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Music festival for mental health: Sound Mind Music Festival in Brooklyn, New York.

In a world so divided by hate and judgment, Sound Mind Music Festival returned to the streets of Brooklyn to remind New York City of the impact we can make when we come together as a community. Sound Mind Music Festival is a shining example of how music and mental health advocacy come together to create a profoundly impactful event. This year's festival, held at the vibrant House of Yes, brought together an impressive lineup of artists, mental health organizations and advocates, and passionate attendees, all united by a common cause: to break the stigma surrounding mental health and promote wellness through the universal language of music. The entirely free, non-profit event supplied me with a day of endless laughter and smiles alongside some of my best friends, I left feeling understood and valued, it was an escape from reality I hadn't realized I needed and I will surely attend for years to come!



The musical lineup at Sound Mind Music Festival was both eclectic and engaging, featuring a mix of indie rock, folk, hip-hop, and electronic acts. Each performance was not only a showcase of musical talent but also a heartfelt contribution to the festival's overarching theme of mental health awareness. Admittedly the day was a bit of a wash, with grey clouds and a drizzle of rain persisting throughout the day. I wandered around the local cafes and thrift stores for awhile until eventually stumbling upon the outdoor stage at the end of the block between Irving and Wyckoff Avenue.


At this point in the day, SHAED was embodying Resonance Stage and the moment I heard Chelsea Lee's voice belting through the open air, I was lost in a trance where the only thing that seemed to matter was the music uplifting the crowds. Despite being eight months pregnant, Lee was swaying around the open spaces, her stage presence magnetic and hypnotizing all of us from the barricade to the back trees. At the same time, The Ernst brothers brought us on a musical odyssey as they showcased their instrumental versatility, seamlessly switching between guitars, keyboards, and electronic soundboards, adding layers of richness to the live arrangements.


SHAED is an American electropop trio known for their catchy melodies, atmospheric production, and emotionally resonant lyrics. The band, formed in Washington, D.C., consists of twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst and lead vocalist Chelsea Lee. SHAED's music blends elements of electropop, alternative pop, and indie, characterized by its ethereal synths, dynamic beats, and Chelsea Lee's distinctive, powerful vocals. Their sound often features lush electronic textures with organic instrumentation, creating a soundscape that is both modern and deeply emotive.


SHAED's concert was a triumphant celebration of their unique sound and a promise of even greater things to come. For those in attendance, it was clear that this trio has firmly established themselves as a formidable force in the contemporary music scene.


As the rain began to pick up again, I took shelter in the dreamscapes of House of Yes, which, surprisingly, I had never been inside before despite my two decades of living in New York and, I must say, I have been missing out all these years. The venue is spectacular and in some ways feels like more of an art gallery than a club. Marble statues greet you as you walk into a corridor that's bright and inviting, then as you step into the black light of the dancefloor, giant art installations glow in the dark as they surround your peripheral vision. The space feels like a fairytale psychedelic trip come to life!


House of Yes, located in the heart of Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood, is a venue that defies conventional categorization, offering a unique blend of nightlife, performance art, and immersive experiences. Known for its eclectic events and inclusive atmosphere, House of Yes has established itself as a cornerstone of Brooklyn's creative and cultural scene, it was the ideal spot for Sound Mind Music Festival to be held this year.


The moment you step into House of Yes, you're transported into a world of whimsical fantasy and avant-garde artistry, it's easy to leave your inhibitions at the door and be authentically yourself. The venue's design is an eclectic mix of vintage, industrial, and futuristic elements, creating a space that feels both timeless and otherworldly. Bold colors, lush fabrics, and intricate decorations adorn every corner, contributing to the venue's signature aesthetic that blurs the lines between reality and imagination.


House of Yes is more than just a venue; it is a community hub that fosters creativity, inclusivity, and self-expression. The ethos of the venue is rooted in the belief that nightlife can be a transformative and empowering experience. This philosophy is reflected in the venue's approach to event curation, which often includes workshops, wellness activities, and community outreach programs aimed at promoting mental health, sustainability, and social justice.


The staff and performers at House of Yes are a diverse group of artists, musicians, and creatives who are passionate about their craft and dedicated to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment. The venue's "YES" culture encourages guests to embrace their individuality and participate in the experience, whether that means dressing up in elaborate costumes, dancing with strangers, or simply enjoying the spectacle.


