DENVER — Denver’s biggest multi-day music festival kicks off this weekend and this year, they have a new focus and partnership with Youth on Record. The Underground Music Showcase (UMS) will be rocking various stages along Broadway between Alameda Ave. and 6th Ave. while offering mental health support for the artists and concert-goers.
New to UMS this year, the Impact Show is part of a festival-wide focus on supporting mental wellness and the prevention of substance misuse among musicians and an anticipated 10,000 festival attendees. The festival will also offer Sober Bars, which will provide alternatives to traditional bars at each of the festival's mainstage venues.
“What we saw was an incredible community container of 10,000 people a day and 600 musicians a day who need care and need support,” said Jami Duffy, executive director of Youth on Record. “We got together and said, ‘What if we made this really meaningful and really impactful around the areas of mental health and artist care?’.”
Duffy is the new co-manager of the UMS festival and said they saw this as an opportunity to address mental health and sobriety care for their artists and attendees. The group said they hope to reduce stigma by providing health and accessible resources for wellness within a community of care.
“The last 2 years have been brutal for a lot of folks,” Duffy said. “So, our focus at the festival on mental health, really came from our community saying, ‘We need support, we need resources’ and we thought ‘Why don’t we pair them together?’.”
Casey Berry is the co-owner of the UMS festival and said that this year, they’re featuring an ‘Artist Care Lounge’ where musicians can come relax in a alcohol and substance free space. Artists will have access to non-alcoholic drinks, yoga, acupuncture, tai chi, body movement, and essential oils.
“I think we’re so motivated to help our bands and our venues and everybody that works on the festival to take a second and appreciate themselves and appreciate the others around them and we’re trying to give as many resources as possible,” Berry said
UMS also has the support of the medical community. The Colorado Health Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, Caring for Denver Foundation, and Colorado Enterprise Fund are early supporters of the music festival’s focus on mental wellness. According to the festival organizers, young artists in Denver were 25% more likely to suffer from mental health and substance misuse issues.
“It’s been brutal, so sad losing artists,” Berry said. “I think everybody just assumes it’s a musician and their Instagram but it’s a whole lot more, they have family, they have friends, they’re part of bands.”
Michelle Rocqet has been beat-boxing and singing in a Denver band called the Milk Blossoms for the past 10 years. Rocqet is an artist of color and she says the music industry can be taxing.
“It comes with additional considerations, it comes with additional challenges and that starts to wear at you over time and so it’s really difficult being an artist of color to see how your life is perceived by others.”
She said it was part of the reason why she went into recovery for alcohol and substance abuse.
“I’ve been a sober artist for my entire 20’s and now into my 30’s and I’ve noticed how much the music industry is centered around drinking or drugs and substances.” Rocqet said. “I lost my brother to a drug overdose in 2015 and I recognize how that is unsustainable for artists.”
The organizers hope this festival will bring an awareness to mental health to everyone and make an impact with the artists before and after they take the stage.
“We are really committed to being part of the solution,” Berry said. “(We’re) making changes to where people have access to mental health, access to sobriety, access to care while they’re having a good time is really what we’re all about this year.”
For more information about the Underground Music Showcase, you can visit https://www.youthonrecord.org/underground-music-showcase.
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