The one-eyed festival

Tin Armor Tin Armor
Tin Armor Tin Armor

Local handmade enthusiasts and music lovers make Cyclops Fest a reality in Yellow Springs

By Benjamin Dale

Tin Armor

The legend of the Cyclops begins in ancient Greece. One-eyed giants with foul dispositions, Cyclops are thought to have crafted and then given Zeus his thunderbolt, Poseidon his trident and Hades his invisibility helmet.

Though the Cyclops is a mythical creature, scholars believe it was the habit of blacksmiths to wear a patch over one eye that gave rise to the tale of the mythical beast. They did this so as not to expose both eyeballs to the searing sparks of their trade, and it was this image of the one-eyed spark-monster, the blacksmith, that was the Cyclops
The story of the Cyclops finds its earliest mention in Ancient Greece from the time of Homer to the time of Virgil. Cyclopes were lauded as monstrous experts in masonry and blacksmithing. Cyclops is the patron-ogre of DIY.

Go figure.

Cyclops does Yellow Springs
Fast forward 3,000 years to Yellow Springs. A community known for its freedom, tolerance and culture will play host to Cyclops Fest Saturday, September 17, the first festival of its kind in the Dayton area. It’s a do-it-yourself festival. The festival’s organizers didn’t even know that they were keeping the spirit of the Cyclops alive, right here in the 21st century.

Though there will be no blacksmiths (this year), there will be all sorts of other trades to ply, including printmaking, art demos, roller derby and handmade products from local artisans.

Oh yeah, and music. Though having only one eye means the Cyclops by nature is a klutz when it comes to playing music, this fact doesn’t mean Cyclopes lack the penchant for listening to it, as they are still lucky enough to have both ears.

The John Bryan Center doors open at 10 a.m. for the event, and live bands will be featured all day long, beginning at 11 a.m. and lasting until 7 p.m. Dayton has needed this for a long time — a music and arts festival, featuring all local talent, in a single location on a single day. It’s also good to see bands and artists from all over the Miami Valley converge upon the eccentric hamlet and combine their talents into a single focus, the single focus of the single eye of the Cyclops.

Let’s backtrack for a moment. While the exact moment of inspiration is always unclear in the temporal sense, sometime in early 2011, DJ Galvin, co-owner of Urban Handmade clothing store in Yellow Springs, was chillin’ with her husband and business partner, Justin, when epiphany struck.

“I suddenly shuddered at the lack of a progressive, DIY-oriented festival for young, independent thinkers in Dayton,” said Galvin. “There are festivals like this across the nation and the world. It’s a culture of people who support originality, handmade culture and a sort of indie sensibility. So why not have one here? Yellow Springs is the perfect place for it.”
And, with just the kernel of an idea, Galvin set about sowing the seeds for the eventual colossus that Cyclops has become over the last few months.

After finding like minds in Brian Johnson of Basho Apparel in Yellow Springs, and Handmade Dayton, Cyclops found support from local entities such as Digital Fringe, WYSO radio station, Toxic Beauty Records in Yellow Springs and, you guessed it … the Dayton City Paper.

Getting involved
As an official sponsor (we have our own booth) of the event, we couldn’t resist writing a piece on this one-of-a-kind festival. I was delighted and honored to find out that I would be the one writing it.

Since I have spent the majority of my summer interning at DCP — as evidenced by my utter lack of a tan — it was no mere coincidence that I was at my desk the day Johnson of Basho Apparel at 213 Xenia Ave. in Yellow Springs, sauntered into our downtown office, clad in garb which was visibly worthy of an alternative-fashion businessman.

I looked up to see a certain look on Johnson’s face — that look of “Hey! I know you, asshole!” And I’m sure I returned it.

In fact it is true, Brian and I attended high school together, though we’d both lost touch somewhat and neither was aware of each other’s participation in this venture called Cyclops.

He laid down the details for all of us in the office that day, and I had to physically constrain my excitement at the fact that a festival of this sort was coming to the Dayton area.