After booging away my blues for a solid hour or two, I settled into a seat at the Dialogue Den for one of the various mental health panels being held throughout the day. The discussions took place inside OUCH FACTORY which is an art studio owned by Denis Ouch to showcase his work. For Sound Mind Music Festival, Ouch chose to showcase pieces of his that spoke to mental health and he even installed a small station for people to pay $10 to paint on their own canvas. Unfortunately, I didn't get to stick around too long because the meditation workshop overlapped with the panel but I did sit in for Ariel Richer, Hill Bundem, and Rasha Jay's discussion on mental health in communities of color which was beyond enlightening. Sound Mind Live did an outstanding job selecting advocates to speak during the discussions, all were eloquent and had such inspiring insight to offer. I was truly bummed to find out I missed the first panel of the day which addressed the stigma surrounding mental health in the music industry but if anything I have another excuse to attend Sound Mind Music Festival next year.


As dinner began to roll around, I was left pondering over which vendor I should spend almost $20 on for a meal. Admittedly, I didn't have many options being with my friend who's gluten and dairy free but I will say the festival did a fantastic job at catering to every dietary restriction. There was something for every palette from food trucks to tents and even restaurants around the block serving just about anything your taste buds could crave! This comes with help from Brooklyn's renowned food fair Smorgasburg, which is often referred to as the largest weekly open-air food market in America. If you're not a local in the area, Smorgasburg is a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts visiting New York City, you might leave with your pockets a little lighter but you'll surely feel heavier!


After rejuvenating ourselves with tacos from a local food truck, I managed to convince my friends to sit through the two hour meditation workshop with me; Somehow I made them believe it would be life changing but I am pretty sure we all fell asleep during it. We couldn't help ourselves! Jess Zambri's voice was transcending and the atmosphere was just so soothing from the natural lighting to the inclusivity of the environment created by the staff members; stepping into the space felt like entering your own home.


We left our worries and our shoes in cubbies by the front door with many others. Mats lined the floor but so many people attended, we were left on the sideline couches. The session was packed, so much so the staff had to unwillingly and regretfully turn people down at the door. We are living through some especially tough times, but to see so many people show up for themselves and their personal wellbeing was inspiring. It's a reminder to have love and care for yourself, to never lose hope in your journey, whether small or big.


Jess Zambri guided the room with sincerity, first with her words than with sounds, confessing to the power of music to heal. I have never meditated before, as a victim of ADHD I find it hard to disconnect and reflect for such extended periods of time without being distracted, but taking this time to detach offered me a sense of clairvoyance as I stepped back onto the cloudy streets of Brooklyn. I think the best way to describe the experience is by simply encouraging you to try it for yourself. Meditation forces you to be present, to attempt to understand your wants and desires on a deeper level by analyzing your thoughts and emotions, while it's not easy to do, it is a very rewarding experience. Jess Zambri additionally provides online meditation courses and recorded self-guided tapes through her live music and meditation program Intuitive Voicing.


An hour later, the day began to unwind and the sun was starting to set on the vibrant streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn. The final live performance of the event was already embodying the outside stage so we meandered back to the end of the block to catch a few songs from MisterWives before calling it a night. Despite the rain, Brooklyn was carefree and jubilant, everyone was dancing and singing along to every song whether they knew the music prior or not. Once again, we let our problems fly away with our raised arms, forgetting everything but the moment and the music.


One of the most memorable aspects of the concert was Mandy Lee's genuine interaction with the audience. Between songs, she shared personal stories and messages of positivity and resilience that spoke to the overarching goal of the festival and reinstated the sense of community Sound Mind Live fostered in Brooklyn. The band's encouragement of crowd participation from sing-alongs to call-and-response moments, made fans feel like an integral part of the show.


Each member of MisterWives brought their A-game, showcasing their impressive musicianship and showmanship. Drummer Etienne Bowler's powerful rhythms, Marc Campbell's intricate guitar work, and Mandy Lee's incredible vocal range and emotive delivery all stood out. The band's tight-knit chemistry and sheer joy in performing were palpable, adding an extra layer of excitement to the night.


Thus when the day was finally over, we were left raving about how beautiful the whole experience had been. The Sound Mind Music Festival in Brooklyn not only delivered an unforgettable musical experience but also made significant strides in raising awareness about mental health. For music lovers and mental health advocates alike, Sound Mind Music Festival is a must-attend event for all ages that promises to inspire, educate, and entertain.



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