names into Rochester. In the broader SE MN area, there are even more (see: the Current, the Garage, Midwest Music Festival/Big Turn Music Festival, etc, etc).

The young adult music scene in Southeastern Minnesota has big, touring names now (see: Vansire, Good Morning Bedlam, Early Eyes, Yung Gravy, Hippo Campus, Remo Drive, The Happy Children, etc, etc).

Local music has never been better/more diverse (see: Fauna & Flora, Wyatt Moran, Greentop, Sam Butterfass, Loud Mouth Brass Band, the D'Sievers, Pat Egan, Annie Mack, Second Story, Fires of Denmark, Local Sports, The 9th Planet Out, ZOOTBOYS, Kidd Fla$h, etc, etc).

And local creatives are doing amazing things constantly (see: Will Forsman, Andy Furness, Chad Allen, Emily Nelson, Elle Pollock, Corrie Strommen, Kristen Brown, Amarama Lynn, Cassandra Buck, Beth Sievers, Tyler Aug, etc, etc).

In our third year, ROCKchester will hold fast to our principles of highlighting young adult creators, artists and musicians and compensating them for their time and immense talent. Additionally, we will continue to work and partner with all the other groups in Southeast Minnesota and surrounding areas that are doing cool things in an effort to cultivate a strong and united arts community. Finally, I am invested in making this festival and myself more vulnerable in the way we present ourselves. Feel free to reach out anytime to myself or my team (see: About Us page); we could all use a little more human connection and a lot more music.

TL;DR: This festival is one part of a broad community we are trying to build. We'd love for you to be a part of it.