I had tried to create one in the past — by setting up a Facebook event, coming up with a silly festival name, then inviting all my Facebook “friends,” all to no avail. Here it was, my dream, (and surely the dream of many other like-minded, indie-souled, do-it-yourselfers in the Dayton area), coming to fruition.

A do-it-yourself set list
This year’s musical lineup includes none other than Ruckus Roboticus, the world-renowned DJ and producer from Dayton; Wheels, the charming grassfolk quartet from Yellow Springs; up-and-coming indie rockers Tin Armor from Columbus; and the most recent addition, Esther Caulfield Orchestra, the psychedelic super-group of sorts comprising some of the best musicians from Cincinnati.

Brian told me of an upcoming (now past) event at Blind Bob’s – Cyclops Fest: Monster of A Party, an event promoting the start of the festival.

So, after I clocked out at my other job and made a quick, non-related stop at South Park, I took off to Blind Bob’s for Cyclops: Monster of a Party. I entered to find sweaty swaths of hipsters dressed as monsters. Here I met DJ Galvin in person.

She was presiding over the Cyclops merch table. She handed me a medium Cyclops T-shirt, gratis. If you were lucky enough to be at Bob’s that night, Cyclops was also raffling off tickets for two shows: The Black Angels and Peter, Bjorn and John (two fantastic national acts), and giving away free tin-foil hats, bandanas and monster costume accessories.

Anyhow, Galvin informed me of some of the particulars of Cyclops fest.

“We’re so excited about the response that it’s gotten,” said Galvin. “We have some great sponsors: Dayton City Paper, The Village of Yellow Springs, Toxic Beauty, Digital Fringe etc.

With everything else that goes on, it’s good that people are even talking about it.

“We’ve got all sorts of handmade goods – steampunk, gothic, vintage, pop cultural – something for everyone,” said Galvin. “And everything’s handmade — jewelry, apparel, home, accessories, paper goods, posters. Etch, a noteworthy local artist will do a 20 x 30 foot mural and we’re going to auction off four-by-four sections of it. We’ve got four food vendors. Brother Bear’s Café will be providing hot dogs. There’s healthy options – quesadillas, pitas, smoothies, candies and, of course, everyone’s favorite: cupcakes!”

After digesting all this information, I bid my adieu to Galvin and proceeded to the Blind Bob’s patio. I told Johnson where I was headed (Canal Street Tavern). He told me that I must make sure to converse with Andy Gabbard (of Buffalo Killers and Esther Caulfield Orchestra) to see if he’d be interested in playing at Cyclops. I immediately obliged, sullied another beer and made off in the direction of Canal Street Tavern.

Gabbard gave me a tentative yes.

Finishing touches
Fast forward. Two weeks ago and I was standing on the sidewalk outside Urban Handmade with Johnson, awaiting the phone call from one of Gabbard’s booking agents to confirm Esther Caulfield Orchestra on the bill for Esther Caulfield Orchestra fest. Brian and I had slipped into our usual rants about how much we love Dayton.

“My ultimate hope for this festival is that it might raise the profile of Dayton,” said Johnson. “Even people here think it’s not cool, not a good place to live. Well, when I wake up, I just want to give Dayton a hug.”

“I’m in complete agreement,” I said.

Dave Chappelle walked by and we both pretended we didn’t know who he was. Because that is the sort of behavior expected of you in Yellow Springs.

Johnson’s phone rang and a look of elated contentment crossed his face.

“We got ‘em,” he said.

And so I began writing what you are now reading: this article. Come see for yourself what Cyclops Fest is all about. It’s about us. It’s about here. It’s about now. And it feels really good to be here now.

The Cyclops Festival will be held Saturday, September 17 at the John Bryan Center. Doors open at 10 a.m. For more information about Cyclops Festival, visit or “Like” them on Facebook.

Reach DCP freelance writer Benjamin Dale at

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